Mastering the Art of Horsewalker Safety

Those acquainted with equestrian centers and professional yards are likely to be aware of the presence of a seemingly peculiar mechanism called a horsewalker. Popular for maintaining horses' fitness and facilitating effective exercise due to various reasons, the functionality of these walkers is equivalent to about an hour's worth of turnouts, based on a 2019 study. However, the benefits that horsewalkers offer can only be derived when they are used in a prudent and learned manner.

Knowing Your Horsewalker: Structure and Basics

The design of a horsewalker can greatly vary depending on the specifics of a yard's needs. While private livery yards may favor smaller walkers, rehabilitation yards might choose oval-shaped walkers that allow the horses to avoid continually treading on small circles. As a walker's construction can vastly differ, it becomes crucial for operators to recognize their own structure's features and the specific needs of their horses before using one.

Protective Gear: A Must-Have

No matter how experienced or comfortable a handler may be, the right protective gear, such as gloves, hard hats, and appropriate footwear, are not just recommended, but necessary. Remember, safety first! Furthermore, experts like Laura Whyte, dressage rider and rehabilitation yard owner, emphasize keeping a horse's gear to a bare minimum, stating, "Walkers are not an alternative to training."

Points to Ponder

Once the specifics of your walker and the individual horse are taken into account, here are other important considerations when operating a horsewalker:

  1. The Surface: Ensuring horses have grip and are not stepping on hard or slippery areas is critical for their safety.
  2. Warming Up: Some walkers, especially those running on oil, need to be warmed up for a few minutes before loading horses on them.
  3. Timing: Consideration of other horses when adding a new horse to the walker is crucial. Stopping a walker can potentially cause agitation and disrupt the process.
  4. Working on Both Reins: Objective experts universally advise equal work on both reins as a key part of safe horsewalker use.
  5. Matching Your Horse: Ensuring compatibility of the horses within a walker is key. Age, fitness, temperament, and condition should all be considered before placing horses together.
  6. Additional Safety Measures: From employing electrified gates and wider walkways to regular servicing, every step counts in reducing risks.

Ensuring Smooth Operation

Most importantly, regular checks and professional maintenance services keep a walker at its optimal function. It is recommended to service your walker annually or every 18 months, depending on usage. Furthermore, it's recommended to install the walker where it's easily visible and accessible for monitoring, in case of an emergency.

Execution is Key

After considering these factors, the safe usage of a horsewalker falls to implementation. Your safety, the horse's comfort and well-being, and the specific capabilities of your walker should all factor into your horsewalker routine. So whether you're a professional or a new rider, remember: analyze the situation, ensure you're well-prepared, and don your safety gear before you take the reins.

Sources: Horse & Hound, "10 of the best horsewalker safety tips from experts", view it here. PubMed Central, "Effects of walking and trotting on bone characteristics of mature horses", view it here.