Airplane pilots have a checklist that they carry and use before each and every flight. This helps keep accidents due to oversight to a minimum. Neither you or your horse will be airborne when you ride, but you still need to check a few things before you get into the saddle. Check these six things before each ride. None require any great amount of time to check, but they could keep you and your horse safer and more comfortable.
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Checking your horse for lameness before each ride is something you can do while you lead your horse from the pasture to the stable where you will tack up. Watch for stiff or choppy steps, head bobbing, or other signs your horse might be sore.
Injuries often happen while the horse is in the pasture, or even while it’s in its stall. If the lameness is caused by stiff muscles, the horse may work out of it, just as you would loosen up with some gentle stretching and movement before starting a workout.
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Before every ride, check your horse’s outer layer. Before you put a saddle on it, check your horse’s back for rain scald, hives, sunburn or other skin irritations that might make your horse miserable if you have him/her sit on it. Do a quick scan for cuts and other lesions that might need attention.
Most small surface scratches will benefit from a soothing lotion that keeps the skin soft as it heals, but more serious lesions like punctures or cuts will need first aid and if they are something you can’t manage, you might have to call a veterinarian.
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Before each and every ride, clean and check your horse’s hooves. Pull out any debris or objects such as stones or pine cones that could be uncomfortable to walk on. That’s what walking with a stone wedged in the bottom of your shoe would feel like. If your horse is shod, check for loose clinches and that the shoes don’t need resetting. Imagine walking with gravel in your shoes. Also check for problems like thrush, or white line disease that you should treat or discuss with your farrier.
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Do a tack check before each ride. Look for frayed stitching, cracked leather or synthetics, cracked bits, buckles or other metal fittings, Saddle billet straps and girth straps are particularly prone to wear and you should check them each time you ride for tears, cracks, thinning or ripped buckle holes.
Broken tack can put you in a precarious position, so it’s well worth it to give everything a visual check before you mount up. Before getting on, make sure that your stirrups are the right length. This can save you time and effort once you’re aboard, especially if your horse is a bit antsy when you start out.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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This may seem silly, but check to see if you have your helmet on. It is possible to forget to put your helmet on, especially if you’re wearing a ball cap with a brim that has the same feel as your helmet. Make sure your helmet is adjusted and fastened properly. Some safety organizations recommend wearing a helmet even if you’re just working with your horse on the ground.
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Cinch or Girth
The last check you should do, right before putting your foot in the stirrup, is your girth or cinch. Lose your balance with your girth or cinch too loose and the saddle could turn, and you could come off. It’s a good idea to check the girth again after a few minutes of riding, especially if you have a horse that ‘expands’ when you first put the saddle on.