Horseproblems Australia
Post Office Box Victor Harbor
SA. 5211
(61) 0885521418





John O'Leary


In another life, I escorted about 50,000 people on 'Holidays on Horseback' (Pack Horse Tours). I learnt a few safety tips during that time and am happy to say that I didn't lose a customer. I'll try to remember a few of them in case they may help you.

  • Never get  any closer than a full horse length from the rear end of a horse or from the side of one unless you totally know that it is trustworthy and not a kicker. I have seen a few broken legs in my time. The horse goes to kick your horse but gets your leg instead.

  • Be in complete charge of the behavior of your horse. Do not accept kicking, biting or even threatening. Discipline the horse before your friend gets kicked and ends up in Hospital.

  • One in Twenty Drivers now have Drugs in their system!!!!!

  • Always ride to the ability of the most inexperienced rider in your company. You must ride within their limits to not get them hurt. Young people often forget this and I have seen some falls as a result of people racing off in front of a learner rider.

  • It is your responsibility to plot the course of every footfall of your horse for the entire ride. You are there to keep your horse out of trouble and to not get it hurt. You must take particular notice where you are asking your horse to place it's hooves. Watch for snakes, animal burrows, holes, big rocks, fencing wire, soft ground etc.

  • Stay off the mouth of your horse. A pleasure horse should be ridden on a pleasure rein. The ride should be a pleasure to your horse as well and it should be able to gaze around and take in the sites too. Hanging off the reins whilst pleasure riding is one of the major causes of the  'Jig Jogging Horse'

  • If your horse is not shod, look after it and dodge the rough ground and rocks where possible.

  • When there is traffic around, ride no more than two abreast and have the more experienced horse shield the other where possible.

  • Do not ride in traffic on horses that are not trained to it.

  • Do not trot or canter on sealed roads. Falls are a regular occurrence. I have been down myself 6 times in the last 7 years. I didn't ask them to trot mind you. They were breakers and they were normally bucking or shying.

  • When faced with things that frighten your horse, keep the horse forward and allow it to go past the object at a distance that the horse is comfortable with. Each time thereafter, it will improve and get closer.

  • Never try to force a horse to go up to an object and make it sniff it. You are buying on a problem that you may not win and this is an unfair ask of an obviously young, green or worried type of a horse.

  • Only cross roads where you have a good view for a long way left and right. Never on blind corners and the like.

  • If you are passing through a tight space and the horse is lugging to the right and is going to crush your leg on a road sign, always pull the head at 90 degrees towards the sign, thereby taking the centre and rear section of the horse away from the sign and thereby saving your leg. Most people pull on the left rein which ensures a leg disaster.

  • Unless you know the horse well, do not take articles of clothing off while you are astride. Especially things like jumpers or coats. I'll let you imagine the possible scene.

  • Never be cruel to your horse by exhausting it.

  • If you are allowing your horse to drink at the waters edge and the horse starts pawing the water, get it out of there before it lays down in the water with you on top. Get off and lead it to the water.

  • When going up or down hills, keep your body at the centre of balance of the horse. The golden rule is to always have your upper body pointing the same way that the trees are growing on the slope. That is why when riding down extremely steep hills, you should be laying back near the rump of a horse. Up a steep hill you will want to be up forward along the neck of the horse. Let the trees always be your guide.

  • If you are attempting to ride through water, always keep your horse faced up directly at it. Let your horse get off on an angle and you have given it the invitation to run out that way.

  • When riding past frightening things, always keep your horses head facing towards the object until the horse relaxes, then go the other rein and on straight. Even if you side pass past. Use the increased flexion as your hand brake to stop any run to escape.

  • If passing through narrow places with posts installed, lift your legs over them or take your feet out of the stirrups. When I was kid, I had the stirrup iron hook over a gate latch. The horse kept walking and I broke my leg.

  • The most comfortable saddle for the pleasure rider and horse is the western. The English saddle is the least comfortable

  • Always take your halter and lead rope in case of problems. You may need to tie your horse up in an emergency of drinks time.

  • At walk trot and canter, try to be pulling the minimum on the reins that you can. Do it in a check release manner and be willing to trust the horse. You never know, you may have a true legend when you let the reins go.

  • Always walk home the last few hundred meters. Let the horse cool down and teach it to not run home.

  • I always make horses walk past the entrance gate a few meters and then turn back and in. Just to keep them listening.

  • If you are in danger of being attacked by a dog, always face the horse up to the dog and ride vigorously in an attempt to have the horse attack the dog. Often they will and the dog will back off. Allow you horse to turn and you will have a bolting horse on your hands, inviting the dog to chase you all over.

  • Push bikes are almost he most frightening things to horses. The reason is that they don't hear them coming and if it is from the rear you can have a running horse as a result.

  • If you have plenty of view ahead and a truck or motor bike is approaching at a speed too high for the tolerance of your particular horse, jump off but take the reins off the neck so that you don't loose the horse. Do not try to restrain the horse on a short rein. You have far more control on a longer rein. See Leading the horse

  • If you are on the horse and a frightening vehicle passes, keep your horse faced up to it.

  • Don't ever trust soft ground. I once saw a 17 hh horse with only it's head left above the surface of a patch of rotten seaweed. I must admit I did like the fact that the arrogant German who had been on that horse, was swimming for his dear life. He hadn't taken advice.

  • If riding on the beach, stay at least 15 meters away from every swimmer and preferably at the back of them. Only ever walk past swimmers' or tourists'.

  • If you want to get your horse to accept the breaking waves on a beach and eventually get in the water, you will have to keep your horse at right angles to the waves at every millisecond of your attempts. Ride aggressively and let your horse check it out and sniff the beach when it wants to. Near the end, it will start sniffing as an excuse and then you will cease to accept it. Eventually it will go but not before doing a lot of running backwards, The sideways run is the one that you should stop to gain success.

  • If swimming a horse, you shouldn't be on it. Slide off the side and be towed along whilst holding the mane. An even better system but takes practice is to pull yourself around to the front of the horse and place your feet on the horses chest. You are then holding each side of the bit and laying on your back in the water. The horse pushes you along and you steer as per normal. (I am not joking)

  • If you have a small narrow ditch that you are about to cross, lean forward and put your feet back. (Against normal practice), ready for the horse to jump. If it does, you will be catapulted via the stirrup leathers and land with the horse on the other side. If you don't, you will be left behind by the horse as many a learner are. On the ground.

  • Watch out for bolts sticking out of posts or fence rails that you may be passing.

  • Wear bright colored clothing

  • If you get trapped in a narrow space like a bridge and you are in high danger of an obvious idiot that shows no sign of slowing approaching and you are sure he can see you and he is far enough away for you to move on to the centre of the road and bring him to a halt, do so. Put your hand up and wave the vehicle to stop. The abuse is better than the squeeze of death.

  • Don't walk your horse over plastic or the like, unless your horse is trained to it. (which it should be)

  • Always ride on the same side of the road as each other. Take into account the effects of sun glare or shadows upon on-coming drivers'

Finally, have AIR BRAKES on your Horse. This will be your greatest savior.


Happy Trails