Horse are wonderful companions for us, whether on the trail or in the competition arena. You must remember, though, that they are large, strong and potentially unpredictable and precautions must be taken to maintain a safe environment. The following are important considerations:
Many different styles and shapes of approved helmets are available. For pleasure riding and trail work, a plastic model with air vents is nice. Show ring work in hunters, jumpers and dressage requires a solid black velvet type. Event riders can use a colorful silk cover on cross-country. Even if you compete in saddle seat or Western events, a safety helmet can (and should) be worn and is permissible under show rules. Judges cannot penalize you for this.
Note: pull-ons are harder to use but stay on and do not chafe the horse's pasterns. Bell boots prevent heel bruises and cuts and lessen the chances of pulling off front shoes from an overreach. Galloping boots give additional protection when jumping. Polo wraps should be reserved for ring work because if a bush out on cross-country snags them, they could start to come off and cause a serious accident. Polos also get soggy when you cross a brook.
Show tack and halters look nice with fancy brass nameplates. On your everyday equipment, consider getting a plate with your name and address. That way, if your horse ever escapes (broken pasture fence, open gate, fall on the trail), whoever catches him will know where he belongs.
– A telephone is a necessity, not a luxury, and should have emergency numbers posted next to it.
– Each horse should have a halter and lead shank hanging on his stall for emergency evacuation.
– In a large boarding barn, stall cards giving horse and owner information can save precious time in case of colic or severe injury.
– The barn should have at least two exits wide enough for horses.
– Keep equipment put away in a safe storage place – you won't trip over the broom and the spooky young horse won't get tangled up with the wheelbarrow handles.
– A clean barn not only looks nice but is also safer. Cobwebs, especially those close to the light bulbs, are a big fire hazard.
– Don't overload electrical outlets. Keep the use of extension cords to a minimum.
– Make sure everyone knows where the fire extinguisher is.
– Manure piles have a lot of heat buildup inside, so site them away from the barn.
Horse ownership is one of the most fun and rewarding ways to spend your time. But in order for both you and your equine partner to be able to spend many happy years together, you have to play the game safely.