Nov. 22, 2015
Today’s Horse Facts: Safety for You
and your Horse When You Hit the Trail
Rex, My Favorite Horse to Ride
Nothing is more exciting for a horse facts lover than that first time when you saddle up your new horse, mount, and take off for the dusty trail. Whether you ride in a training corral at a boarding stable, on a trail through the woods, or along the side of a windy road outside of town, you need to embrace some very important safety rules so that both you and your horse enjoy the ride and come back to the barn “together” with no injuries. Let’s take a look at what you should do as you go riding off into the sunset:
- As you tack your horse, make sure the bit is not under his tongue and the cinch is very tight. Check the cinch several times because your horse has probably learned the trick of bloating when you first tighten the cinch. A loose saddle might send you flying through the air while the saddle slides under the horse’s barrel.
- If the weather is hot and “buggy,” wipe down your horse’s entire body with a strong insect repellent. Those nasty horse flies can sting both of you and ruin an otherwise nice relaxing ride. Don’t forget horsie’s ears, belly, and legs.
- Check your horse’s four hooves. If he has shoes on, make sure they are not impacted with manure and/or small stones.
- Put on your hard hat, which completes your riding outfit of jeans or riding pants and steel-toed boots. You might want to put some of that bug repellent on yourself. Flies love human skin too!
On the Ride:
- The best thing you could do, if possible, is go riding with a partner who has a well-trained horse. Your new horse will learn good habits from his furry mentor.
- Be aware at all times of distractions which can spook your horse. If you have a new horse, you should have gotten a history about him from his previous owner. Is the horse gun shy? How is he with cars passing him on a road? How does he respond to a gate swinging open? How about water? If you don’t know the answers to these questions before you start riding, be very careful. You a treading on dangerous ground. A spooked horse can give you a ride back to the barn that you will never forget.
- As you ride, try to maintain a semi-relaxed state in the saddle. The horse can feel your apprehension and nervousness. If you are on the trail and you approach a patch of water or a small bridge and he balks, proceed with caution. It might be better to dismount and try to walk your horse through or around the obstacle.
- Don’t run your horse on macadam roads or through heavy brush. You might wind up on the ground while horsie is taking off toward the barn without you. Believe me because it happened to me when foolishly running on a street a few hundred yards from my home after a rain. I wiped out! Macadam roads are very slippery to a horse’s hooves, even if you have barium on the shoes. And low-hanging branches on trees are a sure wipeout!
- If the weather is hot, don’t run your horse into a lathered sweat, especially an older horse. Horses can have heat strokes, which can be deadly. My sweet Rex, who’s gone to horsie heaven a long time now, had a heat stroke one hot July afternoon, and I wasn’t riding him. He was just standing in my small corral and collapsed. Fortunately, I was able to get in touch with my vet, who told me to get Rex on his feet, walk him, get him to the salt block, and wipe him down. Rex lived a few more years after that and never had a heat stroke again. But that one time scared the wits out of me.
- On your way home from your ride, never release the reins to allow your horse to have his full head. Are you crazy? At any moment, a squawking bird, a loud backfire, or a slamming door could spook horsie, and you’ll be dumped on your rump!
- When dismounting at the barn, give your horse a big hug and kiss. Horses respond to affection of all kinds from their owners. A few sugar cubes or slices of apple will seal the affection between you two forever.
- Untack your horse, air the blanket to allow the horse’s sweat to dry, and clean the slobbery bit before storing in the tack room.
- Do not allow him to drink water or eat grain if he is lathered and puffing. (Founder!)
- Walk your horse for at least 15 minutes to cool him down. Even in cold weather, the horse will work up a sweat. In fact, cold weather is as dangerous as hot weather. If horsie gets a chill, he could develop pneumonia. After a hard ride, he should be walked, groomed, and then blanketed for several hours. He can have water and grain after he has cooled down.
- Clean his hooves.
- Kiss him again and either release him into the pasture or lock him in his stall for a nice well-deserved nap.
Now, there you have the basics about caring for your horse as you ride him. Horses are powerful animals, but they respond to love, affection, and training with the proper attitude and equipment. If you want a happy horse, treat him with the respect he deserves.
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