To work safely with your horse, you should have a basic understanding of horse behavior.
A horse’s behavior is determined by many factors including breeding, upbringing, feeding, health care, training, and gender. Always treat your horse with respect, patience, and understanding. A horse learns by repetition so it is important to be consistent with commands and to immediately reward your horse when it responds correctly or to immediately correct it when it responds incorrectly to a command. Discipline the horse firmly, but without anger. Watch your horse’s ear radar. Its ears will point in the direction its attention is focused. Ears that are flattened back warn you the horse is getting ready to kick or bite. Horses detect danger through their senses – vision, smell, and hearing. Horses have wide angle vision with blind spots directly in front of and below their nose, and behind their tail. A horse will lift its head and prick its ears when focusing on something far away. It will lower its head when focusing on close objects. Horses respond to calm deliberate movements with calm behavior. Nervous handlers can make horses nervous, creating unsafe situations. Approach your horse carefully, speaking to it to get its attention and waiting until it turns and faces you before entering an enclosed space, like a stall. Quick movements startle a horse, so speak and keep your hands on it when moving around the horse. Horses have a well-developed sense of touch. Its eyes, ears, and nose are the most sensitive, followed by withers, flanks, ribs, and legs. When approaching a horse from behind, come in at an angle speaking to it. Gently touch the hindquarters as you pass. Do not tease, mistreat, or encourage bad behavior. It may become a lifelong habit for the horse. When you understand how your horse might act in different situations, you can use that understanding to help make horse shows safer for everyone – exhibitors as well as people who are watching the show.
Keeping your horse calm is a good start. Other strategies to keep in mind at the show include:
With your project group members, discuss how you stay safe when working with your horse.
What behavior characteristics did you look for when you bought or selected your 4-H horse? How did your horse act the day you bought it or handled it for the first time? How did it act the first time you led it on halter; the first time you rode it? How did you feel the first time you led it; the first time you rode it?
How does your behavior affect the way your horse behaves? How does its environment affect the way your horse behaves?
Why is it important to practice showing your horse? What can you do to make sure your horse is ready for a show?
List some ways you can you show others what you’ve learned about animal behavior?
GO ON TO HORSE SAFETY LESSON 3: Facilities and Equipment