General Horse Safety TipsBy Jeffrey Rolo
Horse safety is always a pressing concern for horsemen; we want to ensure that neither our horse nor us becomes hurt due to negligence, oversight or carelessness. Whereas horses rarely have a malicious fighting streak or intent to harm, their size alone can still cause a handler to be wounded if the handler isn't careful.
This article will focus on general safety principles that all horsemen should try and follow, not because we expect injury or suspect our horses are out to get us, but because it's when we let our caution down that injury occurs all too quickly. Whether you own a wild mustang straight from the pastures or one of the most reliable trail horses the world has seen, you should be keeping the following horse safety tips in mind:
Horse ClothingAlways try to wear clothing that is appropriate for the job. Do not walk barefoot or wear sandals while interacting with horses because even the best horseman has probably had his foot stepped on at least once or twice. If you have no protection on your feet, a little mistake can quickly turn into broken bones and nasty abrasions. Generally tennis shoes and/or sneakers are not recommended due to their soft toes, but if you absolutely do not want to wear reinforced-toe shoes or boots they are still far better than nothing.
Do not wear jewelry while working with your horse. If the horse rubs against the side of your face while wearing a halter he could accidentally catch your earring. Rings and bracelets also have the potential of getting catching on a lead line or halter during a sudden jerk or movement. You also do not want to cuff a misbehaving horse while wearing a ring.
Interacting With A HorseThe average horse owner will end up spending far more time with their horse on the ground than they will on the saddle, so it's imperative that each handler learns how to maneuver around horses to minimize chance of injury.
It is important that you vocally communicate with your horse at all times. Whereas they obviously do not understand our verbal language, they can understand tone and intent. If you talk to your horse in a soothing manner you will relax him, while if you snarl at him your horse will quickly see you're angry. Make sure your voice reflects the emotion you wish to express since giving a compliment in a stressed tone will not be taken as praise, but rather just the opposite. Words mean nothing; inflection means everything.
Vocalization does more than express your feelings or attitude to a horse; it also alerts your horse to your location. This is extremely important! If you approach your horse when his attention is diverted elsewhere, you could frighten him, causing your horse to flee or fire off a reflex kick in your direction. Horses really dislike being snuck up on.
Let Him Approach
It's a good practice to train your horse to approach you upon request rather than vice versa. If you train your horse to approach upon request you will never have to worry about startling him, thereby causing a reflex action.
There are two ways to eventually convince a horse to approach you on request. The first is bribery – you can reward him each time with a horse treat, gentle praise and some petting around the front shoulders. The second way should come with time – a bond of trust. Once the horse has accepted you as his leader he will follow you around dutifully. You can accelerate the creation of the leadership bond with some productive round pen training.
These horse safety tips will get you off to a good start, but we delve into horse safety even deeper in another article covering safe handling techniques when approaching and handling your horse.