We all know that nothing we do with horses is totally safe, because accidents can happen in the most serene settings with the calmest horses.
But there are a few horse sports that, especially at the higher levels, have sort of crossed the border into a constant “red zone”, and if you are looking for horse sports or horse activities that give you some greater degree of assurance, here are some ideas.
1. Get the horse that is right for you. Not so dull that you will be bored, but if it’s going to be one way or the other, better a bit below your comfort zone than above it. If you are nervous every time you get on, because you are over-horsed, most of the joy will evaporate and you will find ways to avoid riding. So, again, get the right horse for you. Not for Sally. Not for Angela. Not for David. For you.
2. Do the things with that horse that make you happy. If you like to drive, drive. If you like to trail ride, do that. Hunters, jumpers, a bit more risk, but the rails usually come down rather than causing the horse to fall. Dressage is a hard to “grasp” sport with challenge enough to last several lifetimes to even begin to master. There is fox hunting. There are Western riding sports that I don’t know much about. Lower level eventing is fairly safe, if you and your horse are a good match, and you stay at your joint competence levels.
3. Always wear a helmet. Head injuries are easy to get, and they can instantly change your life for the infinitely worse.
4. Try to stay fit enough so that you can ride without wobbling around up there. It is lots easier to stay on if you are stronger rather than weaker.
5. If you find more pleasure in taking care of horses than in riding them, don’t feel pushed to have to ride. In the long run, nobody really cares much what you do with your horse except, as the saying goes, “you and your mother”, and even she won’t care too much as long as you are safe and happy.
6. Some people are super with starting babies and greenies from the ground, training them to lead, pick up their hooves, long line and lunge. Maybe that is an appealing alternative.
There are many ways to enjoy horses that give you pretty good assurance that at the end of the day’s ride, or the weekend’s competition, both of you will still be healthy. Find the level and the sport that works for you. Not for Sally. Not for Angela. Not for David. For you.
About the Author
Named “One of the 50 most influential horsemen of the 20th Century” by The Chronicle of the Horse, Denny Emerson was elected to the USEA Hall of Fame in 2005. He is the only rider to have ever won both a gold medal in eventing and a Tevis Buckle in endurance. He is the author of How Good Riders Get Good, and continues to ride and train from his Tamarack Hill Farm in Vermont and Southern Pines, NC.