The first step must be safety. You can't learn horsemanship
very well while lying in a hospital bed!
Even being NEAR horses is risky:
They're so large that they can hurt you even when they
don't mean to.
When they're surprised they sometimes move in a sudden,
When you fall off, it's a long way down!
Learn the safety rules below as
soon and as well as you can. As the warning signs around the barn
say, doing things with horses is classified as "a high risk adventure activity."
We have a copy of Ohio's "horse laws" for you or the person
responsible for you to read. Please ask, if you wish to see a
You must have a signed waiver on file before
approaching the horses. The waiver must be signed by
ALL persons responsible for participants under the age of 18.
This is because in some legal cases, signing for a friend's child is not
enough, and, in some cases, all legal guardians (parents or
otherwise) must have signed for the minor, for the waiver to be
Please help us to protect you and ourselves.
Study these Safety Principles:
Never surprise a horse!
Don't touch one suddenly or without warning.
Don't make sudden
noises, movements, or throw or flap things around.
Always let the
horse know where you are and what you're doing.
Let the horse see
and hear you as much as possible. For the greatest safety, approach a horse
at an angle, from the front, so that you are not in a "blind spot" directly behind or in
front of the horse.
Speak to the horse before and as you approach it.
You don't have to "never walk behind a horse"
follow these safety guidelines.
2. Don't Let the Horse Surprise YOU
Always know where each part of the horse's body is, and what
either very close to (even touching) the horse, or at least 12' away, out of the "danger
zone" in between -- where a kick, strike or bite would be most powerful.
Know where the horse's feet are, and where they're going to put
them next. However, everyone gets stepped on sometime.
It's usually not a big deal,
IN PROPER FOOTWEAR.
When a horse steps on your foot -- and one will, someday,
-- don't pull your foot right out from
under the horse's hoof; this causes worse damage. Instead, push
the horse's weight off of you first. Ask for help if you can't
get the horse to move. Most of the time you'll forget you
were even stepped on, before you even leave the barn!
3. Know the horse's warning signs
eyes and sharply forward ears, tight, tense muscles, curved (arched) neck
with a high head, and
snorts are signs of fear. Distract the horse with a well known
task, treat, or food, or back away. A horse that gets into full
"fright" mode can be dangerous, because it might bolt, rear, or
whirl suddenly to protect itself. In extreme cases, it will
not even realize you're there.
ANGER: Flat back (pinned) ears, narrow or wide eyes,
showing teeth, or tight or curled lips are signs of anger. Do
not try to manage a horse acting this way, unless you are
experienced; ask for help! Back away, slowly.
Try not to get between two horses if either is upset.
Horses fight between themselves a lot when they're on their own,
like human brothers and sisters do,
and they might forget a human is
ABOUT EARS -- a horse
listening to its rider is not a horse with its ears pinned.
Ears turned toward you, calmly,
-- wherever you are, on the
ground, or on the horse's back --
means the horse is paying
attention to you.
That is exactly what you want!
Other warning signs:
Lifted hind foot
When a horse lifts a hind foot when you're not asking
it to (getting ready to clean it with a hoof pick, etc.) it
CAN mean they're getting ready to kick with it. Most
kicking is done to the side (called a cow-kick) and can
still pack a whallop. Stay out of range of a hind foot
that's lifted for the wrong reasons, and ask the horse's
owner to explain or do something about it.
Swishing or popping tail
This CAN mean "the flies are driving me crazy today"
but otherwise it usually means the horse is very upset.
Perhaps another horse is getting too close behind, or you're
asking it to do something that it doesn't want to or that is
causing pain. It's often a warning that the next step
is kicking or bucking if the problem continues. Get
out of range and ask for help figuring out what to do next.
Many people don't realize what "a safe distance" or
"out of kicking range" is. You are generally safest
right up close to, or against, the horse, ideally at its
shoulder, because it can't deliver a powerful kick there.
Otherwise, a few feet away is MOST DANGEROUS, because
that's where the most thrust would connect a hoof with your
If you're not up close to the horse, stand AT LEAST
12 FEET AWAY. Horses put their very long, elastic legs
fully into a kick, and often even stretch their bodies into
4. Dress properly.
PLEASE DRESS (your student) ACCORDING
TO THE WEATHER!
One cannot learn properly when shivering from cold, or feeling faint
If you have a child who "WON'T WEAR" what you think is appropriate,
DON'T BRING them.
We reserve the right to send students away who are not dressed for
an SEI approved safety helmet, fitted and
adjusted correctly, or one fall could end your riding. Helmets need to be SNUG around your head, and then the
straps must also be fitted snugly. The helmet should not tilt
backward, but be level. The "V" shaped straps on the sides should
meet just below your ears. (We have these on hand to borrow.)
A bicycle or other type of helmet will not work.
Keep your hair out of your face. Otherwise it can cause
several problems. It can get tangled in your helmet straps; it can
get in front of your eyes and blind you, or cause you to use
your hand to move it -- when your hand needs to be doing something
Gloves are optional, and can be very helpful. They protect
your hands from chafing and dirt, and provide a better grip, as long
as they are suitable for riding:
they should have leather,
rubber or other non-slippery surfaces where you grip the reins.
Riding gloves are ideal, but driving or even gardening gloves can
work. State Line Tack, for example, offers various riding gloves:
We keep on hand for your use: $1
store one-size-fits-all knitted gloves (too slippery for good
riding), neck scarves, knitted hats, and a
few pairs of thin, long socks for "emergencies". You keep the socks
once they are worn, other items can be returned for Barb to launder
and offer to others. All free for students' use. Since they
are rarely in anyone's dresser drawers these days, We'll try to get
some good riding socks to keep on hand, which you can purchase and
then use for lessons.
Wear long pants, in which you could do a split.
Stretchy pants with a suede or leather seat and inner thigh area, made for horseback
riding, are ideal. Be sure they will cover your calves down to
your ankles so that
they won't get rubbed sore from your saddle. For the same
reason, wear the tallest, thickest SOCKS you can
Wear sturdy boots (or shoes) with a
sharp-edged heel (see arrows on
examples at left), long pants, again with tall, thick
recom-mend hunting, riding, or boot socks.
This footwear will protect your feet from hazards around the barn
(including horse hooves), and will also protect your ankles, feet and
legs from getting sores or blisters from rubbing. The right
kind of heel (see arrows) keeps your foot from slipping through the stirrup.
Worst-case scenario: if people come in flip-flops, they
won't be allowed near the horses, and will probably get
gravel, dust and bits of prickly hay in their toes!
SOME OPTIONS: Cowboy boots are fine. Many students'
parents have gotten them rain boots. These are inexpensive and
will do if you wear thick socks, and if they have a heel, as shown
above. Flat-bottomed footwear can slide through the stirrups
and trap your foot.
Use quick-release knots
Learn how to tie a quick-release knot.
Always tie anything around horses with a quick-release knot,
of emergency. Practice!
It could save your or your horse from serious injury.
Do you see how pulling on the rope hanging down would untie it,
but pulling on the other end, where the horse is, will tighten it?
This is what we want.
6. Never wrap
Never wrap or loop anything around
your hand, or any body part.
If you wrap
something around your hand, body or neck (some
and the horse makes
a sudden movement,
you could be injured
or even dragged.
Wrong way to
hold extra rope, lead or reins.
Learn how to gather
up the ends of ropes, leads, and reins SAFELY:
FOLD it THROUGH your hand, instead of WRAPPING it around your
hand. Then, if it gets pulled, it will slide through your hand,
instead of hurting or dragging you. If you're wearing gloves, you won't even get a rope
If you "need" to put it over your shoulder, be sure that
it's arranged so that if it gets pulled, you won't get
7. Do a "pre-flight check" before mounting.
Check the horse's feet for stones, and that your tack is all
in good shape and securely fastened -- especially the
cinch or girth! At the bottom front of the horse's chest, insert
two fingers on top of each other between the chest and the girth
or cinch. They should fit snugly. If they don't fit, the
girth/cinch is too tight for comfort. If there is extra room,
it's too loose, and your saddle could slide sideways.
Be sure your helmet is on, and properly fitted and adjusted (see
provided guide.) Be sure the stirrup leathers (straps holding
where your feet go) are OK.
8. "Never say goodbye to the back end of a horse."
when you turn a horse loose, whether it's in a stall or turnout,
be sure its head is facing you, and you have room to move away, in
case it spins around and runs off with a playful kick.
Then, back away, keeping an eye on the horse, until you are out of
the "danger zone".