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With the evenings drawing in, it's that time of the year to make sure you wear all the right high-visibility clothing when you ride out on roads. It doesn't matter if you only have to ride a short distance on a quiet country lane or a busier main road, you have to be certain that motorists and other people can clearly see you and your pony in order to reduce the risk of being involved in an accident.
Whilst it's great fun to be out on a pony, the rule of thumb is that safety should always come first. It goes without saying that wearing a suitable riding hat is essential and it has to be one that meets all equestrian safety standards. You should never invest in a cheap riding hat because it might not offer the kind of protection you need.
It's also important to wear the right type of riding boot whether long or short designs that boast just enough of a heel to prevent your feet from slipping through the stirrup irons. Making sure all your tack is in good condition is essential and this includes not only girths and stirrup leathers being in top condition, but reins, nose bands, keepers and other parts of a bridle need to be regularly checked and cleaned too.
No matter where you choose to ride whether in a field, along a road or grassy track, you have to remain alert so that you know what is going on around you and how your pony is behaving. If you are riding along a road, make sure the surface is not too slippery which is often the case even when the weather is dry. If your pony is wearing shoes, you may find they slip and slide on many road surfaces so if possible ride on the verge watching out for drains and other things that might cause your mount to trip.
If you are riding out with friends, make sure you don't ride too close to each other or side by side because this could prove dangerous if a car comes along. It's okay to ride alongside each other when there's no traffic about, but as soon as you hear a vehicle coming you should fall into single file making sure you are on the right side of the road and as close to the verge as possible.
Both horses and ponies can be easily spooked by strange and loud noises which includes the sound a heavy goods vehicle makes when they apply their air brakes. It's really important to stay alert and to know how your pony may react to certain sounds and objects so if things do start to go wrong, you are well prepared and know how to deal with the situation as safely as possible.
As previously mentioned, wearing high-visibility clothing is a must when out riding whether on a road or not. However, if the weather is misty or foggy, you should avoid riding out even if you are wearing all the right gear, just to be sure. The British Horse Society offers a "road test" for riders which is well worth taking so you know how to behave when riding out on a public highway.
The most important thing to do if anything should happen and things go wrong, is to stay as calm as you can. Horses and ponies pick up on the vibes you give out very easily so if you are upset, scared or anxious, your mount will quickly know about it and react accordingly. If you are scared, they will be more scared too. You have to talk calmly and quietly to your pony making sure you don't make any sudden movements which could frighten them.
If you have to dismount, remember never stand in front of your mount because it's harder for them to see you and if they do leap forward, you would be in their way and risk being injured. It's always best to ride out with a friend so that if things do go wrong, you are not alone and have someone there to help you deal with a situation you might find yourself in.
Staying safe when riding out whether it's on a quiet country lane or a busier road means wearing all the right gear which includes high-visibility clothing. Tack too has to be regularly checked to make sure everything is safe and secure and this includes stirrup leathers, girths straps and bridles. If the weather conditions are such that it affects visibility, you should avoid riding out along any roads because it would be that much harder for motorists and other road users to see you even if you are wearing reflective clothing.
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