Unusual Behavior Safety Tips
- Being in tune with your horse
Always pay attention to how relaxed or tense a horse feels, especially when riding at sundown, at night, or in cold weather. Don’t ride your horse if he seems to be acting different from usual.
Note: If you are in tune to your horse and surroundings many times you can prevent an incident.
- Horse's signals
I was riding my trusty horse along the trail when he kept alerting to something deeper in the woods. I ignored my instincts and stayed on his back. He suddenly spooked and I landed on the ground. I had a helmet on, but still had headaches for a month. Pay attention to your horse's signals if he is alerting you to something in the woods. He is telling you something.
Note: Although its good to be aware when your horse is alerting to some type of danger when out trail riding, dismounting and leading your horse is not always the best option. A spooked horse can easily trample a handler on the ground.
- Listening to your horse
One of my horses was acting strangely. It was April and she hadn't been out much that winter. She was stressed and eventually threw me to the ground, where I broke my clavicle, collar bone and several ribs. While my bones have healed, my self confidence has not. I found out later that the young girl who was exercising the horse the day before had put draw reigns on her and cranked her chin to her chest. My horse was totally unnerved. My advice is: listen to your horse if she is acting strangely - she's trying to tell you something.
Note: Always make sure you know who is riding your horses, and instruct them carefully on how you want it done. Poor training and bad experiences could cause strange behavior.
- Fearing your horse
Always fear your horse when you first get on. If the horse feels tight, get off and work it in a round pen, either free or on lounge line, changing directions and stopping at times. This should get friskiness out.
Note: You should never fear your horse. If you do, its not a good combination. Lunging will help to relieve some energy, but ultimately it is not the solution to a bad horse/rider combination.
- Gut feelings
Don’t ride a horse you don’t feel good about. It’s ok to decide you have the wrong horse, get it another home and find the right horse for you. Riding is supposed to be fun and it’s not fun if you are nervous about your horse.
Note: This is very good advice. If you feel over mounted, choose a different horse. It's not fair to you or the horse to be in a bad partnership.
- Infrequently ridden horse
If it has been a while since the horse has been ridden, allow the horse time to adjust before getting on. Let him play if he has not been out in a while. Ride your horse frequently so the horse is used to being ridden.
Note: Teaching your horse to lunge and working him on the lunge with tack prior to mounting is a safe habit to use with horses that do not get ridden daily.
- Early warning signs
Always be aware of your horse. You can almost always feel your horse tense up before it gets upset.
Note: Use your common sense and knowledge of horses' body language to understand a situation and be proactive.
- Nervous horse
Don’t push a nervous horse out of his comfort zone too much or you will get hurt.
Note: Always listen to your horse and know what his body language means. If he’s not ready to move on in his training then don’t push it.
- Pinned ears
As I put the pad on my horse, she turned to look at me with her ears pinned back. When I put the saddle on her, she did the same thing. As I started to pull the cinch she turned quickly and bit me on the thigh. Know your horse and pay attention to what it is saying.
Note: This horse was obviously upset or in pain over something. Know when they are just being bratty and when they have a problem. Once discovered, act accordingly to the situation.
- Changes in behavior
I was riding in a field and the horse wanted to run. I made him stop so he bucked me off. Turns out horse was reacting to a large rattlesnake. Understand what your horse is telling you and be careful while riding in grass.
Note: Horses' senses are much more heightened than our own so pay attention to them when their behavior changes. It could be naughtiness, but it could also be a warning for something outside either of your control.
- Three strikes
My horse let me know twice she didn’t like my treating her wound on her with an aerosol medication. She didn’t like the sound. The third time she struck at it with her hoof, hitting me near my eye. Listen to your horse and don’t ignore their warnings.
Note: It's very important to be able to read your horse's body language. Have a professional help you teach your horse to deal with things like doctoring wounds.
- Horse not ready
The horse was throwing his head and spinning in circles. I should have just gotten off and put her back in the stable.
Note: Depending on the situation just giving up is not always the answer. The horse may have taken your getting off and getting put back up as winning the battle, which they will continue to wage the next time you try and ride. Enlist help from a professional to work through this problem.
- Being heavy handed
Don’t be too heavy handed on your horse’s mouth. My horse reared and I went over backwards.
Note: Rearing, although possibly heightened by a heavy hand, is a much more serious matter than that. You need to enlist the help of a professional to work through the problem.
- Doing health checks
Be aware of your horse's mood. Do a health check if there seems to be something off. If the bit seems to be the problem, check the teeth.
Note: Good advice. It is always very important to know your horse's normal attitude and health. That way, if something is off you can notice it right away.
- Off days
I could tell my horse was off but I chose to ride anyway. I got thrown off when she spooked on a new trail. Sometimes horses try to tell us something and we don't listen. Try to find out what is bothering the horse.
Note: Always know your horse and their moods.
- Understand horse behavior
I got a skull fracture from getting bucked off a horse. It kept bucking and caught me under the helmet with a hind toe. Learn about the nature of horses, their range of their vision, and signs they may give indicating tension, fear, or relaxation.
Notes: When learning about horses, make sure you work with a respected professional - not just for riding lessons, but for overall horse knowledge.
- Horse position
I was riding single file in a rural area without many trails and far from a road. My horse was last and it kept trying to follow too closely to the horse in front of it. I tried to hold it back because a novice rider (my newlywed husband) was in front of me and I did not want his horse to kick and pitch him off. Without any warning my horse rebelled at being reined back and bucked me off. Luckily I had a helmet on, which saved my life.
Note: Always be weary of what your horse is telling you. It may have been a good idea to move this horse up the line to make it more comfortable and to have a more enjoyable ride.