By Sarah Evers Conrad
It’s our final post in the three-part series discussing safety guidelines published by the Certified Horsemanship Association in their Standards for Equestrian Programs manual. And this week’s topic, Management of Equines Standards, is important, not only for business owners, but also for anyone considering using an equine business. Knowing that horses are healthy and fit and that equipment is safe and well-cared-for should be a concern on both sides. We will discuss some of the guidelines in just a moment. First, I have a story to share.
This past weekend was a big weekend for my family. It was the first time my son had his first pony ride. And it happened the same as it did for me when I was little, at my dad’s company picnic. Except my son is almost three, and I was around six years old. I remember begging my parents to let me keep getting back in line to ride over and over and over again. That first exposure to ponies is what got me hooked, and led to me asking for riding lessons, or a pony, of course. A few years later I began riding lessons and a lifetime involved with horses. It was a great introduction to horses for me. Wouldn’t it be great if all companies had pony rides at their company events?
So this weekend was a big deal for my son as he enjoyed his first real exposure to riding, and it was also a very proud moment for me as a mom who got to share my love of horses with my little one. I only hope he may have some memory of this down the road, although he may be too young. Of course, Mommy has photos and a video, so the moment has been preserved for all time.
The pony rides were the first thing we did at the picnic, which was set at a local orchard. I am so happy to say that the business that was hired to have ponies at the event met my approval. After the initial happiness at seeing ponies there, my next thoughts turned to inspecting the health of the ponies and the safety of the equipment. Did the ponies look well-fed and have healthy looking hooves, showing that they were well-cared-for? Was the tack clean, appropriately sized and in good condition? Were the ponies calm and suited for their job? Did those directing the flow of kids match riders to the right size pony? These are just a few questions I asked myself before I allowed him to ride.
My husband had no clue I was performing a silent safety check before I determined if my child was going to be safe with this particular equine business. I do this every time I see horses for hire for carriage rides, such as in Charleston, SC; or for trail rides, like one I did on Amelia Island, FL; or for riding lessons I have taken at vacation destinations, such as Hilton Head Island, SC.
This leads me to the standards for the management of equines in the Standards for Equestrian Programs manual. This blog post will touch on three of the standards, which also tie in to my initial inspections before I consider using an equestrian program. For all 15 standards in the chapter on “Management of Equines Standards,” you will find information below on how to purchase the manual.
Three Must-See Safety Guidelines Regarding Management of Equines
1. Horse Management Program: This standard asks, “Does evidence exist of a horse management program that is integrated and implemented with observable, generally accepted practices?” The authors explained this standard as, “A general impression of healthy, well-cared-for animals should be evident from a horse management program using generally accepted practices and guidelines.” A program’s horse management practices tackle the following topics:
Availability of clean water;
A feeding schedule with proper rations and storage;
Hygiene practices to contain disease transmission;
A schedule for routine hoof care, worming, vaccinations, and other veterinary care;
Safe stabling and fencing;
Animal-caretaker knowledge of first aid;
A humane work schedule based on each horse’s condition;
Tack that is suitable, serviceable, properly adjusted, and fits the animal; and,
Disposal of trash, manure, moldy hay, and spoiled feed.
This standard is an overall look at the program, and some of the items in the list above are discussed in more detail later in the chapter.
2. Horse Selection: This standard asks, “Is there a procedure in practice for screening and selection of prospective horses?” The process of choosing horses for an equine program depends on the needs of the program and the intended use for the horses. Obviously a business that gives beginning riding lessons to children will need calm, well-trained horses or ponies that aren’t too big and strong for a child to handle. Temperament, soundness, size, overall health, and training or training potential must be considered. The program’s goals and activities must have the appropriate number and types of horses, and horses must be suitable for clients’ skill level.
3. Soundness Check: This standard asks, “Is a procedure in practice to check the physical soundness of each horse prior to use and remove unsound horses from work?” Obviously, soundness is of utmost importance, and if procedures aren’t in place to check soundness, then this could cause a physical problem with the horse to worsen if not caught early.
The manual has 12 more topics to consider regarding the management of equines. Based on our three-part series regarding site standards, program standards, and management of equine standards, you can see that there are a lot of things to consider when operating an equestrian program. These blog posts have only been a sample of all of the amazing material published by CHA in the manual.
The Standards for Equestrian Programs manual was compiled by professionals involved with equestrian programs, insurance providers, and legal consultants, as well as individual equestrian professionals. The purpose of the manual is for equestrian professionals to follow the guidelines in an effort to keep all participants at an equestrian facility as safe as possible while they receive services, such as riding lessons. The manual was designed for the horse industry as a whole.
Those equine business owners who follow the guidelines have a chance to have their facility accredited by the Certified Horsemanship Association, thereby giving them an industry “stamp of approval” and recognition for their adherence to safety standards. This makes the published guidelines important for anyone who owns or manages an equestrian facility. In addition, participants in equestrian activities would benefit from the manual as well since it discusses the elements of a safe and well-run facility.
Also, if you know a facility is accredited by the Certified Horsemanship Association, then you know that the facility is already following the manual’s safety guidelines. You can search for accredited equestrian facilities online at HYPERLINK “http://www.CHAInstructors.com” www.CHAInstructors.com.
In closing, I will repeat a quote from the manual that states, “Equestrian programs have a responsibility to strive for safe, high-quality services. Throughout the industry, concern and consideration for our horses and our clients is universal. To this end, it is essential that a reasonable and accepted set of operational standards exist…CHA believes that facilities and individuals striving to follow these standards promote a safer environment for equine activities.”
To learn more about safety around horses, you can purchase CHA’s Standards for Equestrian Programs manual at HYPERLINK “http://cha-ahse.org/store/products/CHA_Standards_for_Equestrian_Programs.html” http://cha-ahse.org/store/products/CHA_Standards_for_Equestrian_Programs.html. You don’t have to be a CHA member or a facility accredited by CHA to purchase. Anyone can purchase the manual.
For a wealth of safety and horsemanship information, check out CHA’s website at HYPERLINK “http://www.cha-ahse.org” www.cha-ahse.org for future blog posts, articles, magazines, audio segments with the Horse Radio Network’s “Horses in the Morning” radio show, webinars, videos, email newsletters, press releases, and more.
Sarah Evers Conrad is currently the Digital Content Editor at Horse Illustrated and Young Rider magazines. She also owns All In Stride Marketing. She is an award-winning equestrian journalist with a background in magazine publishing, feature writing, news and event coverage, editing, digital marketing, social media, and website management. Conrad has been published in equine publications such as The Horse, Blood-Horse, Equestrian, Arabian Horse Life, USDF Connection, the American Quarter Horse Journal, Paint Horse Journal, Off-Track Thoroughbred, Stable Management, Camp Business magazine, Lexington Family magazine, and HorsesDaily.com and DressageDaily.com. She is also the current editor for the Certified Horsemanship Association’s official publication, The Instructor magazine. Conrad has also edited several books, including CHA’s “The Equine Professional Manual—The Art of Teaching Riding.” Learn more at HYPERLINK “http://www.equestrianjournalist.com” www.equestrianjournalist.com.