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Horses are wonderful animals – most people agree about that. However, never forget that accidents can happen to everyone, even the most experienced riders. It's vital to be well-prepared. We asked our experts to share their best safety tips about everything from equipment to what precautions to take before riding out.
– A helmet is a must. So are good shoes with a heel to prevent you sliding through the stirrup. Gloves are useful to improve your grip and prevent injury to your hands if your horse jerks or pulls the reins from your hand. We also recommend wearing a safety vest at all times, for instance when riding out and jumping.
– Your helmet should have an approved label, such as EN1384, PAS 015, Snell or VG1.01040. Hööks only sells certified helmets. The visual design is largely a matter of taste, but the fit is essential. The helmet should sit firmly on your head and mustn't move when you move your head – so never buy children a larger size to allow for growing. Don't buy an extra large helmet so you can wear a hat under it in the winter. It's better to have two different sized helmets, or an adjustable helmet. Your helmet must fit snugly around your head without pinching anywhere. If your helmet is subjected to strong impact during a fall, the Swedish Consumer Agency recommends you replace it. For this reason, you shouldn't buy a second-hand helmet because you don't know how it's been treated. You should replace your helmet every three to five years.
– A safety vest protects the wearer's back and ribcage in the event of falling, kicking and crushing. The shock-absorbing material in the vest distributes pressure over the wearer's body to minimise damage. Choose a vest with the correct labelling to make sure it is tested for riding. It should be CE-marked and be labelled according to SS-EN 13158 to meet the necessary requirements. The vest should be worn close to the body with only a thin layer of clothing underneath, not over your jacket. The vest should feel as comfortable as possible, should not restrict your movements and should cover your sternum and collarbone. The front of the vest should extend two to three centimetres below your bottom rib. The back should reach from your lower neck down to a few centimetres from your coccyx. A poorly fitting vest provides less protection, so choose carefully. If you really don't want to ride in a vest, we recommend using a certified back protector. Unfortunately there is no standard specifically for riding vests, so look for the standard used for motorcycle back protectors, EN 1621-2-2014.
– Yes. Firstly, it is always recommended that you and your horse wear plenty of reflectors when riding out. This is a cheap form of life insurance. For best effect, put them on the moving parts of the horse's body such as its legs. Bear in mind that you must be visible from all directions: from the back, front and sides. Ideally you should put leg reflectors, a reflective rug and a harness on your horse, wear a reflective vest and use a headlamp. If the reflectors are attached to fabric in neon colours such as neon yellow or neon pink, you will be much more visible in low visibility conditions such as twilight or rain. Reflectors have a limited lifespan, and the equestrian environment is tough on reflective material. For this reason, make sure you regularly check your reflectors and replace them as necessary. Hööks sells reflective materials from 3M, which is recognised for high quality, durability and washability.
– You can use safety stirrups, for instance. They are flexible and reduce the risk of getting stuck or caught in the stirrup you fall off the horse.
– Learn as such as you can about horses, how they react and why. This goes a long way towards preventing accidents. Speak to your horse and make it aware that you are approaching before you step inside. Keep the stable aisle and box free of tools and other objects, and make sure your horse doesn't catch on anything when you lead them through a door. Maintain a safe distance from other horses when riding and leading your horse – at least one horse length – and always tell someone where you will be riding and roughly when you plan to be back before riding out. However much riding equipment you and your horse wear, an accident can still happen. Always take care – in all situations. Even if you are in control of yourself and your horse, there are always other external factors that could cause an accident. However, using appropriate safety equipment can still help prevent or mitigate an accident.