Horses remain unpredictable animals, no matter how well-mannered or how well-trained. As your safety is our number one priority, I have listed a few guidelines below to make your interaction with the horses safer. Please read this page carefully on Saturday evening.
Interacting with horses, so much bigger and stronger than we are, is always risky. Despite the fact that we follow all possible safety precautions, accidents do occur. NO horse is 100% safe and it is impossible to guarantee your safety at all times. If a horse is frightened or provoked he may react according to his natural instincts, he may stop short, change direction or speed, shift his weight from side to side, buck, rear, bite, kick or take off. These risks exist for all people in the vicinity of a horse, for the handler as well as for workshop participants.
So, to make your interactions with the horses as safe as possible, please read the advice below very carefully and then watch the first 8 minutes of the video.
If you are uncertain before or at any time during your interaction with a horse, please ask, we will be on hand at all times.
- Sensible clothes should always be worn when dealing with horses. Sturdy boots are especially important.
- If you have long hair, tie it back in a secure ponytail or braid it. Long hair can become entangled with lead ropes, crossties or other equipment and this can be a very dangerous situation. Never flip your braid or ponytail back, move it out of the way slowly.
- When interacting with horses, it is best to wear as little jewellery as possible. Earrings, other piercings and rings on fingers are easily caught and can either break or cause injury.
- Do not use cell phones while you are interacting with horses. Keep your cell phone turned off while you are anywhere near horses. A phone that suddenly starts ringing can startle a horse. When you are on the phone, you will not be able to pay proper attention to the horse and may miss the horse’s growing distress. You can easily check your messages once the horse is safely back in its paddock.
- Always approach the horse slowly and quietly with no sudden movements. The horse should turn his face towards you. Do not approach until the horse is looking towards you. Never approach directly from the front or from the back. Never sneak up on a horse or touch it if the horse is not aware you are near. Some horses are nervous. When startled, the natural urge of the horse is to flee or kick to protect himself. Speak to the horse quietly, and let it know you are near before touching it. Touch the horse gently first, stroke its shoulder and neck area before moving closer.
- Never wrap the end of the lead rope around your hand or your arm. If the horse spooks and runs away from you, you will not be able to unwind the rope fast enough and you will likely get a very bad rope burn. Horse handlers have been pulled off their feet or had their hands or wrists broken when they have done this.
- Never let the end of the lead rope trail on the ground. A trailing rope can spook or trip your horse and it may trip you. The horse may step on the end of the lead, resulting in the horse spooking or trying to escape the sudden pressure on the halter. Keep the end of any rope neatly folded back and forth in your hand. Do not circle the end of the rope but fold it back and forth on itself and hold the folded rope end in your other hand.
- Never duck under the lead rope when a horse is tied. If the horse spooks or strikes out when tied to a wall with a lead rope, you would be in a high-risk situation. Keeping a hand on the horse and speaking gently, go around the back end of the horse to the other side. Never duck under the belly of a horse either.
- Never corner a horse. If a horse’s means of escape is cut off, he will fight to protect himself.
- When leading a horse, walk beside him—not ahead or behind of him. Stay close to the horse so that if he kicks, you will not receive the full impact of the kick. Walking at the horse’s head or at a point between the horse’s head and its shoulder is considered safest.
- Do not lead a horse past parked cars or equipment such as pitchforks, wheelbarrows and feed buckets. There is a high risk of injury to the horse and the handler if the horse should knock over a pitchfork and get a puncture wound or get tangled in the wheelbarrow. Punctures from a pitchfork covered in manure and bacteria are particularly dangerous for horses as well as for humans due to the risk of tetanus.
- When leading horses, keep your concentration on the horse at all times and be aware of any potential dangers on the path ahead. Trying to calm a scared horse is difficult and dangerous so it is best to avoid situations that scare horses. For example, horses are scared of walking through narrow passages/doors/gates and may rush through, trampling their handlers.
- Be especially careful when turning a horse loose in a paddock. Lead the horse completely through the gate and then turn the horse around to face the gate. Then remove the halter and lead rope.
This list is not exhaustive.
With this information on board, you can concentrate on enjoying the time you spend wth the horses, knowing that you are not putting yourself at any unnecessary risks.
If you have landed on this page while surfing the net, these are the safety precautions we encourage the participants of our mindfulness meditation workshops with horses to follow. To find out more about our workshops, please click here.