You know how to be safe around your horse, right? Are you willing to prove it? Then try your hand at my challenge quiz. Be careful, though, because I've designed these true/false questions specifically to make you think. As a savvy horse owner, that's something you should be doing all the time...thinking, troubleshooting, and applying common sense.
But you know that. So grab a pencil (or your mouse) and have a go at it, mate. You'll have a bit of fun, and reinforce your safety smarts in the bargain.
1. As long as your gear hasn't gotten soaked (as by rain), a thorough cleaning once every third month or so will keep it in good condition.? T / F
2. Even with a dead-broke horse, it's worth always taking the time to tie properly, with a quick-release knot or safe-tying ring. T / F
3. If your normally well-mannered horse suddenly pushes into your space while you're leading him back to his stall, ignore it. He's earned the right to "be a horse." T / F
4. You can reasonably expect a mature, experienced horse to stand quietly while you cinch him up quickly. T / F
5. Thorough, regular grooming will improve the texture and shine of your horse's hair coat. This is the single most important reason to make grooming a part of your daily regimen. T / F
6. Horses have a blind spot directly in front of and directly behind them, so you must take extra care when working in or near these areas. T / F
7. For leading and tying, concrete can be a safe surface for horses. T / F
8. It's worth the effort to teach your horse to stand patiently in place while you mount up. T / F
9. Once you've checked carefully for the proper fit of a new saddle or bridle, you can rest easy going forward knowing your horse is comfortable in his new gear. T / F
10. After you've placed the saddle on the pad or blanket, it's OK to slide the whole thing back an inch or two if necessary to position it properly on your horse's back. T / F
11. The single most important thing you can do to stay safe in the saddle is to longe your horse before mounting to take the "fresh" out. T / F
12. There's more than one reason why your horse might refuse to do what you've asked of him. If you're sure that you're cueing him properly, then you should rule out a physical cause of his reluctance before proceeding with training. T / F
13. You should remain alert at all times while trail riding, and take extra care with even mundane things, such as handing an item to another rider. T / F
14. When your horse is disrespectful with you, you must let him know you're angry and displeased so he'll be able to tell that he's done something wrong. T / F
15.If, on a given day, your horse is "on the muscle" and hard to control while you're riding him in an arena, a good solution is to take him out on the trail, where a change of scenery will help him relax. T / F
16. Sneakers can be appropriate footwear for riding. T / F
17. If a horse is trying to run off with you, the best way to stop him is to use a strong take-and-release action on the reins, rather than a steady pull that he can brace against. T / F
18. Out on the trail, even well-acquainted horses shouldn't follow one another nose-to-tail. To guard against kicking, allow at least one horse-length distance between your horse's nose and the tail of the horse in front of you. T / F
19. If your horse gets antsy about being clipped, tie him up (safely!) before you begin to limit his moving about. T / F
20. A good way to build a friendship bond with your horse is to tuck treats into your pockets and the folds of your clothes, then let him search you to find his "rewards." T / F
How'd You Do?
- To keep your leather supple and strong (and therefore safe), clean and condition it on average about every two weeks.
- You never know what may spook a horse and cause him to pull back, so safe tying is an "every time" rule.
- Treat every instance of disrespect, no matter how small, as something to be corrected, or else your horse can become "untrained," a little at a time.
- What you can reasonably expect by cinching up quickly is to cause him to feel trapped and claustrophobic, which eventually will make him "cinchy"?nervous and reactive at saddling time. Always take the cinch up considerately, a little at a time. I like to tighten the cinch gradually, at least three different times, before getting on.
- The most important reason for daily grooming is to check your horse for nicks, cuts, and bumps that might develop into unsoundnesses or cause him to be unsafe to ride.
- Horses hate surprises, so be especially careful around these blind spots.
- But only if certain circumstances apply?for example, the concrete is dry and has a roughed surface for traction. Never tie a shod horse on smooth concrete, especially if it's wet.
- Not only will it make you safer as you mount, it's also just good basic discipline for your horse. For how to do it, see the final installment of my "Ground Manners Short Course," in March 2010's issue.
- You must check for proper fit and the good condition of your gear every time you saddle up. Your horse may have lost or gained weight, or leather may have stretched or shrunk or been readjusted by someone else without your knowledge.
- You can slide it back if you need to, but never forward. Sliding it forward can ruffle the hair coat and result in a painful rub that can irritate your horse and cause misbehavior.
- The most important thing to do to remain safe is to think before you ride, and to get your horse thinking and focusing on you, as well. Ground work that requires his feet to move in various directions will activate the thinking side of his brain as well as take the edge off his energy.? And on some days (say, it's especially cold and windy or your horse is rattled by new horses delivered to a nearby pasture), it may be best not to ride at all. Stopping to think things through in advance helps you make the right decision?and stay safe.
- If your horse resists even when you're "asking" him the right way, rule out a physical cause of misbehavior before continuing. Consult your veterinarian if need be.
- You never know what might spook your or another rider's horse, especially out on the trail.
- Correct your horse firmly and decisively, but without anger. Anger makes you seem like a predator, which will only rattle and confuse your horse.
- You're less safe outside. Fix misbehavior in the arena, then go out.
- Riding sneakers with an adequate heel are appropriate for riding.
- What you need in this situation is the one-rein stop; see my how-to instructions on page 80 of the December '06 issue, in "Ask Team H&R." Remember, it's "two reins to get killed; one rein for safety, softness, and control."
- This is Trail Riding 101.
- Being tied will only increase his feelings of claustrophobia, making reins, rather than a steady pull that he can brace against.
- This is a good way to teach your horse to nip you. Yes, some people seem to get away with this sort of foolishness...until that one instance when they don't. A better idea is to be safe and smart?all the time.