Safe and Fun Endurance Riding
The sport of competitive Endurance Riding with Endurance GB is meant to be fun, whether you compete at International, National or Group level, Endurance or Pleasure Rides. Most importantly though, EGB and its Ride Organisers do everything they can to make Endurance as safe as possible for everyone, without adversely affecting people’s enjoyment.
The very mention of Health and Safety can strike terror into the hearts and minds of people! But this shouldn’t be the case. H&S is basically just good common sense. Although H&S is the responsibility of everyone involved at a Ride, there is a huge amount of experience, expertise and information available to help make it a safe and enjoyable event.
EGB has a dedicated H&S Committee with strong Board representation, and a clear H&S Policy and procedures containing lots of useful guidance for Ride Organisers that is updated at least annually. There is also a wide network of experienced H&S Representatives across the country in every EGB Group. Needless to say all EGB activities are backed by comprehensive insurance currently through KBIS.
Well before a Ride, the Organiser will have appointed a local H&S Rep to oversee H&S proceedings, completed a thorough Risk Assessment to identify the hazards that might affect riders, horses, crews, the general public and their belongings, and put in place measures to reduce the likelihood of these hazards causing anyone a problem. This Assessment is reviewed right up to Ride day, displayed at the Venue and checked again afterwards to see if lessons can be learned for the future. During the Ride itself there will be professionally qualified First Aid cover at the Venue. In the event that an accident or incident does occur there are formal systems in place to handle, report, record and investigate it fully.
Members of the Health and Safety Committee are always wiling to offer advice wherever possible, and welcome feedback to help EGB improve.
Health and Safety – Everyone’s Responsibility
You don’t have to spend much time around horses to realise they are unpredictable creatures. They weigh between 900 and 1100 lbs, can move at speeds of 40 miles an hour; have great agility, strong jaws and a powerful kick. Yet when you know a horse well or have confidence in your own horsemanship, the potential for danger is easy to overlook.
Endurance GB has a national Health and Safety Committee, made up of volunteers with expertise in this field; they do what they can to reduce the risk of injury to competitors, crew and members of the public at all our events through the review and maintenance of a Health and Safety Policy and the issue of advice. In the Groups more volunteers have been trained to take responsibility for health and safety at rides and training days. However they do not carry this burden alone. Everyone who turns up at an event is accountable for their own safety and the safety of others. Should you blatantly ignore that responsibility you can face prosecution.
We should all give consideration to health and safety at all times, and this starts when you plan to enter a ride. Part of the challenge of endurance is bringing on a new horse and finding a suitable first event can sometimes be difficult. Perhaps it is more risky to pick an event that has limited space at the venue or is staging an FEI at the same time as your pleasure class; or to take an ex-racehorse to a ride where there is a lot of open grassland. If it is a venue you have not been to then ask around or drop an email to the ride organiser. Getting it right means you and the horse have a great time and return safe and sound ready for the next event.
A few days before the event check your equipment is in good condition and your horse is well shod. I pack my vehicle the night before so I have time to remember things I have left out (I once turned up at a ride without a bridle – so embarrassing!). Other people use check lists. Make sure you know your route both to the venue and for the ride. A couple of hours with the map will give you confidence on the trail and avoid any problems if markers have gone astray. Make sure you leave in plenty of time, traffic at weekends can be unpredictable and Sundays are good days for the highways agency to close roads for maintenance.
Health and Safety Checklist for Riders
- Check the ride is suitable for you and your horse.
- If you suffer from any medical problems then complete an EGB Medical Form and leave with the Ride Secretary at the start of the ride.
- Check equipment is in good working order.
- Check your horse is well shod.
- Study the route map and talk round.
- Put the emergency phone number for the ride into your phone.
- Take note of any notices of hazards and route changes at the venue.
- Read the risk assessment if the ride is not familiar to you.
- Don’t forget the ribbons for your horse’s tail, red for those who kick, green if they are novice and blue (with bridle discs as well) for stallions.
- Treat everyone (especially your crew) with courtesy at all times.
Health and Safety Checklist for Crews
- Study the route map and agree crew points and times with your rider
- Check you know how to reach the crew points without going on the ride route if possible.
- Check your rider has packed all the required equipment and some spares
- Plan your route to the venue
- Put the emergency phone number for the ride into your phone
- Leave home in plenty of time
- Make sure the trailer is secure before you leave the venue.
- Drive with courtesy at all times.
- Take care approaching a crew point, park considerately and do not obscure route arrows.
- Keep the area around your trailer tidy and safe from trip hazards.
- Smile at your rider when they shout at you (they can’t help it!!!)
- (My husband added) Make sure the rider’s brain is removed from bucket and re-engaged as soon as possible!
The Ride Organiser and Health and Safety Representative will have done their best to make sure the route is free of hazards. Notices will be posted at the venue to alert you to any potential risks, please make sure you take a few minutes to read them. The full risk assessment is also available; if you are not familiar with this route then do have a look at it. If you are fortunate to have crew make sure you have selected crew points that are safe for them, you and other people using the area. Crew points have a potential for danger as, particularly when designated by the ride organiser, they may get crowded and you may have to wait a few moments to reach your vehicle, the constant flow of vehicles coming and going is also a hazard. Crew points are useful for tack and clothing adjustments but just be aware of what is happening around you. They can also be trigger points for frustration if a crew is not there. My crew will give a slosh to anyone who needs it, and I am grateful to those crews who are generous with slosh bottles when I need to scrounge one.
The trails are not exclusively for our use and you can encounter many different sights on your ride. Courtesy to all is a great motto and then hopefully we will be welcomed back. Maybe kind walkers will even hold a gate open for us. The etiquette for rides can sometimes be forgotten if you are chasing the time, your horse is not cooperating or you are wet and tired. Please remember to ask other riders if you can pass and to not gallop up behind another rider. Tail ribbons are warning signs that a horse can be more unpredictable than usual; if the track is narrow you may have to wait a few moments before you can pass. Keep an eye out for riders at gates further up the trail; a waving arm suggests they will leave the gate for you to close, please acknowledge them so they can get on.
Every rider has a duty to stop and help if another rider is in trouble (EGB rule 12.10) refusal to help may lead to elimination. Time lost can be claimed back.
If you find a rider in trouble follow these steps:
- Check they are conscious (awake)
- Check they can talk to you
- Check they are breathing (you may have to move their head back to open the airway)
- IF ANY OF THE ABOVE ARE NOT PRESENT - DIAL 999 and ambulance control will tell you what to do.
- Check if they are suffering from a major bleed:
- Put a pad on the wound, apply pressure and elevate it.
- DIAL 999 and ambulance control will tell you what to do.
- If the casualty is pale, shivering, clammy, disorientated or complaining of thirst they could be going into shock:
- Put a space blanket around them
- DIAL 999 and ambulance control will tell you what to do.
- Once your phone is free (or another phone becomes available) call the ride Emergency Number and tell them what is happening. As well as logging the incident they will inform the crew and organise transport for the horse. If a helicopter is attending the scene they will stop horses at the previous check point.
- For any other problem call the ride Emergency Number and the RO/first aid team will advise you what to do.
- stay with the casualty until help arrives
- designate someone to look after the horses (casualty’s and yours) - out of the way
- where there is little room or a risk to other riders - designate someone to stop other riders using this section
- PLEASE NOTE – ALL INCIDENTS SHOULD BE REPORTED TO THE RIDE ORGANISER – even if the rider remounts and continues the ride or if a rider refuses help.
On returning to the venue you may be exhilarated, tired or just grateful to be back in one piece. It is important to take care of your horse, complete your vetting and then tidy up around your vehicle before you relax and enjoy a sandwich or chat with friends. Horses should never be left unattended, even if in a trailer, but if you are on your own this may be a bit difficult. The area around the secretary’s tent and the butty van can get crowded, please take care with your horse in these areas. My horses seem to find ways to get lead ropes caught round trailer light fittings the second I turn my back; thankfully I have a crew who does not mind holding on to them. We also have various quick release ties and a large hay-net but it can be a bit of a nightmare sometimes.
Thankfully most of the Endurance GB events pass without incident, everyone has a good time and returns home in one piece. But the potential for serious injury is always present and we all have a responsibility to do what ever we can to keep everyone safe. I apologise to those of you reading this who think that I am just stating the obvious; but we all make mistakes and are all capable of moments of misjudgement, my aim is to encourage everyone to reflect on that once in a while. If you have read this far, then thank you for taking the time, I hope we all continue to have a safe and enjoyable season.
Written by Nikki Pearson on behalf of Endurance GB Health and Safety Committee
Published in Endurance GB Magazine in May/June 2012