Health & Safety
All our teaching staff are HSE trained first aiders. We have a comprehensive, documented Health & Safety and working practices package and child protection policy in line with BHS guidelines. All statutory requirements pertaining to riding schools are in place. We are approved by the British Horse Society which monitors standards.
So much emphasis is placed on safety in riding schools today that accidents are rare.
Nevertheless, riding is a risk sport, and novice riders and parents of riding children, especially those with little background knowledge of horses, should be aware of the potential hazards involved and the means by which the riding school seeks to minimise them.
The most common hazards may be summarised as follows.
This is not common but it can obviously happen.
In the riding school environment, if a rider does fall off, it is almost never as a result of deliberate intent on the part of the pony, but because it has moved, for whatever reason, in an unexpected way and the rider’s seat is not yet sufficiently established.
Riding is all about balance and this takes time. Which is why teaching children can never be hurried.
Also, any horse or pony can stumble: very infrequent, but it can happen.
When falls do occur they rarely result in injury, but it is impossible to rule this out.
Extremely unlikely that a horse will deliberately kick. He may kick for other reasons – flies etc. So be cautious and aware when moving behind him.
Being trodden on
This can happen. Children working with ponies can get their toes stepped on. The pony is not concerned where it puts its feet. Children develop an awareness and learn to be careful.
Ponies – more so than horses – occasionally nip. They may do so in protest because, for instance, their girth is being pulled up too tight, or someone is attempting to stroke their face over a stable door when they may want to be left alone. Children are constantly warned about this and they learn how not to let it happen to them. Bites seldom break the skin but they can bruise.
How we try to reduce these risks and make riding as safe as possible
The most important thing is the careful selection of horses and ponies. Temperament is everything. Most have been in the riding school for many years and know their job – but even these can be unpredictable at times. Any necessary new additions are thoroughly tried before being introduced into the school and are rejected if they show any signs of unsuitability.
Equally important is the matching of horse to rider. We know our clients’ capabilities through ongoing daily and weekly observation. We know which horses and ponies they should ride and when they are ready to progress. New clients are assessed in the reception office followed by observation while on their horse. Horses and ponies allocated accordingly.
Who makes these judgements?
The management and senior staff. Mannie Beaven, the Proprietor and Principal Instructor is a former International Rider and member of the British Show Jumping Team. She has owned and managed two British Horse Society Training and Examination Centres in London where career students were trained for professional qualifications. Her experience is unrivalled and, at Bentley, she is supported by a very select staff.
Most of our instructors have been with us for periods ranging from 14 to 25 years. Alongside a massive experience in the working of this riding school: the horses, the clients and our working practices, they have attended courses and passed examinations in HSE First Aid at Work, Riding & Road Safety, Protection and Safeguarding of Children as well as the numerous examinations which are necessary to achieve British Horse Society qualifications. Lauren, the senior member of staff is a qualified Riding for the Disabled Instructor.
Lessons are usually conducted in the indoor school, which is well lit, weatherproof and as safe a riding environment as it is possible to achieve.
Riding is usually in the woodland immediately adjacent to the riding school. Roadwork is either non-existent or minimal. We have ridden the same, clearly defined tracks for 26 years and the horses and ponies know them well.
Most children want to spend time at the stables learning how to care for the ponies as well as just ride them. This has been the case since riding schools were first conceived.
Bentley Riding School runs Four-Day Courses in riding and pony care throughout all holidays, together with individual Pony Days and the Weekend Pony Club. This involves children being with us for much of the day and, clearly, supervision is of the utmost importance. Children are supervised all the time including lunch breaks – but this is a general, common sense supervision. It is not very practicable to confine them in a safe place. All riding and stable management groups are, of course, directly under the eye of the instructor.
Should any mishaps occur, a first aider would be immediately available.
There will always be an element of risk in riding or handling horses and ponies and those choosing to participate must accept this. It is the price you pay for the joy of riding and being with the horses. The horse is, by nature, a creature of flight and despite a long association with man, his primal instincts have not changed in the last million years. Those instinctive reactions still sometimes assert themselves.