Safe practices can avert horse-ride mishaps
HORSES can be unpredictable and accidents can happen, but if safety precautions and common sense are in place, then serious mishaps can be prevented.
This is what riding schools and centres in Singapore - some of which offer pony rides to the public on weekends - told The New Paper.
Their responses came after an incident on Saturday at Punggol Ranch, where a 73-year-old woman, Lim Ah Boey, died after falling from a horse.
It was Madam Lim's first time in the saddle. When it was time to dismount, the horse reportedly made several unsuccessful attempts to approach a set of concrete steps.
It then reared, lost its balance and fell on top of Madam Lim, who had fallen. She was pinned under the horse for about 10 minutes.
Nadia Chen, 28, the administration manager at the National Equestrian Centre (NEC), said the centre does not immediately put a new rider on a horse.
"The first lesson is theory - on how to approach a horse, how to behave around a horse and what the safety equipment there are when riding," she said.
All riders must also wear properly fitted helmets and proper heeled shoes - not sneakers - to prevent the shoe from getting stuck in the stirrup, she added.
Miss Chen said that for a new rider, there is always a trainer leading the horse and one walking by the side to ensure the rider does not fall off.
Like NEC, the Singapore Polo Club also holds lead rein lessons for first-timers, said its head of equestrian, Samantha Parkhurst, 42.
Both clubs make riders sign indemnity forms so they know "riding is not without risks".
Both clubs also ensure that the welfare of the horses is taken care of, that they are well fed and regularly checked by vets.
Miss Chen said: "If a horse is not well taken care of and is in pain, the horse will let the rider know in the language it knows, such as bucking and rearing."
In addition to their own checks and risk management, these institutions are also accredited by the British Horse Society (BHS) or the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), the international governing body for all Olympic equestrian disciplines.
Ms Parkhurst said the yard at the club and trainers' and grooms' qualifications come under BHS.
"The society comes regularly for checks and the last one was last week, when we were awarded the certificate," she said.
The Bukit Timah Saddle Club, at Eng Neo Avenue, was also awarded the certificate last week.
As long as there is proper accreditation, the schools and clubs are members of the Equestrian Federation of Singapore (EFS).
Gallop Stable, which runs Punggol Ranch, is not a member.
Commenting on the accident at Punggol Ranch, EFS president Melanie Chew said: "This is an unfortunate accident that should not have happened. It was the wrong type of horse used and managed by the wrong type of handlers."
Coincidentally, following feedback from a whistle-blower, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) had inspected Punggol Ranch a day before the accident that killed Madam Lim and "found the place clean and the horses in satisfactory to good condition".
An AVA spokesman said it is investigating the Saturday incident and that the horse has been examined by a veterinarian and is receiving treatment for its injuries.
Lianhe Wanbao reported that the horse which was involved in the accident is an award-winning retired race horse named Play On.
THE NEW PAPER