Flight Instinct Safety Tips
Always evaluate a young, high-spirited horse as to whether they are ready to go to a show or event. The maturity of the horse is important especially when you are in a strange environment with new noises and people they are unfamiliar with.
- Paying attention
Always be aware of your surroundings and beware of possible “spookers.”
Note: Knowing your horse and your surroundings is a good way to avoid problems.
- Riding environment
Know your riding environment and assess hazards before moving in. I rode my horse into a friend's riding area when a loose pony appeared out of nowhere and spooked my horse.
Note: Make sure others are aware of that you are approaching so they can correctly advise you about a situation.
- Approaching the horse
Always let the horse know where you are. Approach in its line of vision; this is even more important if the horse doesn’t know you. Approach slowly; possibly with your hand out while speaking in a calming voice.
Note: Horses are flight animals, so sneaking up on them (whether on purpose or not) is never a good idea. Always let them know you’re there.
- Uncertain horse
If a horse looks very scared of its surrounding or is not acting normal, don’t get on or do a dismount quickly.
Note: If you feel you are in a dangerous situation then do something to change that. That may mean lunging a horse before mounting, or removing yourself from an area that is scary to your horse.
- Spooking situations
Think like a horse. Know what your horse spooks at and look for those situations ahead of time so that you don't end up on the ground.
Note: It is always good to be aware of your surroundings and the reaction your horses will likely have. But also know that horses can be unpredictable and will spook at unlikely things.
- New sounds
Expose your horse to unusual sounds and items above their head in a calm manner to sensitize them and they learn to relax in strange situations. Find out if there is mounted police in your area and if they offer a training session you can bring your horse.
Note: Spending time with your horse on the ground is an excellent way to set them up for success under saddle. Make sure there are no holes in your training in terms of your horse being nervous or uncomfortable about a certain situation or part of their training.
- Brushing their legs
Lead rope slipped and touched green horse on leg, causing panic attack. I now make sure my green horses are completely comfortable with things touching their legs before I get on them. It is part of their ground work.
Note: You should ALWAYS make sure your horses have a good basic foundation on the ground before ever starting them under saddle. This is how major accidents happen.
- Being aware of overhead spooks
On a horse's first few rides, make sure you do everything you can to ensure a quiet, smooth ride. Make sure there is nothing over the horse as they often spook.
Note: When starting a young horse, you should always enlist the help of a qualified instructor. You want to ensure a positive experience for both horse and rider.
- Riding side-by-side
I was trail riding with one of my friends and we were riding side-by-side too closely. Her horse spooked and knocked into my horse. My horse spooked at the contact and I came off. I hit my head first on the back of my horse's neck and then on the ground and was knocked out. Don't ride to close to other riders.
Note: You should always heed other people near you, whether you are riding side-by-side or one behind the other. You need to be aware that horses feel trapped in certain situations and if you don't give them an avenue to get away it makes the situation much more problematic.
- Unhappy Horse
It was my first time riding and evaluating a horse for training. After getting on and adjusting the stirrups we walked a few steps and she freaked out. Something was bothering her and she wanted me off. She reared, she bucked. My knee was slammed into a fence post. She then sat down with me on her and rolled on her side. She was determined to get rid of me.
Note: It’s always good to lunge and or roundpen an unknown horse before you get on it for the first time, especially if you don’t know its history. Their body language under tack is usually a good indication of what they will do with a rider aboard.
- New Horse
I was trying a horse I was interested in buying. The owner had me ride into a wooded area, out of sight. The horse wanted to go back to the barn and took off. I tried to pull back on the reigns but she was very strong. So I rolled off her. Hurt my neck and knee.
Note: Always have the person selling the horse ride first. This will show you not only what type of horse you are dealing with, but what the reaction of the horse is to whatever type of rider the owner is. If you don’t feel comfortable after the owner rides, walk away.