Safety, and Caring for your Horse

by Hidden Trails 04/08/2010

Many (most?) of Hidden Trails’ tours ask that you help care for the horse you are partnering with for the duration of your trip.  The purpose of this is not to make you work while your guide sits down with a cold one, but instead it is an opportunity to create a special bond with your horse.  While you won’t find yourself picking stalls or scrubbing water buckets, you will likely be asked to groom, tack, tie, and maybe feed your equine sidekick.  Be assured, there will always be a staff member around to help and teach you, but the following information can be used to refresh your memory on a few key horse-care points.   


No matter how gentle your horse, there is always the chance for injury when you are around it. A horseman keeps in mind that, in the wild, a horse is a “flight animal.” His defense from danger is to run away. If you are in the way, you could easily be hurt.  Here are a few tips to keep you out of harms way.   

1)      Plan ahead.  Make sure you know what you are going to do with your horse, and that there is adequate space and equipment to take those actions. 

2)      Do your best to not surprise your horse.  Speak to him when you approach so he knows you are there.  Don’t make any sudden loud noises that could spook him.  Be aware of activity and commotion in the surrounding area that could potentially surprise your horse.  While you may not be able to prevent a spook, it is important to be aware of what may startle him so that you are prepared to get out of the way.

3)      Don’t put yourself in a position where you can’t get out of the way when grooming, saddling or unsaddling your horse. For example, DO NOT push your way between the horse and the fence, barn or trailer to which he is tied. He might suddenly jump, step on you, or crowd you into a solid wall.

4)      When you walk around your horse’s hindquarters, either:

a)   stay in close and place your hand on his hindquarters so he knows where you are. By staying close, if he does kick, you will not receive the full impact; or

b)   Keep a wide birth, staying well out of kicking range. 

5)      Be aware of signs your horse is giving you.  For example, if he is pinning his ears, be very careful around his face and feet, as he may be preparing to kick and/or bite. If your horse is tense and focusing on something in the distance, he may be about to spook.  You may want to untie him if you are afraid he may pull back.  In any case, be sure you have enough space so you will not be stepped on if your horse does jump. 

6)      Tie your horse to a sturdy object and at wither height to prevent him from getting loose or stepping over his rope.  Use a quick-release knot so you can quickly free your horse if he sets back.  If you are unsure at all, ask your guide for assistance. 

7)      Always wear boots or leather shoes to protect your feet when you are working around your horse.  Nothing ends a trip’s fun like a broken toe!

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