This page is designed for equine enthusiasts to come together and read about and share experiences they have had. The love of horses is one that is shared by many people so feel free to comment or just read about other peoples experiences and their favorite equine friend.

About Me

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I have been riding horses for 10 years and I am an active member of the United States Pony Club. I own 3 horses and I am an HB in the Pony Club rating system. I enjoy eventing, dressage, and instructing younger club members but love to do anything dealing with horses. Currently, I am studying animal sciences and hope to use this to increase my knowledge of horses.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Safety with Horses

I have talked a little bit about my involvement in the United States Pony Club. One of their biggest concerns is safety and creating safe equestrians. Since I have been a member of Pony Club for 10 years, I have always been taught that you wear a helmet whenever you are on a horse, no matter how small of a distance you are riding. I have also been taught that you wear a safety vest whenever you are riding outside of an enclosed area and that you always wear proper footwear whenever you are working around horses.

To some people, they don't pay very close attention to safety when they are interacting with their horses and when something happens and they get hurt, they wonder what happened. These people were never taught properly and they were never shown what could happen if you aren't safe.

I'm not saying that if you wear proper footwear, a helmet, and sometimes a vest you will never get hurt. There is always a risk when you are dealing with 1,000 pound animals that have a mind of their own. Especially when you think about the only thing that is controlling them is two small pieces of leather (your reins).

Every year, in January, our club is required to show this video called Every Time, Every Ride. It has a lot of testimonials from people who were either hurt from riding without a helmet or from relatives who have actually lost a loved one because they were riding without a helmet. Many of these people in this video talk about how they were ONLY going for a trail ride or ONLY walking up the driveway. It only takes a second for everything to go wrong with horses.

Most equestrians understand that they are involved in a dangerous sport and they know that it is their decision whether they continue safely or not. Before every show, we have to sign a release stating that we will not sue anyone if we get injured because we know we participate in a dangerous sport. Everyone has become so use to signing these that we refer to it as "signing our life away".

In Pony Club, our helmets are checked before every ride to make sure they fit correctly and to make sure they are certified. Helmets should be snug enough so that when someone tries to wiggle it around on your head, your eyebrows actually move with it. This might sound like it would not be comfortable, but honestly if you purchase a helmet that you like and that you feel is most comfortable you will most likely forget you are even wearing it.

As for the footwear, we are required to wear boots with a heel that cover our ankle. This rule I do not feel as strongly about. When I am riding, I will have my boots on. However, if I am just running out to the barn to throw some hay I will sometimes just throw flip flops on and be very careful around the horse's feet. Even with boots on, it hurts a lot when they step on your toes. With only flip flops, you would most likely suffer a few broken toes.

When dealing with animals that weigh around 1,000 pounds and have a mind of their own, safety is very important. I will never be caught riding my horses without a helmet. However, I know many people who do not wear helmets everytime and they seem to be doing alright now. Maybe after that next fall, things might be a little different.

Purdue Equestrian Team

One of the most frequently asked questions after people learn that I ride horses is "Are you on the Equestrian Team at Purdue?" Unfortunately, I have to tell them no I'm not now and probably never will be. You might be wondering why this is or what is wrong with the team. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Purdue's team, it is just a decision I made early on.

When I first started looking at colleges, if the school had an equestrian team it was definitely pushed higher up on my list. But, after learning more about collegiate equestrian teams I decided it was not something that I wanted to participate in. There are many different types of teams offered throughout the United States colleges. Purdue offers both a western team and an english team. From my earlier posts, you know I would only be interested in the english team for now.

Some other colleges, especially in Kentucky, offer eventing, dressage, and hunter/jumper disciplines in their teams. Purdue however only participates in the hunter/jumper discipline and this is something I have never actually tried, but feel like I would not be very good at. The biggest difference between eventing (what I currently do) and hunter/jumpers is that in hunter/jumpers, you are scored on the rider's position as well as the horse's form over jumps. In eventing, as long as you make it over the jumps, you are fine and it doesn't really matter how you look.

The other big thing that made me turn away from collegiate equestrian teams is there way of competing. You use the school's horses and the school is responsible for bringing some of their horses to each show. Once you get to the show, before your round, you draw a horse's name out of a hat. This is a horse that you have most likely never ridden or even met before. You then have a short time to get used to that horse and ride it around and over a few jumps before you have to enter the ring and show on this horse. For some people this probably sounds like fun, but for me not so much.

The thought of having to show a strange horse is not appealing to me. I get nervous before going in the show ring on a horse I have spent 10 years riding. If I can not feel completely confident showing a horse that I have actually bonded with, how can they expect me to show a strange horse.

If the team competitions were organized differently, I would be more likely to try my hand at joining the team. However, because there are quite a few people that enjoy this aspect of the team and because they try to give everyone an equal shot, this part of the collegiate equestrian teams will probably not change for awhile. There are many people involved with the equestrian team and I have no problem supporting them. I just don't see myself as a member of any collegiate equestrian team.