Safety in the Saddle: Hi-Vis, Helmets and Toe-Stoppers – Oh My!

When you’re riding horses over distance, sometimes several hours away from help it pays to be as safe in the saddle as possible. There are three things I have found invaluable over my years of riding in various disciplines, for increasing my safety in the saddle.


Research has shown that wearing hi-vis reduces driver reactions times by 2.1 seconds. This means you are seen 2.1 seconds sooner than if you weren’t wearing hi-vis clothing. In 2010, the Journal of the Australasian College of Road Safety did a study consisting of a series of controlled experiments with cyclists in different clothing. Their aim was to see which was the most recognisable to drivers at night. This study showed that only two per cent of drivers recognised cyclists in dark clothing. This rose to 15 per cent for those wearing a hi-vis vest, but reached 90 per cent for participants in a reflective vest, ankle and knee gear. This same concept of increased visibility would also apply to dog walkers, pedestrians and cyclists around horse riders.

I wear high-vis because I go into the depths of the wildlands. If the worst happens, I know I’m a lot easier to spot when I’m wearing a hi-vis vest. Australia is a vast place and I know a hi-vis vest will help me be found that bit sooner because I’m more easily noticeable. I’ll also mention that for some insurance evaluations with cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders, the absence or presence of high-visibility clothing has been taken into consideration. It’s a very small trade-off for a big result in my mind.


Phew, this is always a hot topic in the equestrian world. We’re all well aware of them so do I really need to go into this? Here’s a photo of the jockey Edgar Prado’s helmet after a fall, where he was stepped on by a horse at the Gulfstream Park meet in 2015.

 If you’re worried about comfort, weight or keeping the sun off like an Akubra, there is a load of options available to meet all these needs. Again, in some insurance situations wearing a helmet may be a requirement for cover and it’s worth noting that some Australian state regulations require a helmet to be worn when riding on or near roadways.

Look at that snazzy coloured helmet brim. Keeps the sun off and you can colour co-ordinate.

Toe Stoppers

Toe Stoppers or Toe Cages are made of durable, lightweight material and attach easily to your stirrups making for comfortable, safe riding and dismounting. I predominately use the old-style “Toe Stoppers”. This multi award winning safety device attaches to the stirrup iron via velcro and prevents a rider from being hung up and dragged in a fall.

With some breakaway irons your foot can still get hooked up behind the top of the iron bar. Toe Stoppers have a closed pocket preventing this from happening. Legendary jockey Peter Cook and over 150 jockeys who completed a health & safety trial, agreed that Toe Stoppers should be made a compulsory safety device for all horse riding. Toe Stoppers or Toe Cages are a relatively inexpensive investment in safety. One that will repay you many times over your riding years. Just make sure you get the right size for your stirrups and foot width. It’s a small thing, put on once, for guaranteed peace of mind.


All I have to say about these 3 items is I’ll never regret putting them on, but one day I might regret not putting them on.

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