Staying safe at the barn

It’s easy to take shortcuts when you’re at the barn. Luckily, I’m frequently reminded (on horse forums) how easily a short cut can lead to a problem.

So, here’s my list of things that I do to stay safe at the barn. Feel free to add on your own. (This list does not include riding safety which would start with wearing an approved helmet).

  • Always wear hard shoes. No flip flops, no matter how tempting it is to stop at the barn on a whim to do a few small things. It hurts badly enough when your horse steps on your well-protected foot. No shoes can end up meaning fewer toes.
  • Always lead a horse with a halter and lead rope. As someone who is recovering from a rotator cuff injury I have renewed appreciation for the fragility of shoulders. Leading a horse by the halter (without a lead rope) is a good idea only until the horse spooks or throws its head up into the air violently.
  • Never wear earphones when working around horses. Their hearing is so acute that they are aware of sounds we only barely hear when we’re fully listening. When you have earbuds firmly inserted into your ear canals you don’t have a chance of hearing the sound that spooked your horse.
  • Always turn a horse toward you when you turn them out in a pasture or even put them in a stall. Too many people get kicked when that horse gives a squeal of delight and kicks out as they run off.
  • Never touch your horse’s hind leg unless he knows you’re there. I learned this one the hard way. I came out of the tack room and leaned down to put hoof dressing on a horse. I wore that hoof mark on my thigh for several weeks.
  • Always put a horse on cross ties before changing blankets, picking hooves, etc. It only takes an extra minute and you then have a horse that is relatively under control.
  • Don’t use food to catch a horse that’s in a herd. Unless, of course, you don’t mind being mobbed by several hungry and increasingly aggressive horses that are jockeying for position to get the treat. In fact, I don’t use treats to catch my horse at all.

4 thoughts on “Staying safe at the barn

  1. I would add: remember your physical (not mental) age, and adjust accordingly. A friend was telling me she was noticing she had to be much more careful around her horses, as her reflexes have slowed down.

    Me, I need to remember no matter how much I feel like a teenager, I no longer mount like a teenager. Ladders are good. (kidding on the actual ladder)

    I’m always shocked by how many people will ride in an arena with a loose horse turned out. It does not usually end well.

  2. Great list! I would also add staying alert while putting on wraps and boots – meaning squat next to your horse, don’t kneel. Also, teach your horse to have great ground manners – don’t let him be nippy, stand still while mounting and dismounting, move over when asked, understand ‘whoa’ – the time investment is worth it!

    P.S. Love your blog!

  3. Great list! I would say though that sometimes using food as bait isn’t a bad move, it just depends on the field situation and the person catching the horse. At the barn where I keep my pony, there are lots of young riders and ponies, and many of the ponies have figured out that running around delays being caught by inexperienced handlers. In those cases, it’s usually simpler for the rider to use a handful of grain and catch the horse without fuss than to start a stampede in the herd.

    My addition: never wrap the lead rope around your hand. Always hold it so it can slide out of your hand if necessary. The horse may go loose, but your fingers will be safe and you won’t get dragged down with the horse. In most cases the horse will stop and eat grass in 2 seconds anyway.

  4. Good list! Have a few to add:

    – never leave tools lying around as these could injure a horse
    – never allow dogs or other animals out of control whilst working with a horse
    – never allow children to wander around without adult supervision
    -always ensure doors or gates are correctly closed

    You would be amazed how many injuries I have seen caused by forgetting these few simple rules!

    About the cross-tying I grew up in South Africa, and now live in Zimbabwe, and we do not use cross-tying, ever! I have used it when visiting in Denmark though, but have only ever used a headcollar here at home. Cross-tying is not big in Africa….

    So glad the not wrapping lead around your hand was mentioned! I hurt myself very badly this way at 6 years old!

    Love the site!

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