Horseback riding can be dangerous, especially when you don’t have the proper safety equipment. Although incredibly fun, the sport is prone to accidents no matter your skill level. To get the best out of your horseback-riding experience, incorporating the right safety equipment is an absolute must.
To earn the title of a true equestrian, helmets, crash vests, safety stirrups, and riding boots are all essential pieces of horse riding equipment a rider needs to research and fully understand. Likewise, no one rider is the same as another—so balancing comfort, durability, safety measures, as well as overall cost, is equally important.
While it’s no secret that horseback-riding equipment can be expensive, riders should know that accessible and affordable options exist. To help you make the most informed decisions throughout this fundamental step into the exciting world of equestrianism, we’ve done the hard part for you through the following research.
Horse riding boots will not only protect your feet from getting trampled, but they will prevent your foot from slipping through the stirrup. Tall boots will also protect you from scratches, lengthy falls off your horse, and weather conditions like rain and snow.
Boots with a one-inch heel are highly recommended when you’re first starting out as they will better protect your foot from falling out of the stirrup. If you’re looking to save a little money, and happen to have some old cowboy boots in the closet, these might be a perfect fit for your first horseback-riding experience.
Safety Tips: Boots
- Tall boots will protect you from rain, snow, and potential trail-side scratches
- Boots will decrease your risk of injury if you take a bad fall or are trampled
- The right pair of boots will help you stay snug in your stirrups
- Leather boots can protect you from chaffing
More important than any other piece of horse-riding equipment is the helmet. There are numerous ways a head injury can be sustained as a rider—and they can happen when you’d least expect it. That’s why a good helmet goes a long way in building confidence and skill. It’s important to recognize that horseback-riding helmets are not one size fits all. They are specifically designed for this sport and need to be fitted accurately to the size of your head.
There’s really no good argument for not wearing a helmet. No matter your skill level, accidents happen and, with a good helmet, head injuries are avoidable. So, do your homework, find a helmet specifically designed for this sport, and make sure it is a good fit.
Safety Features of Horseback-riding Helmets
- Your brain will thank you while wearing a helmet—head injuries are no joke
- Should you fall off your horse or be in danger of being stepped on by a horse, the right helmet will help keep that head on your shoulders
- A helmet sized to your head provides the best protection
Your internal organs appreciate good safety measures just as much as your head. That’s why the right is absolutely necessary. Let’s be very clear about a fundamental fact of riding—riders, especially beginners, are likely to fall off their horse at some point. Happens to the best. Should it happen to you, you’ll want to be wearing a safety vest to absorb some of the shock of such a potential fall.
Safety vests, while heavily padded, are lightweight and can easily be worn across horseback-riding disciplines. Most commonly, safety vests are found on long-distance riders, speed game competitors and pleasure riders.
Safety vests can also be worn comfortably beneath clothing and, if you’re worried about getting too hot while wearing a safety vest, simply put on a quick-dry top underneath.
Safety Features of Horseback-riding Vests
- A safety vest will protect your organs and core from a hefty fall
- Safety vests come in a variety of sizes and colors and can easily fit under your clothes
- A quick-dry top can be put underneath a vest to protect you from the heat
- Safety vests can be worn across almost any horseback-riding discipline
In order to protect yourself from a nasty fall, stirrups should be used to keep your boots in place. The right stirrups should also keep you comfortable and prevent your foot from sliding through while riding. If you do fall, good safety stirrups will also help prevent your foot from getting getting caught on the way down.
Comfort is a big part of the function of stirrups. They allow your feet to sit adjacently to your horse without moving. Whether a beginner or an expert rider, you’ll thank yourself for taking time to find a pair that’s a good fit.
Safety Features of Horseback-riding Stirrups
- Stirrups keep your feet still and comfortable as you ride
- Stirrups will prevent your boots from sliding through while riding
- Safety stirrups can also help prevent a foot from getting caught should a fall occur
- The right size stirrups should fit proportionally over your boots
Although sometimes overlooked, mouthguards play a pivotal role in keeping you safe while horseback riding. Should an unwelcome face plant be awaiting you from a fall, a mouthguard may be the only protection for those beautiful pearly whites.
Just like other sports, mouthguards can be arranged by your dentist in order to create a fit that’s perfect for your teeth. If you’re looking to save a little, pre-molded mouthguards can be purchased and imprinted just by biting into them.
Mouthguards can be awkward to wear for long periods of time, but are an important short-term safety device you can use to protect your teeth. The downside? Mouthguards will make it hard to talk to other riders and may collect dust and dirt, but we think they’re worth it.
Safety Features of Horseback-riding Mouthguards
- Mouthguards will protect your teeth in the event of a face-first fall
- They can be molded directly to your teeth in order to get the best fit
- Mouthguards can be tough to wear for extended periods of time
- Mouthguards can sit snug inside your mouth without showing
When it comes to grip, having the right pair of gloves will help you tenfold. Gloves are used across all levels of riding and are an important piece of safety gear no rider should go without. Horse reins move with the motion of the animal, and yourself, and can result in blisters if you’re not careful. A durable pair of gloves is an easy solution.
Gloves, as long as they are the right size for your hands, will help you maintain a good, comfortable grip on the reins. For the summer months, leather-palmed crochet-backed gloves are great. During the winter, look for lined, leather gloves.
Safety Features of Horseback-riding Gloves
- Gloves will protect your hands should you fall off your horse
- Leather gloves will give you a better, more comfortable grip on the reins
- There are different kind of gloves depending on the weather and season
- Horseback-riding gloves are recommended for all skill levels
Chaps or Half Chaps
Even more than long boots, chaps will greatly reduce your risk of acquiring scratches or scrapes while riding. Your saddle has more chafing potential than you might think—so chaps are there to help protect your legs.
We think you’ll greatly appreciate the extra level of safety a pair of chaps will offer you while riding, especially when you’re riding with a saddle. To get the best out of chaps, use either leather or synthetic leather material.
Safety Features of Horseback chaps
- Chaps will reduce your risk of scrapes and scratches on the trail
- A pair of fitted chaps will protect you from saddle chafing
- Chaps will make your saddle feel much more comfortable after riding for long periods of time
- Chaps can be used across riding disciplines and skill levels
How to Choose a Saddle
Saddles come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and brands. There are some important considerations before making a purchase. Of all the horse-riding equipment options out there, the saddle is among the most useful for any rider.
Whether you’re looking for an endurance saddle, dressage saddle, contact saddle, comfy saddle, or even an English dream saddle, anticipating its intended usage and required features will best inform how you should proceed.
Endurance competitions are sometimes more than 100 miles per day. Should you find yourself in such a setting, endurance saddles are an absolute necessity. These are typically lightweight, comfortable and, as they must remain stationary for hours at a time, incredibly sturdy.
Because of their high degree of comfort, endurance saddles are popular for trail riding, particularly when the ground is uneven and bumpy. Additionally, endurance saddles typically lack horns, shorten their round skirts, and have deep stirrups. To get the most out of these saddles, it’s important to keep your saddle bags as lightweight as possible.
When it comes to the dressage ring, taking advantage of a dressage saddle is your best bet at success. The dressage saddle becomes incredibly important in the training process and will let horse riders know how well they will fare in competition.
The distinguished deep seat of the dressage saddle helps the rider maintain balance and comfort while riding, particularly when riding a larger horse. Additionally, the dressage saddle’s long and straight flaps allow the rider’s legs to extend fully and rest gently on the sides of the horse.
Features of the Dressage Saddle
- Long and straight flaps
- Deep seat
- Big knee rolls
- High cantle
- Stirrup bars are further back
- Short girth
In order to stay as close to your horse as possible while jumping, a contact saddle is the perfect choice. Instead of keeping the rider as sturdy as possible, a contact saddle will actually allow more flexibility when it comes to mobility on the saddle. For this reason, contact saddles don’t come with a lot of the extra components other saddles do and are equipped with much shorter stirrups.
The saddle flaps are also shorter and moved forward and maintain minimal knee block in order to create further comfort while jumping. The contact saddle is an important piece of riding gear and is one of the more pertinent types of jumper saddles out there.
If you’re looking for a well-equipped competition saddle, go no further than the reining saddle (no saddle pun intended). This saddle will keep you in a properly balanced position with its forward-hung stirrups and cutout skirts. These features make it easy to start and stop in rapid increments while maintaining a high degree of comfort on the horse.
This saddle also makes it easy to communicate with your horse, which becomes increasingly important during competitions and training sessions. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rider, the reining saddle is a fantastic choice for those who wish to get the best out of a competitive environment.
Features of the Reining Saddle
- Cutout skirts
- Dropped rigging
- Free-swinging fenders
- Forward-hung stirrups
- Silver trim for show
Many can attest to the sheer enjoyment a good roping event can deliver. Roping saddles are the go-to for anyone in that arena. When it comes to roping saddles, the objective is to give you as much freedom as possible in order to chase, rope, and even dally a cow to your horn.
For this reason, the horn on your roping saddle must be well anchored and your tree must be particularly strong. These features add a lot of weight to the roping saddle, making them much heavier than a trail or pleasure saddle.
In order to prevent sliding, roping saddles are typically equipped with rough-out or suede seats. In contrast with other types of saddles, the roping saddle is also equipped with full double riggings, thick horns, and roper stirrups.
If riding in style is important to you, the show saddle will add the kind of swagger you’re looking for. These saddles are more embellished and designed to pop in the ring. With virtually limitless colors and designs to choose from, we’re confident you’ll find a distinct look that’s perfect for your horse. Show saddles can easily be customized to your liking and can even be made on demand for you and your horse.
Features of the Show Saddle
- Embellished designs
- Ornate tooling patterns
- Short horns and forks
- Padded or suede seats
- Silver trim on the skirts, cantle, and horn
- Turned stirrups
Grooming Your Horse
No matter your riding discipline, having the proper grooming equipment will go a long way in bringing the innate and majestic beauty of a horse to its fullest. Grooming equipment also gives you the opportunity to better identify potential swelling, injuries, or other possible health concerns. Although commonly overlooked, when it comes to horse-riding equipment, grooming also plays a large part in building a strong relationship with your horse.
- Hard brush
- Soft brush
- Hoof pick
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Sponges and cloths
- Mane and tail brush
- Fly spray
These basic supplies are easily accessible and fundamentally vital to any rider’s horseback-riding kit. Proper care and attention to your horse will make for a healthier animal and more enriching experience for you both.
Feeding and Care
Whether you keep your horse at home or at a boarding barn, it’s important to have all the essential feeding and care utilities. While we probably don’t need to tell you how important it is to keep your horse well fed, you’ll still want to learn about the variety of feeding equipment you’re going to need at your disposal.
When your horse’s performance is on the line, not only is it crucial for you to feed them the right amount, you’ll also need to supply your four-legged friend ample nutrients and supplements. Maintaining proper feed and care techniques will also limit your horses risk of injury or long-term health complications.
Feeding and Care Equipment
- Buckets for food and water
- Water heater
- Food of choice
- Horse blanket
- Outdoor brooms
Of all the types of horse-riding equipment, an emergency kit will prove it’s weight in gold should a life-threatening situation emerge. Before you start riding, you need to have all the emergency kit essentials—just in case. You should also have an emergency veterinary contact who you can reach any time of the day.
What’s in an Emergency Kit?
- The emergency vet’s phone number
- Wound dressing
- Zinc oxide cream
- Duct tape or medical tape
- Latex gloves
Frequently Asked Questions
Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, you’re going to have questions about the best practices when it comes to horseback riding. Thankfully, we’ve got answers for you!
What horse riding equipment is needed in the summer?
Luckily enough, you can pretty much wear your usual summer kit while horseback riding in the heat. If you’re looking for specific items of clothing, go no further than a short-sleeved cotton polo or regular t-shirt from gym class. Additionally, it’s important to wear pants and socks you feel comfortable sweating a lot in.
If you’re going to be riding in the middle of the day, pack more than enough water to drink and take breaks repeatedly. In general, it’s best to ride in the morning or evenings in order to maximize the amount of shade you’re in. Lastly, don’t forget your sunscreen.
How should I find affordable riding equipment?
Because the sport has grown so much, there is a huge market for used horseback-riding clothing and equipment. Experienced riders may already have everything they need to ride, but looking for used gear is a great place for beginners to start.
If you’re cautious about looking online, you may be able to find ample gear from tack shops and barns who host riders. To get the best value out of any piece of equipment, try to bring along an experienced rider who is able to evaluate gear that interests you.
What equipment do I need to ride in the winter?
In order to protect yourself from the cold, make sure you’re wearing as many layers as possible. You may be surprised at how fast you’re able to go on the horse, which means more icy wind on your skin. Riding gloves, fleece-lined breeches, and tall wool socks are all fantastic pieces of winter equipment we think you should take advantage of.
Safety vests can also be used as an extra layer of warmth and will protect your organs should you fall off your horse. It’s also easy to double or triple up your layers when heading out into the cold.
Whether a beginner rider or an expert equestrian, having the best riding equipment at your disposal is key to your continued success. Not only will horseback-riding gear help you get the most out of your experience, but it will keep you safe. With so many ways to dress yourself and your horse, it’s best to take into consideration all of your options before making any purchases.
Although it’s easy to get bogged down in the many differences between the various equipment items, we hope this comprehensive analysis will, one, help you better identify your unique needs and, two, strengthen your focus on how to best address those needs as you move forward.
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