All horse-related activities should begin with a solid understanding of basic safety rules. Horses are domesticated wild animals that frequently weigh ten times our body weight and always have a mind of their own. Safety rules must be learned and adhered to in order to minimize risk.
Safety rules protect both horses and humans. Although rules may range from essentially nonexistent in some barns to overbearing in others, there are some commonsense rules that all horsemen should consider golden.
Rules for Approaching and Handling Horses:
Never ride alone! To be truly safe, never handle horses while alone. Consider what may happen if you get injured and have internal bleeding. How long might it be before someone finds you if you are alone?
Be sure the horse is aware of your presence as you approach. Approach the horse from the side at a three-quarter angle to his shoulder and speak to him. Never approach from or stand directly in front or behind because these are blind spots in the horse's vision.
Feed treats from buckets, not your hand. How is a horse supposed to tell the difference between your fingers and the treats you feed him?
Never sit down while holding a horse.
Always use a safety knot when tying.
Stop your horse before leading him through narrow openings such as gates and stall doors; teach him to let you enter first. This will help prevent him from running you over or hitting his hips on the edge of the opening, which could lead to anxiety about going through such openings.
Always move calmly around horses. No running or horseplay.
Never ride in the barn aisle.
Bend from the waist, rather than kneeling down, to work on the horse's lower legs and hooves.
Guidelines for Safe Dress: Always wear a helmet! Eighty percent of all deaths from horse-related accidents when mounted result from head injuries.
Wear long pants at all times when around horses since serious lacerations can occur if shorts are worn and an accident occurs.
Wear safe footwear: boots that are at or above the ankle, have hard soles, and at least a 1/2-inch heel. This helps prevent life-threatening injuries that occur when a rider's foot slips through the stirrup during a fall.
Avoid loose clothing. Loose garments can catch on the saddle during a fall, and cause a rider to be dragged. (This situation often results in life-threatening injuries.)