Safety Tips When Riding a Borrowed Horse
May I ride your horse?
By Brenda Hendrix
How many times have we heard a friend or relative say this? Probably many! Before you jump in and saddle up your trusty steed, here are a few things to consider:
• What kind of training and temperament does your horse have?
If you have an athletic show horse or a fit working ranch horse, will he or she be able to tolerate a rider who doesn’t understand
how to stay balanced or give cues correctly. Or a rider who is rough or aggressive (“I’ll show him who’s boss!). Even a horse
that is being led, as in a pony ride, can become jittery or aggravated with floppy legs or an unbalanced/stiff seat.
• What kind of experience – if any, does the person have?
Experience means more than ‘My uncle has horses’ or ‘I rode at camp’. Even if they ARE experienced, you should ask specific questions as to how and how much they have ridden.
• What do they expect to do with/on your horse?
Are they expecting to go on a trail ride? Take him over some of your jumps? Go for a fast gallop down the road? If you allow
someone to ride your horse YOU need to set the expectation of what will and will not be done.
• Where will they be riding your horse?
Do you have a safe enclosure such as an arena or round pen that would provide a controlled place for the rider to get to know
your horse? If there is no confined area you may be inviting trouble if your horse decides this is not the rider for them! Horses
can bolt with a rider hanging on for dear life, or when he bolts the rider will be promptly deposited on the ground.
• Do they really understand the inherent risks of being around and on horses?
We are around our horses all the time and have either learned by accident or have been trained how to move around horses
safely and ride well enough to meet our goals. If our friend/relative is ‘new’ to horses it will be a benefit to ALL to give them a
safety-Horse 101 lesson. Your horse will be happier, the rider will actually learn skills and understand why things are done a
certain way and you will feel more comfortable once you have given them some tools to succeed.
• Other things to consider are proper clothing for riders, use of helmets, appropriate tack for the horse, and
weather and ground conditions.
If you choose to let someone ride your horse, the goal should be for them to have a good experience. Think about things ahead
of time. Are you prepared in case there is an accident? What if the rider or your horse is injured? Should I have a ‘release of
liability’ form for people to sign? If problems arise or an accident happens, you should be prepared for, at least, hurt feelings or
a damaged relationship and at worst, a lawsuit. There have been many cases of family members suing for damages caused by what started as a well-intentioned and fun activity.
As a horse owner, it is our duty to protect our horses and our friends and relatives.
Be safe and be prepared.