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Be Safe Around Your Horse

By Charlene A Fultz

Horses are prey animals and therefore reactive. Always wary of the predator waiting to pounce, this 1000 pound plus animal can bolt at car horns, plastic bags and other debris flying in the wind. it is vital that you do all you can to remain safe.

Your horse does not mean to hurt you but even a well trained animal can cause harm when frightened. He will run over anything in his way, strike out, kick, rear, bite and anything he can to fight off or escape a perceived predator and in the process cause severe injury and even death. To prevent injury there are some simple things to remember and all of these boil down to using common sense and keeping yourself in a zone of safety when working with him.

First, you must always let him know you are coming especially if you approach from the rear. Start talking to him before you get close. Remember that he can kick out about six feet behind him but always straight back. If you must approach from behind, try to stay to one side. He can not see directly behind him so if you are to one side he is better able to see you and your voice lets him know you are there. If not surprised by your approach he is less likely to kick.

Try not to turn your back on him, you can not see directly behind you either and it is always a good idea to know what is going on all around you at all times. You can not predict what is going to happen to frighten him or how he will react and you won’t know if your back is to him. It is important to always know where he is and what he is doing.

Always be aware of other horses, people and things around you. Inexperienced people may not understand how horses react and frighten him. For example, children may run up to pet him when he is unaware, someone may bring a pet dog into the area with them or a friend may blow a car horn near him to get your attention. (This will certainly get your horses attention.) I was once riding one horse while ponying another with friends who own a trail riding business featured at a gold mine here in Arizona. These were all well trained horses and used to the sounds around them including the large mining machinery. We were approaching the mine when someone started one of these huge pieces of equipment and it startled the horses. Believe me, we all had a very interesting ride for a few seconds. Always remain alert and in control of your mount when riding, you never know what normal occurrence might frighten him that day.

When walking or working with him teach him to maintain a safe distance and out of your safety zone which is about and arms length away when leading and five to six feet when training. He can strike out with his front feet as well as his back, he knows how to bite and can a do what is commonly is called a cow kick. This is a short and rapid strike to the side. It is not as far in distance or as powerful as the full out get them when they are behind me kick, but it still hurts and can set you on your rear in a second.

Always keep control of his head. If he tries to push against you when you are leading him, just pull his head in your direction. He has no choice but to move his butt and his body away from you. His body must follow his head so if his head is turned toward you the rest of him must move away in order to follow his head, then you can get him going straight in the direction you want him to go. Just keep his nose tipped a little toward you and he will continue to walk in a straight line.

When handling his feet always keep your head away from his hooves. To pick up his front feet, stand in front of and to the side of the horse. Your shoulder should be in line with his. Use what ever cue you prefer to let him know what you are about to do. Some people will grasp the chestnut on his front leg and gently twist just enough for him to begin to lift his leg. Now bend forward and lift his leg the rest of the way. For the back legs, stand facing his rear with your shoulder even with his hip, then bend forward and lift his foot. Be certain that your shoulder is near his hip and not near his foot. Remember the cow kick? Better he get your shoulder and not your head.

When leading him do not hold your elbow close to your body. This allows him to walk to close to you and believe me when I say it really hurts to be stepped on. Instead, hold your elbow away from your body and bent at a 90 degree angle. This way if he gets to close he will run into your elbow, not you.

Thes are just a few basic protective actions you can take to protect yourself but your horse will also give you warning signs. He may be sore, not feeling well or just be downright grouchy and remember, he is a lot bigger than you. Body language is how he speaks to other horses and how he speaks to you so learn to read what he is saying.

In a previous article we learned what he does when he is happy, now we will learn what he does when he is not. when angry or agitated he will pin his ears back and his tail will switch around in sharp rapid movement in all directions. His nostrils will flare and his head will be held high. His eyes will be wide with a wild look about them and you may even see the whites of his eyes. I have seen their eyes literally turn black. He will stomp and paw the ground, he may even strike out wit his forelegs. When you enter his stall he may turn his rear to you. What ever the reason for his unusual behavior call it a day and leave him alone. He will be in a better mood tomorrow and you will be unhurt to ride another day.

Always remember, your safety comes first. Be aware of your surroundings, always keep him out of your safe zone, maintain head control and know his body language. With these things in mind you can enjoy a long and safe friendship with your horse.

Horses are prey animals and therefore reactive. Always wary of the predator waiting to pounce, this 1000 pound plus animal can bolt at car horns, plastic bags and other debris flying in the wind. it is vital that you do all you can to remain safe.

Your horse does not mean to hurt you but even a well trained animal can cause harm when frightened. He will run over anything in his way, strike out, kick, rear, bite and anything he can to fight off or escape a perceived predator and in the process cause severe injury and even death. To prevent injury there are some simple things to remember and all of these boil down to using common sense and keeping yourself in a zone of safety when working with him.

First, you must always let him know you are coming especially if you approach from the rear. Start talking to him before you get close. Remember that he can kick out about six feet behind him but always straight back. If you must approach from behind, try to stay to one side. He can not see directly behind him so if you are to one side he is better able to see you and your voice lets him know you are there. If not surprised by your approach he is less likely to kick.

Try not to turn your back on him, you can not see directly behind you either and it is always a good idea to know what is going on all around you at all times. You can not predict what is going to happen to frighten him or how he will react and you won’t know if your back is to him. It is important to always know where he is and what he is doing.

Always be aware of other horses, people and things around you. Inexperienced people may not understand how horses react and frighten him. For example, children may run up to pet him when he is unaware, someone may bring a pet dog into the area with them or a friend may blow a car horn near him to get your attention. (This will certainly get your horses attention.) I was once riding one horse while ponying another with friends who own a trail riding business featured at a gold mine here in Arizona. These were all well trained horses and used to the sounds around them including the large mining machinery. We were approaching the mine when someone started one of these huge pieces of equipment and it startled the horses. Believe me, we all had a very interesting ride for a few seconds. Always remain alert and in control of your mount when riding, you never know what normal occurrence might frighten him that day.

When walking or working with him teach him to maintain a safe distance and out of your safety zone which is about and arms length away when leading and five to six feet when training. He can strike out with his front feet as well as his back, he knows how to bite and can a do what is commonly is called a cow kick. This is a short and rapid strike to the side. It is not as far in distance or as powerful as the full out get them when they are behind me kick, but it still hurts and can set you on your rear in a second.

Always keep control of his head. If he tries to push against you when you are leading him, just pull his head in your direction. He has no choice but to move his butt and his body away from you. His body must follow his head so if his head is turned toward you the rest of him must move away in order to follow his head, then you can get him going straight in the direction you want him to go. Just keep his nose tipped a little toward you and he will continue to walk in a straight line.

When handling his feet always keep your head away from his hooves. To pick up his front feet, stand in front of and to the side of the horse. Your shoulder should be in line with his. Use what ever cue you prefer to let him know what you are about to do. Some people will grasp the chestnut on his front leg and gently twist just enough for him to begin to lift his leg. Now bend forward and lift his leg the rest of the way. For the back legs, stand facing his rear with your shoulder even with his hip, then bend forward and lift his foot. Be certain that your shoulder is near his hip and not near his foot. Remember the cow kick? Better he get your shoulder and not your head.

When leading him do not hold your elbow close to your body. This allows him to walk to close to you and believe me when I say it really hurts to be stepped on. Instead, hold your elbow away from your body and bent at a 90 degree angle. This way if he gets to close he will run into your elbow, not you.

Thes are just a few basic protective actions you can take to protect yourself but your horse will also give you warning signs. He may be sore, not feeling well or just be downright grouchy and remember, he is a lot bigger than you. Body language is how he speaks to other horses and how he speaks to you so learn to read what he is saying.

In a previous article we learned what he does when he is happy, now we will learn what he does when he is not. when angry or agitated he will pin his ears back and his tail will switch around in sharp rapid movement in all directions. His nostrils will flare and his head will be held high. His eyes will be wide with a wild look about them and you may even see the whites of his eyes. I have seen their eyes literally turn black. He will stomp and paw the ground, he may even strike out wit his forelegs. When you enter his stall he may turn his rear to you. What ever the reason for his unusual behavior call it a day and leave him alone. He will be in a better mood tomorrow and you will be unhurt to ride another day.

Always remember, your safety comes first. Be aware of your surroundings, always keep him out of your safe zone, maintain head control and know his body language. With these things in mind you can enjoy a long and safe friendship with your horse.

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