So you got a horse for Christmas… now what? Part 3


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Horse with one ear pointed forward and one pointed backHopefully, after reading parts one and two of this series, you have your new Christmas present in a safe environment and are actively searching for the three people who’s help you absolutely must have.

I’d like to conclude this series by saying a quick word about staying safe around your new horse.*

You need to know how to spot aggression. In a perfect world, your gift horse will have been well chosen and won’t offer you any. Better safe than sorry, though. Yes?

Horses communicate by body language almost exclusively. While they do vocalize, it’s infrequent and more often directed at other horses than humans.

In the course of a single post, I can’t teach you to speak horse. I can however teach you a quick and easy way to spot aggression so that you can take evasive action to protect yourself.

Simply put, watch the ears.

Most of the time, a horse’s ears will swivel in the direction of whatever she is paying attention to at that moment. If they point forward, she’s focusing on something in front of her. If they swing backwards, something behind her has caught her attention.

Now, this is the part you need to know. If they lay flat against her neck, she is upset and may bite, kick, or use her front legs to strike out.

For this reason, when handling a horse, you shouldn’t stand directly in front of the horse, or directly behind. Leading is done from the left side, between the jaw and the shoulder. If you must cross behind your horse, stay a couple of feet further away than the length of the hind leg from the very top of the hip to the ground.

Horses startle easily, so it’s a good idea to talk to your horse while your working around her so she always knows where you are.

Remember, if you ever feel threatened, you’re better off to call upon your riding instructor for help than to risk injury.

If you approach horsemanship with patience and enthusiasm, and listen to your carefully chosen team of equine professionals, you’ll find yourself part of an amazing and rewarding hobby (or, for many of us, obsession). Be smart. Be safe. Have fun!

Oh, and happy New Year!


*This article is by no means exhaustive, I’m just trying to get you safely through the few days it might take you to find a qualified instructor.