Horseback riding can be a dangerous sport. Riding safely means staying comfortable and not letting injuries ruin your fun. Safety equipment won't keep you completely injury free, but in the case of an accident, may help reduce the severity of injuries. Wearing and using things like a helmet, riding boots, a crash vest, and safety stirrups can make your ride safer and if you're a novice rider, may make you feel more confident in the saddle.   Charles Owen Inc If you invest in no other piece of equipment, you should at least buy a riding helmet. In an interview with Riders4Helmet's co-founder Lyndsey White, she quotes a NEISS (National Electronic Injury Surveillance System) study that indicates that in the year 2007, 12,000 head injuries were caused by handling and falling off horses. She also quotes a neurosurgeon that claims horseback riding accounts for most sports caused head injuries. [Can we link to this or verify?] There are many arguments against wearing a helmet, but most are just excuses, and a refusal to look at the reality that riding a horse is a risky endeavor, no matter how well trained, old, or quiet our horses may be. It's not a matter of skill. The horse world in the last few years has lost several accomplished riders, even Olympic-level competitors, all because they weren't wearing helmets. Head injuries aren't completely avoidable, but many can be lessened or circumvented altogether through helmet use. Choose an ASTM approved helmet that fits well and wear it every single time you ride to protect your head and brain.  Ivan Dupont/ Getty Images Boots serve two purposes. A riding boot with a small heel will help prevent your foot slipping through the stirrup and provide some protection if your toes get trampled. Tall boots also protect your leg from chaffing while you ride and from getting scraped by branches and shrubs as you trail ride.  Somogyvari/Getty Images There are many types of stirrups with features to help you stay comfortable and prevent your foot from sliding through if you take a fall. If your foot runs through the stirrup when you fall, you could be dragged and badly hurt. Safety stirrups lessen the risk of your foot getting jammed.  Price Grabber  Safety vests help protect your torso if you fall. Crash or safety vests help prevent injury to your internal organs, your spine and your ribs. These heavily padded, but lightweight vests are commonly worn by rodeo riders and eventers. More often, crash vests are seen on long distance riders, jumping, pleasure riders, and speed games competitors. They can be hidden under dressage jackets. Pleasure and trail riders suggest wearing a quick-dry top underneath the vest if you're concerned about it being too hot during the summer. Eventers wear them under a colorful jersey. There are a few different styles, and they do come in different colors so you'll want to try a few on before buying one. One style has an air system that is triggered when the rider is ejected from the saddle. Some are suitable for ATV, dirt bike and horse riding and all come in child as well as adult sizes.  Douglas Sacha/ Getty Images You may not have considered wearing a mouth-guard while riding, but over jumps, where doing a face plant into a fence is a possibility, mouth-guards may be a wise consideration. Your dentist will be able to fit a mouth guard, similar to those worn for hockey, football or other rough sports. Alternatively, you can buy mold-able mouth-guards from drugstores. These won't fit as well or provide the same level of comfort or protection, but they may help prevent a gapped smile and a lot of pain. However, mouth-guards can be awkward to wear, prevent you from talking to other riders or your horse, and may get dirty from dust, depending on where you ride. Some riders wear them as special, short-term safety devices (e.g., bronc-riding, over a high jump course, etc.) and not all the time.  Wikimeida Commons  While half chaps or chaps won't prevent major injuries, they do protect your legs from scrapes and scratches when trail riding and from being chaffed against the saddle. If you've ever ridden with badly rubbed calves, especially after your horse starts sweating, you'll appreciate the extra layer of protection synthetic or leather chaps can provide. Donovan Reese/ Getty Images Gloves protect your hands and give you a bit of extra strength and grip. This may be useful if your horse pulls. Horses can blister hands by pulling while riding out on the trail. Any reasonably fitted pair of gloves can be used, as long as you can hold the reins comfortably. Leather-palmed crochet-backed gloves for summer and lined leather gloves for winter are usually best. 

Helmets

Riding Helmet
If you invest in no other piece of equipment, you should at least buy a riding helmet. In an interview with Riders4Helmet's co-founder Lyndsey White, she quotes a NEISS (National Electronic Injury Surveillance System) study that indicates that in the year 2007, 12,000 head injuries were caused by handling and falling off horses. She also quotes a neurosurgeon that claims horseback riding accounts for most sports caused head injuries. [Can we link to this or verify?] There are many arguments against wearing a helmet, but most are just excuses, and a refusal to look at the reality that riding a horse is a risky endeavor, no matter how well trained, old, or quiet our horses may be. It's not a matter of skill. The horse world in the last few years has lost several accomplished riders, even Olympic-level competitors, all because they weren't wearing helmets. Head injuries aren't completely avoidable, but many can be lessened or circumvented altogether through helmet use. Choose an ASTM approved helmet that fits well and wear it every single time you ride to protect your head and brain.

Boots

Hyrbrid Team, Brussels, Belgium
Boots serve two purposes. A riding boot with a small heel will help prevent your foot slipping through the stirrup and provide some protection if your toes get trampled. Tall boots also protect your leg from chaffing while you ride and from getting scraped by branches and shrubs as you trail ride.

Stirrups

Stirrups
There are many types of stirrups with features to help you stay comfortable and prevent your foot from sliding through if you take a fall. If your foot runs through the stirrup when you fall, you could be dragged and badly hurt. Safety stirrups lessen the risk of your foot getting jammed.

Safety or Crash Vests

Crash Vest
Safety vests help protect your torso if you fall. Crash or safety vests help prevent injury to your internal organs, your spine and your ribs. These heavily padded, but lightweight vests are commonly worn by rodeo riders and eventers. More often, crash vests are seen on long distance riders, jumping, pleasure riders, and speed games competitors. They can be hidden under dressage jackets. Pleasure and trail riders suggest wearing a quick-dry top underneath the vest if you're concerned about it being too hot during the summer. Eventers wear them under a colorful jersey. There are a few different styles, and they do come in different colors so you'll want to try a few on before buying one. One style has an air system that is triggered when the rider is ejected from the saddle. Some are suitable for ATV, dirt bike and horse riding and all come in child as well as adult sizes.

Mouth-Guards

Mouth-guard device to prevent and reduce injury
You may not have considered wearing a mouth-guard while riding, but over jumps, where doing a face plant into a fence is a possibility, mouth-guards may be a wise consideration. Your dentist will be able to fit a mouth guard, similar to those worn for hockey, football or other rough sports. Alternatively, you can buy mold-able mouth-guards from drugstores. These won't fit as well or provide the same level of comfort or protection, but they may help prevent a gapped smile and a lot of pain. However, mouth-guards can be awkward to wear, prevent you from talking to other riders or your horse, and may get dirty from dust, depending on where you ride. Some riders wear them as special, short-term safety devices (e.g., bronc-riding, over a high jump course, etc.) and not all the time.

Chaps or Half Chaps

Half Chaps
While half chaps or chaps won't prevent major injuries, they do protect your legs from scrapes and scratches when trail riding and from being chaffed against the saddle. If you've ever ridden with badly rubbed calves, especially after your horse starts sweating, you'll appreciate the extra layer of protection synthetic or leather chaps can provide.

Gloves

The gloved hands of a cowboy on horseback
Gloves protect your hands and give you a bit of extra strength and grip. This may be useful if your horse pulls. Horses can blister hands by pulling while riding out on the trail. Any reasonably fitted pair of gloves can be used, as long as you can hold the reins comfortably. Leather-palmed crochet-backed gloves for summer and lined leather gloves for winter are usually best. 
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