leaflet provides information that will help children and adults
enjoy many exciting experiences with horses by routinely practicing
safe horse handling.
understanding of the horse's natural behavior patterns and learning
process is an essential key to safe and effective management
of horses. The horse is a strong and powerful animal that is
capable of great speed and quick reactions. The instinctive
ability to flee from danger is a primary reason why horses have
survived in the wild. This behavior is called the 'flight instinct'
and may cause horses to run or spook from unfamiliar objects
horse is also a sensitive creature that has a tremendous ability
to adapt to unfamiliar situations. Many things we ask of horses
are strange to their nature. Therefore, in order to coexist
with man, the horse must learn to accept many circumstances
and surroundings from which he would naturally flee if living
in the wild.
monitor their surroundings and detect danger through their
sense of vision, smell, hearing, and touch.
see much differently than humans and are generally considered
to have poor vision. In the wild, horses are animals of prey.
Their eyes are set far apart on the sides of their head where
they can monitor their surroundings for signs of danger. This
gives the horse monocular vision or the ability to see separate
objects with each eye at the same time. This arrangement also
gives the horse a 340-degree field of vision. Horses cannot
see directly in front of them or objects behind them that are
more narrow than their body.
to the shape of their retina, horses must position their head
to focus their vision. For example, when they lift their heads,
they are focusing on something far away. Whereas, a horse
lowers his head when focusing on low, close objects.
visual arrangement is most suitable for grazing and watching
for danger at the same time. However, this causes horses to
have trouble with depth perception. This is partly why horses
may be frightened when crossing shallow water and ditches.
Also, horses, like humans, may suffer from faulty vision and
may be more prone to shy at unfamiliar objects.
sense of smell is highly developed in the horse and serves primarily
as a tool of recognition and to satisfy their curiosity.
horse has an acute sense of hearing. A horse's ears are good
indicators of their current behavior. Their ears can rotate
180 degrees and will generally point in the direction their
attention is focused. Ears that are "laid back," or flattened
backward, may be a warning that the horse is getting ready to
kick or bite. Knowing the difference between ears that are laid
back and ears that simply indicate a resting or listening horse
is a valuable recognition signal for safety.
horse's sense of touch is often used during gentling and training
procedures. Horse's are sensitive to pressure, pain, and temperature,
especially around the head, leg, and belly regions.
is essential when working with and around horses. Establish
a relaxed and confident relationship with the horse. A horse
should willingly accept a person's presence. It is important
to have confidence in the horse's manners and behavior. However,
never take an animal for granted and always be alert when working
with any horse.
are several considerations to keep in mind when catching a
loose horse. Be familiar with the horse's field of vision
and never approach from a horse's blind spot. Consider other
animals and their position and possible reactions in the pen.
Read the horse's attitude by watching his body language. Be
prepared to catch the horse before approaching him by unbuckling
the halter and placing the buckle and crown piece in the left
hand. Speak calmly and confidently. Approach the horse's shoulder to limit the horse's ability to move away. From this
position, the handler is able to step toward the head or tail
to prevent the horse's escape. This angle also helps a handler
avoid contact with both the front and hind feet.
contact is made, the horse can be safely haltered. First, reach
over the neck with the right hand. Hand the crown piece under
the neck and grasp it with the right hand. Hold the buckle in
the left hand and slip the noseband over the nose with both
hands. Be careful to keep hands away from the eyes and from
in front of the face. Once the noseband is in place, fasten
the buckle. A properly adjusted halter fits snug behind the
horse's jaw, while allowing for a small amount of release s
ace between the halter and the horse's throatlatch and jaw.
Enough space to allow a hand to slip under the halter and between
the horse's throatlatch and jaw should be adequate.
right hand should be carried 14 to 16 inches away from the horse's
head and approximately six to eight inches down from the snap
on the lead rope. Hold the end of the lead line in the left
hand near the waistline. Always allow for a "safety zone" when
using a lead rope. This prevents a hand from getting caught
in the halter or a foot from getting stepped on while leading.
The lead shank should be folded or coiled in large loops to
be sure the free hand does not become entangled if the horse
were to spook or try to jerk away.
should walk beside the horse so that he/she is even with the
horse's throatlatch. The horse should maintain this body position
while walking, trotting, backing, and changing directions.
Never allow the horse to walk too far in front or behind.
When changing direction more than 90 degrees, turn to the
right to lessen the chance of getting stepped on. Read Oklahoma
4-H members guide number 623, Showmanship at Halter, for more
information on safely leading a horse.
are several factors to consider when tying any age of horse.
Always tie in a safe area that is free of obstructions. Always
tie with a halter and lead rope--never use a bridle and reins.
Tie the horse at or above the level of his withers and to a
solid, secure object. Tie the horse close to the object, approximately
18 to 24 inches, so that the horse cannot lower his head and
get a foot over the lead. Always tie a quick-release knot in
case of an accident.
tie a foal before it has learned to respond and give to halter
pressure. Once a young horse is responding well to halter
pressure, he can be tied to something that will give but not
break, such as a strong inner tube attached to a post.
are two safe ways to move from one side of a tied horse to
the other. Either move up close to the horse's hindquarters
with one hand on him at all times or walk 15 to 20 feet around
out of kicking range. Never cross under the neck of a tied
untie the horse before removing the halter. When turning a
horse loose, lead him through the gate and turn to face the
direction from which you entered. It is safest to remove the
halter, but if a halter must be left on, always use a leather
halter because it will break more easily than nylon if the
horse becomes entangled.
grooming is important to the horse's health and training. Grooming
can serve as an excellent means of gentling young horses. The
daily attention and hands-on care helps develop a trusting and
confident relationship between a horse and handler. Also, daily
grooming provides the opportunity to observe the entire horse
for injuries or health related problems that can easily be overlooked.
to grooming, it is a good idea to tie the horse. Always keep
the inside hand on the horse at all times and never cross
under the horse's neck.
basic grooming tool has a specific purpose and correct usage
is essential for effectiveness and comfort. A rubber curry comb
is used first to remove dirt and debris from the horse's coat
on the fleshy areas of the body. A circular motion works best
to bring the dirt to the surface. A stiff brush is then used
to flick off mud and heavy dirt. (The stiff brush should not
be used around the face.) This is followed by a soft brush that
serves to remove light dirt and dust. Brushes should be powered
by the wrist. Flicking the dust away works much better than
long sweeping strokes.
Mane and Tail
fingers to pick or comb through the mane and tail helps to remove
tangles and debris. Be careful not to pull the hair out with
excessive force unless shortening a mane. Remember, the mane
and tail are part of the horse's natural defense against flies
and biting insects, so shortening them may be undesirable when
order to safely handle a horse's feet, make it a habit to follow
a set procedure--even when handling a mature horse that is well
broke. To pick up a front foot, stand facing the rear. Keep
the hand closest to the horse on his shoulder. This helps to
shift the horse's weight to the opposite leg and serves to push
the handler out of the way if the horse moves or jumps. Run
the other hand down the front of the horse's leg and lift when
the horse gives to pressure. To free both hands, the handler
should place the horse's pastern between his/her knees while
pointing toes inward for support.
up a hind leg, stand facing the rear with the inside hand
on the horse's hip. Run a hand down the back of the hip and
hock and down to the fetlock. Pull the leg forward under the
horse's belly. Step under the hind leg, laying it across your
thighs so that the cannon remains perpendicular to the ground.
the leg is lifted into position and the horse is comfortable,
remove all dirt and debris from the bottom of the hoof. The
hoof should be cleaned with a hoof pick before and after riding
to prevent bruises and thrush. Always remember to run the
pick from heel to toe. Never pull a leg out to the side and
don't keep a leg up for too long because the horse will become
uncomfortable and frustrated.
correct way to place a foot back down on the ground is simply
to reverse the procedure for lifting the foot. Never drop
the foot or allow the horse to snatch it away.
and handlers should have respect for one another while interacting
during catching, leading, and grooming.
understanding of the horse's natural patterns and learning
process is essential to safe and effective management of
for catching and leading require consistent, well thought-out
actions to ensure horse and handler safety.
grooming will gentle a horse while aiding to ensure a healthy
more information about agricultural safety and health, contact:
the Southwest Center for Agricultural Health, Injury Prevention & Education at (903) 877-5896, or The
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 4676
Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, Ohio 45226, 800-35-NIOSH (800-356-4674).
Equine Assistant, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service,
Division of Agricultural Science and Natural Resources, Oklahoma
State University; Extension Equine Specialist, Oklahoma Cooperative
Extension Service, Division of Agricultural Science and Natural
Resources, Oklahoma State University.
Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in
NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in
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