There are approximately 1.8 million regular riders in the UK alone. It can be a very rewarding exercise, although much like any sport, it isn't without risk. What makes this sport different is that horses have a mind of their own and seem to have an irrational fear of just about anything. Dead leaf? Pretty scary. Umbrella? Terrifying. Plastic bag? You've got to be joking.
There has been a rise in equestrian technology developed to make the sport safer. And these are wide-ranging too, from saddle sensors that analyse movement to prevent injury to breakable pins installed on fences to reduce rotational falls in cross-country.
Statistics show that riders with over five years' experience are the most likely to be injured, and it's reassuring to see that technology is being developed to help improve rider safety. We've put together some overlooked but vital basics, as well as some of our favourite tech solutions to help you and your horse stay safe while riding!
Wear a properly fitted helmet
It may sound like a given - but only 20% of riders always wear a helmet while riding. Investing in, and wearing a good quality helmet can ensure you avoid serious head injuries. It's recommended that you replace your helmet if you have a fall that impacts your head and do an annual check to ensure the quality is still intact. Make sure your helmet complies with current safety standards, so you're confident it's passed all the safety tests.
Multi-directional Impact Protection System (or MIPS technology) has been commonly used by cyclists and skiers for over a decade and has finally arrived on the equestrian scene. With studies showing even expensive equestrian helmets not doing enough to protect against brain injury, MIPS may be a solution, with technology that mimics the protective layers on our head. We're excited to see what MIPS helmets can do for horse rider safety as it becomes more widely accepted as a standard!
Wear protective clothing (don't forget hi-vis!)
As well as a properly fitting hat, wearing protective clothing can help reduce injury in the event of a fall, both on and off the road. Body protectors can help reduce injury by absorbing some of the impact of a fall. These have been developed over recent years with airbag vests and jackets which inflate when a fall is detected to provide even more protection against falls.
When riding on the road, ensure you are seen with hi-vis clothing. Even in bright conditions, high-vis clothing helps motorists spot you sooner. Sadly, there are still stories about horses and riders involved in road accidents and last year in the UK, 845 incidents involving horses and cars were reported. To improve your safety and make you more visible on the road, a wide range of high-vis clothing is available for both you and your horse.
Keep your friends and family informed
Letting people know the route you're taking, the rough area you're in, and the time you're expected back can ensure help gets to you quickly if something were to go wrong.
There are apps available to track your ride and also offer a live ride tracking feature, so friends and family can see where you are in real-time. Personal trackers, including Tended's accident detection wearable, can detect falls and send an alert to up to five emergency contacts with your GPS location. This is done automatically, so you don't even have to get your phone out to let someone know.
As technology develops, we have no doubt that more equipment will become available to help improve both horse and rider safety. What's the next breakthrough in rider safety? We're excited to see.
While there will always be risks involved with horse riding due to horses unpredictable nature, these solutions can help you stay a little safer, allowing you to go out and enjoy your rides!