This guest post is by Victoria S and entry in our non-fiction writing contest .
1. Never run around horses. While there are occasional exceptions, in most cases, running (as opposed to walking really fast) generally only gets horses excited and makes them misbehave more. Running AT a horse often will result in either the horse running away or it getting frightened.
2. When approaching a horse, never approach directly from the rear. You can almost always approach at an angle. Approaching from directly behind puts you in the horse’s blind spot, and just like driving in a semi’s blind spot is bad, a horse that is startled by a noise from behind will often kick with its hind legs first before running away.
3. The best way to approach a loose horse is heading towards their shoulder. Approaching them head on will often make them think you’re about to play the fun game of “Let’s play tag and the human’s it!” and approaching from behind is bad because of the chances of getting kicked.
4. When approaching a horse, always talk to it in a low calm voice to let it know you’re there.
5. Never ever wrap a lead rope or reins around your hands, arms, or body. If the horse startles, the rope will tighten and you could be severely injured.
6. Try to never move around a horse’s rear end. If you need to move to the other side of the horse, try to go around their front end, not their rear. If you cannot do that, you should move as close as possible to their butt while touching the horse gently to let it know where you are. The reason for staying close to their butt (I tell students to actually move so close that your body is touching theirs…) is because the horse’s rear legs are designed such that if it kicks with its rear legs the most force is created about 2 to 6 feet beyond the horse’s butt. If you’re right on their butt, they can’t do nearly as much damage as they can if you’re about 4 feet behind them. Unfortunately, most folks think about 4 feet behind a horse is the safest spot to walk – it’s not.
7. Never ever go under a horse’s belly to move from one side to another. Also don’t move under their neck. Like a lot of safety rules, you’ll see lots of horse people doing this, but as a beginner, it’s best to not do it as you won’t be able to judge whether the horse will put up with it or not.
8. Never make loud noises or sudden movements when working with horses. (This is a rule you’ll see broken by a lot of experienced horse people – especially when they are correcting bad behavior of horses. This is a case of “Do-as-I-say-Not-as-I-do” … )
9. Most horse activity (saddling, grooming, etc) starts on the horse’s left side. Horses are used to people doing things on their left sides first, so if at all possible, approach from the horse’s left, and start all work with horses from the animal’s left side. You lead horses from their left side also.
10. Never mount a horse under a tree, inside a low building, etc.
11. When leading a horse, try to use a halter or bridle rather than just a rope looped around the horse’s neck.
12. When leading a horse, stand at their shoulder or their head, and hold the excess rope in your right hand (without wrapping it around your hand!) and hold the lead rope/reins right under the horse’s head.
13. Never put your fingers and hand under a horse’s halter or in one of the rings of the halter. Although those metal rings look like great hand holds, if the horse gets startled and pulls its head up, your fingers or hand will be caught in the halter and the horse will drag you up in the air.
14. Never tie a horse up by its reins, especially with a bit attached. Reins are not designed to hold up to any stress and will break. If there is a bit attached to the reins and the horse pulls back, it can severely injure its mouth.
15. Never leave a nylon halter on a horse that is loose. They can get caught on any obstruction in the pasture and strangle the horse. Nylon doesn’t break under stress. If you cannot easily catch your horse and you need to leave a halter on it, use a leather halter or a specially designed “breakaway” halter that has some leather designed to give way under pressure.
16. It’s your job to keep your feet out from under a horse’s hoof. Be aware of where your feet are at all times and don’t let them get too close to the horse’s feet.
17. When feeding a treat to a horse, hold it on the flat of your hand, keeping your fingers together and your thumb in close to your hand. You don’t want you fingers or thumbs to stick out and make the horse think it’s a carrot. Remember, the horse can’t see where it’s mouth is and it relies on its sense of feel to determine what to eat … if your fingers stick out they will “feel” like a carrot and might get eaten.
18. While this is not really related to “safety” … it’s something that everyone involved with horses or out in the country should know. If you open a gate, shut it. Never, ever leave a gate open that was shut when you went through it. Conversely, don’t shut gates that were open unless you know it should be shut. If you shut a gate, you may be cutting off animals from their food or water supplies.
There are many other safety rules and such, but most of them are common sense.
This contest will end on December 16 2012 – prizes include:
- First Place winner will receive a Go Berkey Kit valued at $150.
- Second Place: $100 Cash.
- Third Place: $50 Cash.