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Horse Safety for Beginners - How to Reduce Risk around Horses

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

Horse safety is essential for a beginners, kids, adults, up to advanced equestrians. There are 5 levels of safety used in workplace safety that are easily transferred when working with/around horses to reduce risk and eliminate hazards. This hierarchy is in order from the highest level of effectiveness down to the last line of defence, which is safety gear.

1) Eliminate - physically remove hazards:

Ask yourself, “Can I eliminate the risk of this task or potential situation completely?

-dont put yourself on or around around dangerous horses and situations

-get an experienced and qualified trainer to do a riskier part of the training ie. exposing a horse to new, scary situations, getting a horse going after a long time off or starting a young horse

-don’t ride in poor or hazardous conditions ie. icy conditions

-don‘t ride alone. If you get injured someone should always be able to help.

-don’t ride in storms when horses are reactive

-don’t tie your horse with hazards around them, remove misc tack or barn equipment or relocate your horse to eliminate the hazards

2) Substitute - replace the hazard with something less hazardous

Ask yourself, “Can I find a safer way to do this by replacing the task, equipment, people, horses or situations with something safer?”

-ride a safer horse ie. find the right horse for the riders skill level; instead of having a novice rider on a young horse getting started, have the beginner rider on a quiet, experienced, older horse with a trainer present

-ride on safer footing (ie. ride inside after a large down pour to avoid a horse slipping)

-learn about the different disciplines and what level of risk you are willing to take. For example, jumping has a higher risk of having a rider fall off than say dressage

-use safer equipment ie. breakaway stirrup irons with a rubber attachment to prevent the foot from getting caught in the stirrup iron vs fixed stirrup irons. Use english stirrups that slide out of the saddle if they get caught vs stirrrups that are secured to the saddle, use a blocker tie ring for tieing a horse instead of hard tieing the horse

-replace barbed wire fencing with wood panels

-a quiet horse for riding and a quiet buddy on the trail vs. spooky horse

3) Engineer - make physical changes

Ask yourself, “Can I make any physical changes to make this task, activity, situation safer?”

-add fencing ie. fence off the mares from the geldings, add round corners in pastures so a horse can’t get pinned in a corner

-add or select a safe area to ride like an arena or round pen with good footing vs galloping across a open field with large holes or on icy or slippery footing

-add properly fitting tack for the horse to prevent a horse from being reactive due to pain or discomfort from the tack

-add properly fitting tack for the rider ie. a saddle and stirrups

-good condition tack to prevent tack from breaking

-board at a barn where they maintain their facility, have safe fencing and facilities,

-add dividers in a horse trailer

4) Administrate - Change the way you work around horses

Ask yourself, “Can I learn a safer way to do this, or have someone experienced and qualified assess the way I am doing this”

-Get a trainer who focuses on safety around horses

-teach the children how to work around horses, tieing, tacking up, grooming, riding, feeding, catching and turning out horses. If any of these are done wrong it can result in an injury to the horse and/or rider

- where to stand ie. crush, bite, strike, cow kick , belly kick, back kick potentials

-how to position yourself when tacking up, haltering, releasing a horse, loading and unloading in a trailer

- how to stop while handling and riding a horse ie. emergency safety stop

-how to manage a horse when they are spooking and reactive

-continuously desensitize your horse to scary objects and sounds in a controlled environment and with a trainer if you are new to desensitizing so your horse can be controlled in a scary environment

-understanding equine communication so you can anticipate the horses actions based on the body language they are presenting -tieing to safe structures

-have regular vet and farrier care to ensure your horse is healthy, not in pain and sound

-learn riding arena etiquette ie. horses walking in the arena need to be in the centre and horses at a faster pace get the outside of the arena, pass left-to-left when riding in an arena

-board at a barn where they have safety rules in place; most barn rules are in place because someone or some horse was injured in the past from that situation

-board at a barn with qualified experienced trainers and barn managers to prevent you or your horse being injured from a situation that could have been easily prevented if seen from a competent person

5) PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) — Wear Safety Equipment

-Properly fitting equipment a certified equestrian helmet that fits correctly, hasn’t expired or been damaged,

-a safety vest when jumping or riding

-wearing properly riding foot wear with a heel

-wearing gloves

-wearing high visibility, reflective vest when going for a hack near a roadway

When all levels of protection fail, safety equipment is the last line of defence. Riding and working around horses is a high risk sport, reducing the risk and eliminating hazards is essential for beginner safety around horses.


Work Safe BC (n.d.) Controlling Risks. Retrieved from


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