NEC: Safety protocols in place to ensure safe rides for the public
Riding centres here have precautions for first-timers
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 yesterday.
Their responses came after an incident on Saturday at Punggol Ranch, where an elderly woman fell from a horse, was pinned under it and died of her injuries. (See report at below.)
Miss 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.
"Safety also means we take care of our equipment. We make sure the leathers are properly oiled and kept supple so they do not snap easily," she said.
Like NEC, the Singapore Polo Club also holds lead rein lessons for first-timers.
"We start out the same way for both the adults and the children," said its head of equestrian, Ms 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, in 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, Dr 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."
Lianhe Wanbao reported that the horse which was involved in the accident is an award-winning retired race horse named Play On.
AVA: Incident under investigation
The New Paper, Nov 17
The woman who died in Saturday's incident had gone to Punggol Ranch to celebrate her grandson's 21st birthday.
Madam Lim Ah Boey, 73, and her family of 10 were at the Gallop Stable chalets for a staycation.
It was her 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. The elderly woman was pinned under the horse for about 10 minutes.
She lost consciousness and was rushed to hospital, where she died of her injuries.
Coincidentally, following feedback from a whistle-blower, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) had inspected Punggol Ranch a day before the accident 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.
Dr Melanie Chew, president of the Equestrian Federation of Singapore (EFS), said: "Instead of dwelling on the bad incident, the EFS wants to work with the Shankers (Mr Shanker R. and his wife Mani Shanker, who are the owners of Gallop Stable).
"We are looking at setting up a certification where EFS will go and assess the centre on a regular basis, the condition of the stables and the horses, and ensure that the instructors and groomers are properly trained before giving them the certificate.
"Potential clients can look out for the certificates to be assured of the safety of the place.
"After all, the Shankers have been providing pony rides for a long time and many people who would not have normally ridden a horse have experienced the joy to be on the back of one."