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Tips about Horse Safety and Horse Sense

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Horses are great pets but we can avoid some problems by understanding how they think. See non-fiction for books on safety and other topics.
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Tips about Horse Safety and Horse Sense
Betsy B. Lee 1985

This may be reproduced for personal and classroom use.
All other rights are reserved.
It may not be offered for sale or posted on websites
without written permission from the author.

How to Say Hello
  1. Make Friends Slowly
  2. Ear Signals
  3. Flat Fingers
  4. The Back End

A Four-legged Chicken

  1. Flight
  2. The Doorway
  3. Self-control
  4. Rewards
  5. Kindness
Basic Horse Sense
  1. Horse Control
  2. Your Path
  3. The Horse's Path
  4. The Horse's Horse Sense
Horse Feathers
  1. Leading
  2. Mounting
  3. Claws
  4. Surprise!


    How to Say Hello

    1. Make Friends Slowly

      Many horses are shy. They don't know if you will be nice to them.

      When you first meet a horse, begin by petting the shoulder or neck instead of the face. When you meet a new person, you don't usually hug him or her. For a horse, a pat on the nose or face is like a hug. Many horses like for you to make friends slowly.

      Find out from the horse's owner if the horse is shy, friendly, or inclined to bite and kick.

    2. Ear Signals

      Watch the ears!

      Ears pointed forward:
      the horse is interested in something.

      One or both ears forward, to the side, or slightly back:
      the horse is listening to something in that direction.

      One or both ears moving quickly:
      the horse is upset. This could indicate fear or anger.

      Both ears pointed back:
      the horse is angry. Look out.

      Both ears flat back:
      the horse is very angry. Get out of the way fast!

    3. Flat Fingers

      When you let a horse eat from your hand, he really doesn't want to get your fingers in his mouth. The horse wants the treat. Keep your fingers out of the way.

    4. The Back End

      Even a gentle horse kicks, sometimes.

      A horse might raise a hoof to kick at a horse fly or deer fly. The hoof comes down fast. Be sure you are not in the way.

      Once, a child ran up behind our Appaloosa. I was leading Albert. Neither one of us saw the child coming. We heard rustling leaves. Albert jerked sideways instead of kicking. Many horses would have kicked the child. Albert was really scared. He had no way of knowing if the rustling sound was made by a mean dog or a nice child until he turned around.

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    A Four-legged Chicken

      A Four-legged Chicken

      Although horses are big and sometimes brave, they can also run away like a chicken.

    1. Flight

      Horses become frightened easily. This is natural. A wild horse tries to out-run enemies. A horse fights sometimes, but the first instinct is to run. A tame horse also has this instinct, but a tame horse has learned to trust people. Even though a horse is big, he expects you to look out for him and tell him what to do. Tell him not to be afraid. If you are not afraid, this helps the horse to calm down.

    2. The Doorway

      A horse can suddenly run out of the stall or through a gate. Be sure you are not standing in the doorway or the open gate. If he is frightened, he will probably knock you down instead of stopping.

    3. Self-control

      When one of my daughters was in second grade, the class came to ride Albert. I sat on Albert as we watched the children walking on the other side of the road. When he saw them walking across the road toward him, he panicked. He whirled around and ran toward the barn. I pulled back on the reins and said, "Whoa!" He didn't stop right away, but he began to slow down and he stopped soon.

      If he had felt that I was afraid, he would have run faster thinking he needed to find safety for both of us. If a horse feels that you are not afraid, he will soon realize that he does not need to be afraid.

    4. Rewards

      I thought the school trip was ruined. The teacher kept the children on the other side of some huge azalea bushes - quiet and out of sight. Just one child came out at a time. Each child gave Albert a slice of an apple or a carrot, or a handful of corn or oats. He quickly decided that it was fun to give them rides.

    5. Kindness

      Horses usually respond well to whispers and gentle touches. Horses often do many different tasks at just the slightest signal.

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    Basic Horse Sense

      The term, horse sense, means showing good judgment. Try to see the horse's point of view.

    1. Horse Control

      Be prepared. You can notice something that might frighten the horse before the horse notices it. Say the horse's name, pat its neck, and say, "Easy, now." Speak gently. The horse begins to relax and is not as likely to become frightened.

    2. Your Path

      Watch where you are going. A horse can walk under a low tree limb or can brush against the tree trunk with no problem. The horse is not being mean. The horse just doesn't think about the fact that the tree can hurt the rider.

    3. The Horse's Path

      Watch the horse's footing. In a field, a forest path, or on a dirt road, be careful of tree roots, fallen limbs, and holes. Letting a horse trot or gallop on pavement can hurt the horse without the use of special shoes.

    4. The Horse's Horse Sense

      Pay attention to the horse's horse sense. Sometimes, when a horse won't do what you want, the horse is being smart. A horse might refuse to walk in a slippery area. In the story of Black Beauty, the horse refused to cross a bridge in the storm. They found out that the bridge wasn't safe for crossing.

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    Horse Feathers

      The term, horse feathers, means nonsense.

    1. Leading

      If the horse you are leading stops, it does no good to try to pull him. If you turn and keep on walking, the horse will probably continue walking behind you.

    2. Mounting

      Horses are taught that people should mount on their left side. That was started by people who wore swords on the left side. It was easier to put the left foot in the stirrup first. A few horses actually seem to get upset if you do it differently. Your riding instructor will probably be the main one to care.

    3. Claws

      If you raise your hands with the fingers spread apart, this reminds a horse of the claws of a predator. This is good to know if you don't want to scare a horse. It is also good to know if you need to shoo a horse away from you.

    4. Surprise!

      Always be alert in case the horse suddenly acts like a four-legged chicken.

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