We all love horses and ponies, hence why we are members at ARC. However, riding is a risk sport – that will never change – the risk when riding is far higher than playing tennis or golf. This is because of the obvious thing – there is an animal, with a mind of its own involved and we are sitting up high, moving at speed.
We have a really good and comprehensive safety management system at ARC – we have detailed risk assessments which our staff are involved with creating, our staff all have regular training, and we only use qualified coaches. A qualified coach has undergone a lot of training in safe/best practice and how to manage lesson situations. We also hand pick all our school horses and ponies to have the best temperaments for you to learn on. However, even with all those measures in place, the one thing you are guaranteed is that you are going to fall off a horse or pony whilst you are learning. Same as you are likely to fall off a bike/skateboard e.t.c. when learning. PPE (wearing a good fitting/up to standard hat) helps reduce risk of head injuries and you can also wear a body protector if you prefer to further reduce risk of bruising/injury to your torso.
Both coaches and in particular parents have an important role to play in safety and in developing riders’ confidence – particularly with children. It’s really beneficial if you can take the time to explain to your young rider that they will fall off – that this is part of riding and that despite the best measures, they will still lose balance and plop off. Explaining to them that ponies are live animals, who respond in different ways to different situations is also great – we find that if riders understand why certain things sometimes happen, they’re not as scared of it. If a rider falls off, it is very rarely because a horse or pony has done anything wrong – our horses and ponies are amazing animals – 99.9% of the time it is simply that the rider has lost balance or communicated the wrong thing to the horse or pony – just because they are learning.
Riding is a pretty tough sport – you’ve to work really hard at it, be physically fit and take the good times with the bad times. It’s also one of the most enjoyable, adrenaline fuelled things we can do for exactly that reason. Ponies will pull their heads down; they might canter when you want to trot or vice versa and they might occasionally get a fright just like we do at something. Do please remember that the pony or horse that you or your child is on has had years and years of training to be good enough to teach someone to ride. They are very different to privately owned horses and ponies as they are incredibly forgiving – they let you use your legs wrongly/lose balance/misunderstand how to do something and they try to help. But they are animals – very very different to a bike!