Dear Equestrian Newb,
Horses are big and heavy, they have blind spots, they are skittish creatures and they can be unpredictable. This is a recipe for getting hurt so it is really important to take precautions to stay safe around horses.
It is good to have a set of ground rules to follow. I will be discussing safety tips for being around horses. So I am not talking about riding horses or training horses, just being around them and maybe handling them a bit, how to keep yourself from getting hurt or at least much less likely to get hurt.
Tips For Staying Safe Around Horses
1) Wear proper footwear, because you have a very big risk of getting your foot stepped on. I’ve had my foot stepped on many times and had to learn the hard way.
One time I was in the stall with one of my horses and I was stupidly wearing flip flops. Well a dog happened to run into the barn and jumped up at my horses stall barking. My horse spooked and jumped a bit landing on one of my feet. I was very lucky I just got swelling and bruising. I could have broken my foot or lost one or two toes.
The best shoes are leather shoes with a hard leather toe. Sneakers are too soft and won’t help much and I have heard boots with a steel toe can crush or cut off your toes… I wouldn’t want to risk that!
2) Talk to the horse softly as you approach him, because horses get startled easily and they have blind spots. They may not see you or know you are there, then when they see you they may spook, which could result in someone getting hurt.
3) Avoid blind spots, so that the horse can see and know where you are. The horse has too main blind spots, directly behind and directly in front. Stay on the sides of the horse where he can see you. They can kick with back legs and strike out with front legs. The safest place near a horse is by his shoulder.
4) Never wrap anything attached to the horse around your hand. For example if you are leading the horse with the lead wrapped around your hand and the horse starts to panic and pull back, the lead line with tighten around your hand. This can break your hand and if the horse starts to bolt and take off, you could be dragged and get really badly injured.
It is best to fold the lead back and forth and hold onto that instead of wrapping it around your hand.
5) Don’t shout or yell. There are probably other people around the barn working with other horses, if you shout it could spook one of the horses and end up injuring someone. Horses get startled fairly easily so keep this in mind especially with children where they can be a bit rambunctious.
6) Don’t Run. This is for similar reasons as tip number 5. Horses spook easily and if you run, they may be surprised, or it may make them frisky or fresh, someone could get hurt.
7) When catching horse approach a horse front the front walking toward his shoulder. As I said before the shoulder is the safest place around the horse. When you go to catch your horse in a paddock for example you don’t want to walk in the horses blind spot where you could get kicked or spook the horse.
8) Be careful tying your horse. Make sure you tie the lead rope to a sturdy object such as a solid fence post. You don’t want to tie your horse to something he can pull back and break, he could go over backwards among other disastrous things that could happen.
Also make sure you tie the rope high enough so that the horse doesn’t step over the lead. If the horse does this and feels the restriction, he may panic and that doesn’t always end well. You want to tie the lead at horses eye level or higher and you want the length of the lead to be about arms length.
9) Do not go under the horse’s belly to get to the other side. This is so dangerous, if the horse got spooked, tried to kick at a fly, walked forward or backed up. It’s a risk you should not take. Best practice is to go around the front of the horse and not under the horses head either unless you want to get a good bump on the top of your head.
If you do go behind the horse, stay close with your hand on the horses rump as you walk past so the horse can feel where you are. The closer you are when you do this the less impact a kick can have on you.
10) Don’t pet horses like you are slapping them, horses much prefer to be rubbed or strokes softly. It can be irritated to some horses and uncomfortable.
11) Feeding treats in a bucket is the best way when it comes to feeding treats. This way the horses don’t associate your hands with food and the potential for getting your fingers bitten are much lower. However if you are going to feed with your hands keep your hand flat, fingers together and put the treat in the palm of your hand.
12) Don’t allow horses to sniff noses with other horses, when you are leading the horse. The horse may get aggressive, strike out and squeal or even worse spin around to kick the other horse and maybe get you in the process. So it is a good practice to keep the horse away from other horses when you are handling him.
I have this video I made from a while back. Watch it. The video will review some of what was mentioned above and there may be some other tips not mentioned above.
Enjoy your time with horses but stay safe.
COMMENT BELOW WHAT SAFETY PRACTICES YOU FOLLOW. DO YOU HAVE A STORY WHERE YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW GOT HURT BECAUSE YOU WEREN’T BEING SAFE AROUND HORSES?
Cheers and God Bless!