The only times that I have been hurt by horses, I’ve been in the wrong place. Or, the horse was surprised by me and reacted like a prey animal.
An article published in The Horse, Defensive Horsemanship Keeps Owners Safe When Working with Horses, gives advice on staying safe by Robert M. Miller, DVM, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., at the American Veterinary Medical Association meeting July 31-Aug. 3 in Atlanta, Ga. His discussion definitely reinforces some of the lessons I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way!
“[Because they are a prey animal,] horses are always afraid,” he warned, and said people must act in a reassuring manner to avoid being kicked.
He advises that the safest place to stand is close to your horse, by the shoulder. It’s important not to surprise a horse so he recommends that you always maintain three points of contact.
“I like to press myself against the horse’s body; I want the horse to feel me and focus on me. It is concerned and wondering what I am doing. If we work at arm’s distance, the horse continues to worry,” he said.
While many people work at arm’s length to try to keep themselves safe, it actually more dangerous. In fact, if you stay close to a horse even if a horse tries to kick, you won’t get the full force of the kick. I’ve been kicked twice. Once when I slipped through the fence to fix a loose blanket strap. I don’t think that Freedom saw me coming and when he felt the strap move he kicked out. The only other time I came up behind him and reached down to put on some hoof dressing. Someone was cutting wood with a chain saw outside and he was focused on that. Neither time was he trying to hurt me but it certainly didn’t hurt any less!