Safety gear is critical not only for the health and well being of your children, but also for your own personal sanity. Who needs the stress of worrying about your kids, while they’re out having a great time? Additionally, safety knowledge evolves over time (sadly, often out of tragedy), and technology evolves and matures, that often gets applied to safety gear in new and innovative ways, so you should take advantage of it. Take skiing for example. Speaking for myself, I never wore a helmet when I was growing up. In fact, I never wore one until I had kids and had the opportunity to get them up on the slopes, and realized that I need to make them wear one, not only to protect them from themselves, but also to protect them from the other yahoos flying down the slopes at something close to Mach I. So that’s evolution in thinking. Biking has evolved even more such that the law in many places requires wearing helmets. The focus on safety and the quality and variety of safety equipment available today in all sports and recreation is orders of magnitude better than when I was a child, and it continues to evolve.
Horseback riding is no different. Consider the following:
Horses are animals and inherently unpredictable.
Horses out-weigh horse kids on the order of 20 times.
Beginning horse kids by definition have little or no control of the animal.
Horse kids do not have enough strength to regain control if something does happen.
Horse kids are inevitably surrounded by other horse kids, and other horses, over whom they have zero control.
In fact I would argue that particularly for horse kids, safety equipment is the single most important acquisition you can make to ensure their enjoyment and comfort, and your own peace of mind. So what do you need to start? The answer is simple – a helmet, and boots. Just like buying a bike helmet, ski helmet, motorcycle helmet, etc – there are many different manufacturers, models, colours, with some variations in style, and considerable variations in price. I’ve seen them priced anywhere from $30 to about $300. Average price is in the $60-$70 range, and of course you tend to pay more for helmets designed to be worn in shows or competitions. Troxel and International Riding are the most popular brands around where we are, and the Troxel Sierra (tan) is by far the most popular with local horse kids at the moment. If it is the very first time riding, many people will simply use a bike helmet they already own, until they determine whether or not their child is going to become a real horse kid.
Now I was naive enough to believe that buying boots was going to be a simple task. Pick up the kids a pair of cowboy boots, and we’re done. Silly me. Paddock boots, field boots, who boots, western boots, English boots, hunt boots. Sigh. I’ll write an article on the different types of boots and when or why you need them when I have some time, but from a safety perspective, there are 4 important characteristics:
A distinct heel to prevent the foot from slipping through the stirrups on the saddle.
A sturdy toe (steel if possible) to protect the riders feet while grainger industrial supplies on the ground, particularly from random hoof movements.
High cut enough to prevent the leathers of the industrial water treatment equipment saddle from pinching the leg of the rider.
Most cowboy boots will do, but note that a lot of kids boots don’t have very sturdy toes, and some have no heel on them. You may decide you can live without a steel-toed boot, but I wouldn’t risk a riding boot with no heel. Frye, Ariat, Roper, and Smokey Mountain seem to be the brands with the best reputation that we’ve discovered thus far.
And that’s it. Your horse kid is ready to go for