Horseback riding can be a dangerous sport. Riding safely means staying comfortable and not letting injuries ruin your fun. Safety equipment won't keep you completely injury free, but in the case of an accident, may help reduce the severity of injuries. I learned the hard way to wear a helmet and can tell you that concussions are not fun. I also always use safety stirrups and wear riding boots, half chaps and gloves. A recent fall I took while riding alone impressed on me that wearing a crash... vest might be a good idea. Here's a rundown of the safety equipment available to riders.
01 of 07
If you invest in no other piece of equipment, you should at least buy a riding helmet. In my interview with Riders4Helmet's co-founder Lyndsey White, she quotes a NEISS study that indicates that in the year 2007, 12,000 head injuries were caused by handling and falling off horses. She also quotes a neurosurgeon that claims horseback riding accounts for most sports caused head injuries.
There are many arguments against wearing a helmet, but most are just excuses and a refusal to look at the... reality that riding a horse is a risky endeavor, no matter how well trained, old or quiet our horses may be. It's not a matter of skill. The horse world in the last few years has lost several accomplished riders, even Olympic-level competitors, all because they weren't wearing helmets.
Head injuries aren't completely avoidable, but many can be lessened or circumvented altogether through helmet use. Choose an ASTM approved helmet that fits well and wear it every single time you ride to protect the one part of your body that is very difficult to fix—your brain.
02 of 07
Boots serve two purposes. A riding boot with a small heel will help prevent your foot slipping through the stirrup and provide some protection if your toes get trampled. Tall boots also protect your leg from chaffing while you ride and from getting scraped by branches and scrub as you trail ride.
03 of 07
04 of 07
Safety vests help protect your torso if you fall. Crash or safety vests help prevent injury to your internal organs, your spine and your ribs. These heavily padded, but lightweight vests are commonly worn by rodeo riders and eventers. More often, I see crash vests on long distance riders, jumping, pleasure riders and speed games competitors. I've even seen them hidden under dressage jackets. Pleasure and trail riders suggest wearing a quick-dry top underneath the vest if you're concerned... about it being too hot during the summer. Eventers wear them under a colorful jersey. I find it feels a bit like wearing a life jacket while I ride so it does take some getting used to.
There are a few different styles and they do come in different colors so you'll want to try a few on before buying one. One style has an air system that is triggered when the rider is ejected from the saddle. Some are suitable for ATV, dirt bike and horse riding and all come in kid as well as adult sizes.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
You may not have considered wearing a mouth-guard while riding, and even your humble but safety fanatical guide thinks wearing a mouth-guard while riding may be cumbersome. But over jumps, where doing a face plant into a fence is a possibility, mouth-guards are a wise idea. Your dentist will be able to fit a mouth guard, similar to those worn for hockey, football or other rough sports. Alternatively, you can buy mold-able mouth-guards from drugstores. These won't fit as well, or provide the... same level of comfort or protection, but they may help prevent a gappy smile and a lot of pain.
06 of 07
While half chaps or chaps won't prevent major injuries they do protect your legs from scrapes and scratches when trail riding and from being chaffed against the saddle. If you've ever ridden with badly rubbed calves, especially after your horse starts sweating, you'll appreciate the extra layer of protection synthetic or leather chaps can provide.
07 of 07
Gloves protect your hands and give you a bit extra strength and grip. This may be useful if your horse pulls. I've had horses blister my hands by pulling while riding out on trail, so I don't like going without my gloves. Any reasonably fitted pair of gloves can be used, as long as you can hold the reins comfortably. I prefer leather-palmed crochet-backed gloves for summer and lined leather gloves for winter.