Gear Riding

Horseback Riding Safety Equipment That’s Worth Every Penny

Written by Kathi L.

Wondering how to stay safe while horseback riding? It starts with safety equipment.

Horseback riding is a sport with inherent risks. That said, you can reduce those risks by being smart, following safety rules, and wearing proper safety equipment.

(That’s why I never ride without my Tipperary SEI-Certified helmet, which you can grab on Amazon for far less than an emergency room visit.)

Basic Horseback Riding Safety Equipment Includes:

  • SEI-Certified helmet
  • Boots with heels
  • Safety stirrups
  • Body protector
  • Inflatable air vest
  • Medical ID bracelet

While some safety gear might seem expensive, remember that hospital bills are more so. Taking precautions and using the right safety equipment can go a long way toward keeping you safe and secure in the saddle.

Horseback Riding Safety Checklist


Helmets feature a hard shell with dense foam lining. Make sure your helmet is SEI-Certified so you’re confident it’s passed all the safety tests–including a drop test. 

If you fall, and your helmet hits the ground, the foam lining inside gets crushed or cracked instead of your head.

Check out our 10 best horse riding helmets for a variety of activities.

tipperary helmet

Click to see it at Amazon

This part of why it’s important to replace your helmet after a fall, since it may no longer have structural integrity.

Wonder if your helmet has had enough? Read about How Often to Replace a Horseback Riding Helmet.

If you’re looking for a new helmet, check out our favs on the Horse Rookie Must Haves Amazon List and 8 Best Horse Riding Helmets for Hot Weather Relief.


The correct boots for riding depend on what type of riding you’re doing. If you’re riding Western style, choose real cowboy boots with a heel to stop your foot from accidentally sliding through the stirrup.

Click to see the Ariat Heritage Lacer II Boot, which works well for English and Western riders.

If you’re riding English style, paddock boots and half chaps are appropriate. You may also wear tall boots. Again, make sure your boots have enough heel to prevent your foot from sliding through the stirrup.

Looking for expert guidance on horse riding boots?

Pro Tip: Steer clear away from “fashion” boots that have too large of a heel or no heel at all.

Safety Stirrups

There are so many different types of stirrups out there that it’s important to do your research and decide which one you’re most comfortable with (and if it’s show ring legal for your discipline).

Click to see Free Jump safety stirrups on Amazon.

Safety stirrups, in particular, feature strategic design elements that help the rider’s foot release more easily in the event of a fall. While we recommend everyone use safety stirrups, they are especially popular in disciplines like show jumping and eventing.

Check out the 7 Best Safety Stirrups for Adults and How Safety Stirrups Work to learn more.

Is it worth spending more money on a safety stirrup when you can get cheap used irons on eBay? Yes. If your foot becomes caught in the stirrup during a fall, you could be dragged by your horse and seriously injured.

Learn why these stirrups are recommended for horse riders with epilepsy.

Body Protector

Body protectors help shield the bones, internal organs, and joints in the torso and tailbone during a riding accident.

Click to see the Tipperary Eventer body protector on Amazon.

Most of force you have when you fall is absorbed by the ground, but part of that force is absorbed by your body. Body protectors aim to help absorb that shock.

6 Best Horse Riding Body Protectors for Unplanned Dismounts showcases the best options on the market.

Body protectors are tested to make sure they can absorb and spread the force from a given amount of impact. BETA Level 3 is an ideal rating for most riders.

Inflatable Air Vest

As technology advances, so does horse riding safety equipment. (Thank goodness!)

Click to see the Hit Air vest on Amazon.

One such advance is called an “air vest.” Air vests inflate if you become separated from the saddle (similar to an air bag in your car) and decelerate force.

Check out our Equestrian Hit Air Vest Review for a detailed look at air vest features, usage, and a first-hand case study.

6 Best Horse Riding Body Protectors for Unplanned Dismounts showcases the best options on the market.

Pro Tip: Air vests are good for reducing impact but won’t absorb or spread out energy. FEI, BETA and BE state that you must wear a body protector underneath your air vest for shock absorption and impact protection.

Medical ID Bracelet

Medical ID bracelets are low-profile accessories that provide critical information to rescue personnel if you’re unable to communicate in an emergency.

Click to see the RoadID bracelet on Amazon.

Typically, information includes your name, emergency contact, medical conditions (i.e. diabetes), and any allergies you may have. You can also include your vet’s phone number.

Pro Tip: Don’t put your address or social security number on the bracelet in case your bracelet is ever stolen or misplaced.

Safety Tips for Horseback Riding

Whether you’re trying to improve your own safety while riding, or the safety of your loved ones, here are some additional horse riding safety tips:

  • An SEI-certified riding helmet helps protects your noggin, and this is your number one priority.
  • Riding boots should have a prominent heel that stops your foot from sliding through the stirrup and getting stuck during a fall.
  • Don’t ride alone. Make sure someone else is with you, or (at the very least) knows where you’ll be.
  • Ensure you use a well-fitting saddle so your horse doesn’t react in discomfort. Add safety stirrups as an extra precaution.
  • Check that your girth or cinch is in good condition, shows no signs of wear, and holds your saddle securely in place. This includes tightening your girth before you get on–and checking it again mid-ride.
  • Follow basic horse safety rules, such as being aware of your surroundings, passing other riders left shoulder to left shoulder, holding the lead rope correctly, and not climbing under a horse’s neck or belly.
  • Learn how to perform an emergency dismount and jockey stop. (This video shows how to control a galloping horse.)
  • If you’re newer to riding, parter with a very experienced horse who knows what it’s doing and is safe.
  • Never wrap a rope or reins around your hand. If the horse pulls back, you can bruise, break, or rug-burn your hand.
  • When walking behind a horse, stay as close as possible and keep one hand on his rump, talking gently to him as you walk around. The closer you are, the less force a potential kick would have.
  • Lead the horse at your shoulder. Don’t let him drag you along, or lag behind where you can’t see him.
  • Always check behind your horse before you back him up.
  • Feeling “over horsed” like you can’t control your animal? Step off and take a break. There is NO reason to stay aboard and risk an accident if you’re feeling unsafe.
  • If you’re ever unsure about what you’re doing, ask a trusted trainer or senior rider for advice.

Head over to our article about How to Ride Horses for Beginners for even more safe horse riding tips!

Horse Riding Safety Equipment Infographic

You’re welcome to use this infographic on your own website *as long as you link back to horse-rookie.local.*

Feel free to share on Pinterest, as well by hovering over it and clicking the Pinterest icon. #knowledgeishorsepower

Horse Riding Safety Equipment Infographic

Learn about some of the most important safety equipment for horse riders

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How dangerous is horseback riding?

Since you are riding an animal with a mind of its own who is capable of decision making, riding can be dangerous. If you take steps to find the right safety equipment and follow basic precautions, you can lower that risk a lot!

Remember that every activity has risks, from crossing the street to driving to the grocery store. If you love horses, you’ll need to come to terms with a certain amount of uncertainty.

Q: Are horses safe?

No horse, even a “dead broke” or “bombproof” horse, is 100% safe. That said, an inexperienced rider should always ride an experienced and calm horse.

An experienced horse typically knows what he’s doing, doesn’t overreact, and is forgiving of mistakes.

Learn more about why horses are dangerous (but worth the risk).

Q: How do you bail off a horse? (i.e. emergency dismount)

This video shows how to do an emergency dismount step by step:


Push your hands against the horse’s neck, kick your feet out of the stirrups, then lean forward.  Swing your outside leg over the horse’s rump and push yourself away from the horse as you swing off.

Q: What should you do if you fall off a horse?

Stay still!

If there are people around, they should check to make sure that you’re okay (checking for pain, concussions, etc.). If there’s any doubt, error on the safe side and allow someone to drive you to the nearest emergency room.

If you’re completely fine physically, you may decide to remount and do an easy exercise (e.g. a few simple circles at walk/trot) to end “on a good note” for you and your horse.

Q: How do safety stirrups work?

Check out our article about How Safety Stirrups Work for the full scoop.

Q: Can you wear jeans horseback riding?

You bet! Check out What to Wear Horseback Riding for detailed dos and don’ts when it comes to riding apparel.

Q: Can you wear yoga pants horseback riding?

That’s a common question, so we wrote a whole article about Can You Wear Yoga Pants Horseback Riding?

Safe is Smart

Horse riding should be fun, and you have to stay safe in order to have fun. Even with its risks, riding is an unforgettable experience and offers a powerful animal/human connection most of us wouldn’t trade for the world.

When you protect yourself, you increase your chances of enjoying many more years in the saddle!

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About the author


Kathi L.

When I'm not helping equestrian businesses market themselves online, you'll find me hanging out at my barn in Nebraska. I grew up riding in 4-H, have worked as a colt trainer and trail guide, and have even competed in Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenges. Now, I've found a new love for dressage and love taking lessons in this discipline!