Ground Safety Tips
- Leading a horse
Always lead a horse by a lead rope attached to the halter or bridle, not the cheek strap.
Note: You should always lead your horse with a halter and lead rope attached to the ring under the chin. If you have been riding and need to lead your horse, remove the reins from his neck by bringing them back over his neck and head and lead with two hands as you would with a halter and rope.
- Lead rope
Always use a lead rope while walking a horse and keep it at a proper length. My horse had too much length and it kicked me.
Note: Make sure you know proper leading techniques and how to safely catch, lead, and turn out a horse into a pasture and or stall before ever attempting it alone.
- Turn horse toward you
I was turning out a horse into a pasture. Instead of turning the horse towards me, I unbuckled her halter and let her walk past me. Just as she was almost past me, she squealed and kicked up her heels. I put up my arm to protect my face and was kicked in the arm and knocked to the ground. Make sure you turn the horse completely towards you with the hind legs farthest away. Make sure you are in the gate opening or stall door before you unhook the lead or halter, then immediately back away and close gate or door.
Note: This is exactly right. You should always turn a horse back to a gate or door before turning them loose. This way they have to turn to move off and will give you a chance to get out of the way.
- Halter safety
I was turning a friend's horse out one evening. He bolted out of the gate before I got his halter completely off and I broke my wrist. Always close the gate behind you and turn the horse towards you, then unbuckle the halter.
Note: This is a very good practice. All horses should be turned back towards the gate, the gate latched and then the horse turned loose. This gives the handler time to step out of the way if the horse tries to run or kick. If multiple horses are being turned out at once, use the same practice but make sure horses are adequately spaced along the fence line and handlers let horses go at the same time.
- Use a Halter
I went into my horse’s pasture to catch him, forgetting a halter and helmet. Figuring that he would just head straight to the gate, I got him close to a fence and tried to hop on. I landed too far back…near his flank; he panicked, bucked and bolted. I fell off. So even if you have done it a million times and never had any of this happen – it only takes once.
Note: You should never ride without a helmet, and it’s not safe to ride without proper equipment (i.e. without at least some sort of bridle, etc.)
Learn to lunge properly. If you get too close to the horse you can be kicked.
Note: There are a lot of bad things that can come out of improper lunging, not just being kicked. Lunging is a very unique technique for both training and exercise of the horse, and isn’t actually as easy as it seems if its done properly. Just like with any skill pertaining to riding, seek professional instruction when learning to lunge (and the reasons behind it).
- Lunging a fresh horse
I fell off a fresh horse and hit my head on the ground. I got a concussion. Wear a helmet every time you ride and lunge a fresh horse to let out excess energy.
Note: If there is the possibility the horse may be fresher than you would like upon riding, lunge that horse to allow for a safe situation.
Always lunge first in a pen, no matter how safe your horse is believed to be.
Note: It's good to work an unknown horse in an enclosed area for the first time. This way if it gets away from you, it doesn’t have far to go.
- Stall work
To keep your horse from kicking you while working in the stall, take your horse out of the stall or tie it up using a cross tie.
Note: If you are not experienced cleaning a stall with the horse in it or if it is a horse that you are not familiar with, always remove the horse to another stall when cleaning. A horse that is stall tied or on cross ties can still kick.
- Protecting your back
When unloading heavy feedbags, mucking stalls, dumping manure, or placing hay in stalls, take breaks so you don’t strain your back muscles. Keep a cell phone and have someone close by.
Note: Always lift with your legs, not back. Ask for help when necessary.
- Using proper equipment
I fell off a bucket while using it as a stepstool. If you must stand on something make sure it is of stable design and sitting on a level surface.
Note: Its always worth buying the proper equipment for a specific task when it means the safety of you and your horse.
- Feeding routine
After being knocked out while feeding my three horses, I now make each horse go to their own stall of the walk-in barn and stand before they get fed.
Note: This is a great practice to have. Not only does this teach your horses manners and patience, it keeps everyone involved safe.
- Horse bite
I was saddling up my horse and ducked underneath his neck to go up the girth on the other side and he bit me on the shoulder. Always go around the horse, don't duck under.
Note: This is an excellent reason not to go under your horses' neck. Also, under the neck is a blind spot to your horse so you basically disappear. This could spook a horse if you suddenly reappear on the other side. Also, if the horse were to shoot forward you would be crushed between him and the wall or fence.
- Taking it to the tack shop
I removed my horse's winter blankets and stuffed them in the wall hay rack. As I was grooming him the blankets came loose and fell, making a sound. My horse kicked me in the leg. Stalls need to be safe for horses. Blankets and other equipment should be taken out of the stall and stored in the tack shop.
Note: It is always good to have a neat and tidy stall and barn area. Clutter left out is just asking for problems.
- Baby Powder
While grooming for friends at a show, I dusted baby powder on a horse’s white hind leg directly from the container, shaking it directly on the leg and without putting my hand on the front leg first. I was struck in the face as the horse kicked at his belly; the powder tickled the horse’s leg and he thought it was a fly.
Note: Always make sure your horse knows where you are and what you’re doing so he’s not surprised.
- Wearing boots
While mucking the stall my horse knocked down a broom, causing her to rear up and land on my foot. Never wear muck boots when handling a horse. Always wear boots.
Note: The bigger issue here is taking care to make the environment your horse is in safe. I would suggest taking a horse out of the stall while you muck, and if you must leave it in, only have the equipment that is in your hands in the stall with you. Leave the muck tub, brooms, rakes, etc. outside until you're ready for them.
- Yellow jackets
I was pulling down hay and disturbed a yellow jacket nest. Be aware of bees, wasps and yellow jackets in lofts and hay. Observe areas to see if you see flying insects going and coming from nests.
Note: It is always good to keep an eye on barns in terms of nests (insects and birds) as well as other safety hazards.
Watch your horse while trying to load them in the trailer; they can become scared at any time without warning.
Note: Only experienced horsemen and women should load horses. Small children should definitely not load horses into trailers.
- Unloading horses
Don’t unfasten the trailer tie on a horse until the butt bar is unfastened.
Note: This is so that if the horse feels the butt bar down and the door open behind them they will not pull back and struggle to back off the trailer. Enlist the help of a friend if possible so one person can work the rear of the trailer while the other holds the horses head.
- Escape door
While loading horses in a trailer, one spooked and flew backwards hitting the door just as I was latching it, hitting my face. Make sure the escape door is closed so it won't open in the wind.
Note: While trailering, it is always proper to put up a butt bar in the trailer. It is good to have a handler at the head of the horse as well if possible.
- Trailer training
The horse decided to back off the trailer and I held on to the lead rope, thinking I could stop her. She pulled through my hand and I broke three fingers and got a good rope burn. Make sure the horse has good trailer loading training and let go of the lead if the horse changes their mind, they are not likely to go far.
Note: Good advice. You can always catch a horse if need be. It's not worth risking a serious injury.
- Wasp nest
I was helping a friend load a trailer and she asked me to close the back door after loading horse. Mistake #1: I failed to ask if the horse was secure. The horse spooked and kicked the door into my face. I was knocked out and rushed to the ER, saved my eye, but I still have an indention in my head. Mistake #2: I didn't wear a helmet – always wear a helmet while loading and unloading horses. Mistake #3: It turned out there was a wasp nest right over where the horses head would have been. Check the trailer for wasp nests before you load.
Note: It's always a good practice to do a walk-through of your trailer, as well as around every time you load and unload. This will make you aware of any damage or things that need to be taken care of before you should load your horse again.
KICK PREVENTION TIPS
- Don’t smack
When shoeing a horse do not smack them with your hand. If you are close enough to reach them they can kick you.
Note: It is not a good idea to hit a horse unless done in the proper manner. Horses need discipline just like anything else but you need to be knowledgeable enough to do it correctly.
- Fly spray
I was taking protective bell boots off my horse after a trail ride to a horse show. I was working on her back right leg when she suddenly kicked at a fly on her stomach with her left hind hoof and got my nose. Lesson learned: put fly spray on before messing with hooves and watch where you put your head – it should have been higher and more to the side.
Note: Always be aware of the situation and stay a safe distance from hooves. If you have to work in close proximity to the legs/feet make sure you position your body in such a way that you can get out of the way quickly.
- Avoiding kicks
Most of my injuries have been kicks. Make sure whoever is holding the horse for you is competent and paying attention. Make sure if you go to the other side of the horse to work on it that the person holding the horse also switches over so they are on the same side of the horse as you.
Note: This is very good advice. This is so that if the horse were to become unruly and the handler instinctively pulls the horse's head towards them, they will be swinging the hindquarters away from the other person.
- Don’t Stand Behind a Horse
A horse in a trailer was kicking and having a fit. I was standing behind the trailer when the door which was latched with a typical bar latch swung open and hit me in the face. Cheek and eye became swollen.
Note: Although a random accident, it was a very dangerous one. Make sure you’re aware of your surroundings and prepare for the worst. Also, I would have the trailer looked at for soundness as this could have been a catastrophe if it had happened on the road.