You’ve done it over and over, so many times, strapping the saddle on, heaving your leg up, and you’re off. It’s almost become a habit that you don’t think about anymore.
Aeroplane pilots have a checklist they tick off before every flight to keep oversights and accidents to a minimum.
By taking just a few minutes to check off these essential things before every ride, you could save yourself and your horse from a variety of potential issues.
Check for lameness
When you go to prepare your horse for a ride, pay attention to how they are walking. Lead them around the stable and look carefully for stiff or clipped steps, head bobbing, or any other signs of soreness. If your horse is looking a bit stiff, give them a gentle warm-up before checking them again. If the symptoms don’t subside, don’t ride!
Inspect your horse’s skin and coat
When grooming, or just before you ride, check your horse’s skin and coat, specifically on the horse’s back, for any rain scald, hives, sunburn, or other irritations that might make your horse uncomfortable if you sit on him. Look for other cuts or lesions that might need your attention before you ride.
This is one of the most important things – before every ride check your horse’s hooves for debris or foreign objects that would be uncomfortable to walk on. While you are cleaning the hooves out, keep an eye for any signs of trouble in your horse’s legs.
Inspect your tack
The last thing you want is broken tack when you’re out hacking. Check for frayed stitching, cracked leather, bits, buckles or other metal fittings, weakened saddle billet straps and girth straps. Broken tack is a huge safety hazard, so this is not one you want to overlook!
Tighten your girth
The last thing you do before you saddle up should always be to check the girth. To ensure that the saddle doesn’t turn on you and leave you on the floor, make sure the girth is tight enough to hold it in place. Some horses expand a bit when the saddle is first put on, so it is a good idea to check a few minutes into your ride that the girth is still tight.
We know you can’t wait to get out there and ride, but running over these checks before you ride will help you avoid accidents and minimise the chance of harm to you and your horse.