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Tips for Safe Horseback Riding

Stay Safer in the Saddle


Sitting safely on a horse

A helmet, proper footwear and safety stirrups, and good riding skills will help to keep you safe in the saddle.

2005 K. Blocksdorf
horse riding lesson

Riding lesson help you learn in safety.

Image: K. Blocksdorf
Cleaning a Saddle

Check your saddle frequently for signs weak points on stirrup leather and girth or cinch straps.

K. Blocksdorf

Horseback riding  is a dangerous sport. The speed, height  and unpredictability of a horse, along with obstacles in arenas, rings and on trails combine to make riding one of the most dangerous sports there is. The safest way to learn to ride is with an experienced coach on a quiet school horse. An instructor can teach you safe riding skills like stopping and turning, and how to cue for transitions between gaits. Make every ride as safe as possible with these basic guidelines.   


  • Ride a suitable horse for your riding skill level.
  • Don’t leave small children unattended on or around horses.  
  • The safest way to learn to ride is with an experienced riding instructor or coach.


  • If you are riding a young, green or unfamiliar horse, ride with supervision and in a familiar area.


  • Wear an ASTM approved riding helmet. Numerous agencies and safety committees cite that the majority of rider fatalities are due to head injuries. Experienced riders are just as prone to head injuries as inexperienced.
  • When riding in a group, keep at least one horse length between horses.
  • If your horse becomes very agitated, dismount and handle the situation from the ground.
  • Don’t race.
  • Consider wearing torso protecting safety vest.
  • Check your girth before mounting.

  • Check tack frequently for signs of wear and weakness.

  • Learn to do an emergency (one rein) stop.

  • Learn how to fall. This won't guarantee you won't get hurt, but you may learn how to avoid injury by rolling away from the horse.

  • Learn to do an emergency dismount. Sometimes the safest strategy is to get off quickly.

  • Wear sturdy boots with minimal tread and a 1 inch (2.5 cm) heel. Alternatively use safety stirrups or cages. If you fall you could be dragged if your foot slips through a stirrup.
  • Always ride in complete control. As with cars or bikes, the faster you go the faster things can go wrong.
  • Leave a map of your route when riding out on trail and the approximate time you will return. That way the folks back home will know when to start worrying and where to look if you are overdue.
  • Always ride out with a buddy. As an extra precaution carry a cell phone or two-way radio.
  • A great number of accidents happen along roadsides. Avoid riding along roads where cars and other vehicles may spook your horse
  • In a group, ride the speed of the least experienced rider.
  • Don’t ‘run’ your horse home. Walk the last half mile at least. This prevents a bad habit of rushing.
These are very basic rules. Here are more safety tips for different situations you may encounter:
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