and the Horse You Rode In On
Learn how to be safe around horses with tried-and-true
equestrian safety tips. Avoid common mistakes and learn valuable lessons from other
people’s poor judgment.
Practice equestrian safety
Whether you are new to horses or not, safety is king. The
fact is… horses are big animals.
That means you have to be on your toes when it comes to your health and well
being. And they are animals. Meaning
you have to be the brains of the bunch and keep them free from harm as well.
3 Good Reasons to Practice
and vet bills are expensive!
looking like an idiot
In a perfect world every horse would be well mannered and
trained to perfection. But this is not fantasy land. In the real world we have
young horses, green horses, poorly trained horses, spooky horses, cantankerous
horses, fearful horses….and fantastic horses that sometimes have bad days.
When it comes to equine safety you’ll find that most of it
is just plain ol’ common sense. But what you don’t know can hurt you, so I’ve compiled this list of safety tips that every
horseman can benefit from.
Around the Animals Ropes, Knots and Hands Paddock and Pasture Trailer Safety
Up Close and Personal
Horses tend to move around, sometimes unexpectedly. You must
anticipate any sudden movements and keep your body in a safe place. They are
fast, strong and outweigh you by several hundred pounds. So…
aware of your body’s relationship to the horse’s body at all times. The
safest place to stand next to a horse is at the shoulder. If the horse
moves its rear end, you’ll be out of the way. If he suddenly swings his
head, you’ll be out of the way. If he steps sideways toward you, you can
push him away or move sideways with him.
Give yourself room in tight spaces
aware of your body position in cramped spaces like stalls, horse trailers
and such. Make sure you have an escape route. Don’t let the horse pin you
up against walls or fences. Make them scoot over and give you space. If
you are in a cramped space don’t linger long.
- Good equestrian safety means being aware of things going on around you. Try to anticipate anything that might
startle the horse before he does, so you can take appropriate action.
put your face directly over a horse’s lowered head or in front of a
squirmy horse’s face.
I was once
dumb enough to have my face over my mare's head while she was lying down. She
decided to get up. The first thing a horse does to get off the ground is throw
their head in the air. It’s like getting slammed in the face by a 200 lb bag of
potatoes! It hurt so bad I nearly passed out. She didn’t even notice. You can
bet I won’t do that again!
walking behind a horse, walk far away or extremely close. If you are
passing by horses, stay out of kicking range… 5-6 feet. If you are
grooming a horse and you want to pass to the other side… stay a close 5-6
inches from the tail. If a horse does decide to kick, 1-3 feet away is the
worst place for you to stand. That gives him plenty of room to really get
in a good hard swing at you with those hoofs. Don’t give him the extra
you are leading a horse, stand at the shoulder. If you are in front of
her, she can knock you down. At the shoulder, you maintain control even if
the horse becomes out of control. If he suddenly bolts forward, you can
pull his head toward you, forcing him into a circle. Let him run circles
around you, while you remain safely in the center.
Keep your hands flat
you are holding your pony for the farrier, stand on the same side of the
animal as the farrier is working. This is for your farrier’s safety as he
is working in a vulnerable position. If the horse acts out or lunges, you
can pull the animals head toward you, therefore moving the body away from
him. Believe me, he'll appreciate your good equestrian safety measures.
you’re really familiar with the horse, don’t just stick your hand in their
groin, teats or flank area. A lot of horses take offense to this and will
respond with a kick or a bite.
- When offering
a horse treats, keep your hand flat like a dinner plate. Horses have a very
strong bite with those teeth. Keep your fingers out of their mouth.
Did you know the end of a horse’s
nose is in his blind spot? He can’t even see your fingers down
you are approaching horses, talk out loud to them as you move closer. Just
like you do when you talk to dogs and small children. Especially if the
animal is distracted eating hay or something. Horses don’t appreciate
being startled and can react swiftly to your disadvantage. Announce your
presence and let them know you are there. They’ll appreciate it.
one’s a no-brainer when it comes to equestrian safety.…don’t let little kids run up to a horse! They tend to
startle horses and do dangerous things like grab the horse’s legs and
crawl under their bellies. Keep an eye on the little ones…
Ropes, Knots and
A rope is an essential tool for the horseman. But like
anything else with horses, they can find a way to get hurt on it or hurt you
Hold the rope accordion style
you have a rope in your hand and there is a horse attached to the other
end of it…Don't hold the rope coiled around your hand. Instead, fold it
accordion style and wrap your hand around it. Holding your hand in a
coiled rope it like placing your hand in a trap and hoping it won’t go
- If you
ever find yourself holding onto a rope with a freaked out panicked animal
on the other end…Do not try to win a tug of war contest. You WILL Loose. Loosen
your grip on the rope and catch the horse up later.
One of my family members tried to
hold a rope with a wild mustang on the other end. They didn’t just get a rope
burn. No. The rope chewed through the leather cloves, through the flesh and
removed bone from the finger. That finger was almost lost and now has one joint
- equestrian safety is always
using a slip knot to tie your horse. A slip knot will quick release with the
pull of a rope, yet remains securely fastened from the horse’s
Always use a slip knot to tie a horse
use the reins on your bridle to tie your animal. For one, it can damage
his mouth if he pulls too hard. And two, they can easily be broken. Use a
halter and lead rope.
tie your equine with so much slack in the rope that they can get their
foot caught up in it. That’s just a nasty rope burn waiting to happen.
tie your horse to something they can pull out. I once saw a girl tie her
Arabian gelding to the gas pipe line leading into her house. Talk about a
As the saying goes, “Never underestimate a toddler”. The
same holds true for equines. Horses truly are like small children. If there is
a way for a horse to get hurt on something…they will find it. They are big,
strong and curious, all of which has the potential for trouble in the making.
Ask yourself, “Can my horse get hurt on this?” If the answer is yes, fix it.
Horses put a hole in this fence!
- Make a
habit of walking the fences. Horses are hard on fences. They chew wood,
push on wire, lean on posts and some times flat out run into them at high
velocity. Wire cuts are all too common an injury. Check your fences and
keep them in repair.
you are walking your pasture check for leg breakers like holes and heavily exposed
- Take the extra equestrian safety measure to check
for poisonous plants, loco weed and such; that may be trying to take hold.
plastic caps to cover T-post fence stakes. It’s cheap insurance....
A properly capped T-post
A good friend of mine has
transported two horses, on two separate occasions to the vet for two of her
neighbors. Both horses had been impaled with a T-post. One horse survived, the
other did not.
stalls and shelters for exposed nails, failing latches or loose gates that
a horse can get a hip hung up on.
sure your electric fences are working. I hate it when my neighbor’s mules
get out on the road. Can you imagine if one were to get hit by a car? Law
sure automatic water pumps are working.
that electric water heaters are not shorting out and electrocuting the
horses every time they try to take a drink.
In the Trailer
Believe it or not, getting your horse in and out of the
trailer is risky business. It’s fraught with potential disaster. Think about
it. You are asking your horse to get in a small enclosed area with low visibility
(claustrophobic for a large prey animal).
And then you are going to ask them to blindly (can’t see
behind them) walk backwards down a ramp or a step down after having been on a
maybe-not-so-nice ride on the road. Road travel is stressful. Horses can get
tired, road weary and just as bothered by traffic and road conditions as we do.
Run the end of an extra long lead
rope through the trailer tie. Then you can pull/guide the horse into the
trailer while you are standing safely outside. This is also a safe way to unload them as well.
you are loading a horse into a trailer, don’t get yourself boxed in. Make
use of the escape door. If you haven’t an escape door available, use a
long line to guide your horse in.
stand directly behind a horse getting in or out of a trailer. A horse that
has just had an uncomfortable trailer ride will often try to rush out.
Often at inopportune times. Get in the habit of making your horse stand for
a moment after you have
released the butt chain. Teach her to wait for your command to back out.
- Make a
habit to inspect your trailer floor every once in a while for signs of
rust and rot. A horse’s hoof punching through the floor out on the road is
- Take a
walk around your rig and check your tires, lights, safety chains and hitch
hookup before you pull out.
your trailer safer. Add quick release safety snaps to the tie downs and
butt chains. Add a plastic bumper to the edge of your step-down trailer if
is doesn’t already have one. Add fender trim to the underside of the sharp
Most trailers have tie rings just
above the fenders. A friend’s horse cut his leg severely on her trailer fender.
Another friend of mine had a horse back out of a step down trailer and slip on
the gravel outside. His back legs slid under the trailer. When he tried to right
himself, he stripped the flesh off of both back legs. A plastic bumper and/or
shipping boots would have helped this situation.
Fender edges can be sharp
Many horses are tied next to trailer fenders with sharp edges. Fender trim for horse trailers will protect them from getting cut.
Fender trim covers sharp edges
Rubber bumpers protect legs
Rubber bumpers like this one protect horse's legs.
When it comes to equestrian safety, I've seen people do some stupid things. I've done some
stupid things. Hopefully you won't make the same mistakes. Half the battle of
accident prevention is anticipating potential hazards and avoiding setting
yourself up for a disaster in the first place. Over time, most of it becomes
Even so, it’s easy to get comfortable and lazy, especially when
you've been around horses a lot. There are a lot of wonderful, calm, sensible
horses out there; but horses are horses and even good ones can have bad days. Learn to expect the unexpected. Think
ahead and be aware. It's all about human and equine safety.
When you’re riding down the trail….don’t ride where you
can’t see what your horse is stepping into. And for Heaven's sake don't try to ride across a cattle guard…..yup....it's been tried....really, really bad idea...
Speaking of safety, this is one clever idea. See how one woman turned a tragedy into a solution.
More Equine Safety Articles:
Learn about wound care from discovery to recovery.
Find out what items you need to build a well rounded horse first aid kit.
Learn to read horse body language to stay safe around horses.
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