Guidance For Leaders

  • Planning
  • Equipment
  • Clothing
  • Group Size and Supervision
  • Consideration of Student Well-Being
  • Environmental Considerations
  • Water Hazards

Careful planning and preparation contribute greatly to the safe and enjoyable outcome of any activity. The council's generic risk assessment for your chosen activity is designed to help you plan that activity safely, and must be referred to in the early planning stages. If the site or nature of the planned activity poses additional risks which are not covered by the generic risk assessment then these must be considered in an additional site specific risk assessment:

  • Prior knowledge - seek information about the Centre to be used. This should preferably be first hand, but if not then from a reliable source. Checks can also be made with the Council concerning the licensing of premises.
  • Flexibility - should be available within the planned programmes to allow for last minute modification or curtailment, to take account of changing conditions and unforeseen circumstances. Consider the possibility of using centres with an indoor menage or carriage driving facilities.
  • Know the Group - Have prior knowledge of the group, in particular their experience and their physical capabilities, paying particular attention to any relevant medical problems.
  • Weather - Obtain a local weather forecast and be aware of changing conditions.

Riding Hats
Protective hats must be worn, fastened, by all riders. The minimum standard recognised by the B.H.S. is BS EN 1384 1997 (includes 2002 amendment), replacing BS 4722 and BS 6437.  The B.H.S. also recommends PAS 015.Whilst the B.H.S. Safety Committee recommends hats used in riding establishments for use by clients should be updated as soon as possible BS4472 and BS 6473 may continue to be used as long as they are properly maintained.


For all riding activities, footwear with low hard heels is essential. Heavy tread wellingtons and trainers with a high tongue should not be worn

Suitable clothing should be worn and will depend on the weather and terrain. It is always easier to discard clothing if it is too warm but starting off with inadequate clothing can lead to problems later on. Several layers of clothing are better than one or two thick layers; this is not only warmer but more flexible. Full body cover should be worn, particularly when riding in forest areas and where tracks are narrow.

Warm and windproof clothing should be worn in exposed terrain or on cold days. Waterproof clothing is essential for wet weather riding, hacking and trekking. Consideration should also be given to wearing gloves and a thin warm hat or balaclava under or over the riding hat and an additional pair of warm socks on particularly cold days.

Trousers should be stretchy and warm to allow a comfortable ride.

Particular Points for Consideration
Hoods on jackets, anoraks, or cagoules can be particularly hazardous, as they can become entangled in branches or in the event of a fall may be caught up in the horse’s or pony’s hoof. Consequently garments with hoods should not be worn unless the hood can be securely fastened away or tied into the garment.

Jewellery and in particular ear-rings should not be worn as they can become caught on branches or other obstructions. Some ear-rings are particularly uncomfortable to wear under a riding hat.

Long-sleeved garments should be worn as they offer far more protection. Even on hot warm days riders should ensure that their arms are fully covered.

Riders with long hair should ensure that their hair is contained within the riding helmet. This will avoid the risk of its becoming entangled in branches or other obstructions. Similarly, in the event of a fall, it will also avoid hair becoming caught up in a horse’s or pony’s hoof.

Minimum Numbers
There should be at least 3 group members including escort(s) for trekking and hacking activities. For novice riders, a ratio of 1:1 is the ideal.
Optimum Numbers
Whilst 6 students may be considered to be the optimum group size for trekking and hacking activities, 10 should be considered to be the maximum. All groups with 6 or more students should be accompanied by at least 2 escorts.

Consideration should always be given to proper selection of horses and ponies and to terrain and duration of the activity in relation to the students’ riding experience.

Medical aspects
Riding is a sport which will give a lot of pleasure and achievement to disabled riders. Many centres have approved ‘Riding for the Disabled’ groups.

In certain disabilities, medical factors must be considered:

  • Neck X-ray for Downs Syndrome.
  • Riding may not be advisable for those suffering from certain illnesses such as Asthma or Epilepsy. Prior medical advice is essential for uninterrupted activities.

It may be possible to arrange carriage driving for people who suffer from certain disabilities or for those who are allergic to horses.

All participants, both disabled and able bodied, should have current tetanus inoculation.

Attention should be drawn to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code
For more information::

Consideration should always be given to the problems of the environmental impact of riders on sensitive areas especially when the terrain is soft or vegetation is sparse.

Any crossing which requires more than a simple step across a small stream should not be underestimated and should only be contemplated when no significant risks are posed by doing so. When managing risks associated with water hazards, leaders must operate within the scope of their training and experience.
The council´s in house Lowhills Award does not provide formal training in dealing with water hazards, and leaders who are qualified in this capacity are required to ensure that any water crossings carried out under their supervision are of no more than ankle depth, able to be carried out easily and are inconsequential in the event of a slip.
Leaders who have undertaken national awards such as the Summer Mountain Leader Award will be more able to apply a reliable risk benefit analysis when faced with these hazards; however the overriding consideration should be avoidance of such hazards wherever possible.
The key to a successful outcome lies in the planning and risk assessment stages. Contingency plans should be drawn up for those situations where water is above ankle level or where the outcome of a crossing is uncertain. These should include alternative routes or waiting until water levels recede.

N.B Leaders who have undertaken training in any relevant capacity must lodge a record of that training with the management of their establishment.


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