By Lizzie Hopkinson
Confidence on the ground is one of the fundamentally most important areas that you can address in relation to working with your horse. Horses are unarguably potentially dangerous. “Some seemingly straightforward activities such as leading a horse out to its paddock can result in fatal kicks.” Medical Equestrian Association. While we cannot remove all risk associated with horses, we can, by educating ourselves, decrease the risk potential. Turning three horses out at once on a windy night without a hat, is inherently more risky than turning one horse out at a time whilst wearing a hat. Part of education is learning where the risk lies. If you have spent time working with your horse on the ground and your horse is responsive to your commands, you are optimising your chances of success.
According to the current statistics into horse related injuries, 80% occur while mounted, and 20% of injuries occur while the horse is being handled. Interestingly dismounted injures require hospitalization in 42% of the cases, while only 30% of mounted injuries require hospitalization. However, if we can improve our relationship with our horses on the ground, we can not only reduce the likelihood of an unmounted injury, but also reduce the likelihood of a ridden injury. By educating ourselves, we can help to protect ourselves during the time that we spend with our horses.
When handling horses make sure that you are wearing a suitable hat, gloves and good boots. You could consider wearing a body protector if this would increase your confidence. Horses are unpredictable and by learning more about them and increasing our understanding of them we can improve our chances of knowing how they are going to behave. If you feel protected then you will feel more confident and this will help you to handle your horse more effectively. “The most frequent cause of death and serious injury for mounted and dismounted horse activities is head injury.” www.brainline.org
According to research in the British Medical Journal during research into the hazards of horse-riding; “It was found that 70% of the 20 accidents could be thought attributable to the behaviour of the horse at the time, and seven of these were in the spinal injuries group. Rider error was a significant contribution in seven cases, and in two instances the rider was under instruction at the time. There was also inadequate experience of the rider in seven cases, of which five were thought to show inadequate supervision.” This research seems to conclude that either the rider did not know enough, or the horse misbehaved. If we remove the premise that the horse misbehaved and instead view it as the horse was not sufficiently trained, then the vast proportion of the accidents could have been prevented by training both the horse and the rider.
By improving your confidence on the ground, you will improve your skill. As your skill improves so will your relationship with your horse. We cannot prevent all accidents, but we can prevent the preventable ones. By learning to handle our horses with clarity on the ground we will become more confident. We will learn to “read” their behaviour as we become more in-tune to their reactions.
- Medical Equestrian Association
- Silver, J. and Parry, J. (1991). Hazards of horse-riding as a popular sport. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 25(2), pp.105-110.
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