May I speak frankly? May I say something that perhaps shouldn’t be said in front of the husband, or parents? May I be completely honest? Ok, here goes. There are safer things you can do with your time then riding and being around horses. There. I’ve said it. And I believe I speak from experience. I knit, and I have started young horses, and I know which one I needed insurance for. Apart from, possibly, the risk of overuse injures, knitting is pretty safe. It can be challenging, infuriating, difficult, and frustrating, but generally it is calming, fulfilling and satisfying. It can lower your blood pressure, engage both sides of your brain, improve your maths, and it certainly makes me a nicer person to be around, less inclined to murderous thoughts. Riding and being around horses can be all these things and more, but when you add into the equation half a ton of fast-moving animal with a strong self-preservation instinct based largely on the strategy of “if in doubt, run away”, there is no denying the fact that you also add in some danger. You can pretend it to be otherwise, but when that half ton of horse is heading straight at you and you are in the flight path of its run away strategy, the dangers are hard to ignore.
Knitting: Quite Safe, even on potentially slippery rocks near the sea.
Starting Youngster: Potentially More Dangerous.
If you are nervous around horses, you might at this point want me to shut up. You may feel that talking about how dangerous horses can be makes the danger into more of a reality. Perhaps you feel you can’t afford the luxury of negative thought and that talking about it invokes the wrath of something or other whose wrath it would be best not to invoke. I have some sympathy with this view, and I certainly feel that horror stories are best avoided. If you have a vivid imagination or do a good line in negative fantasy, perhaps don’t watch “Thrills and Spills” compilations just before you get on your energetic horse, and be careful what you click on on Facebook. However, as every ‘Elf and Safety Inspector knows, identifying and assessing the risks is the first step towards protecting yourself, and we would otherwise all be carrying our water buckets lopsided and picking things up without bending our knees. Whatever you do in life, there are risks involved, even if you try and avoid danger by wrapping yourself in cotton wool and staying in bed all day.
Helping people be safer around horses is something we’ve done for as long as we’ve been involved with horses. Even in the years when all our knowledge came from the BHS (an organisation I don’t particularly associate, historically, with a horse-psychology-centred approach), the emphasis has been about taking care and being safe. But the angle is different. Whereas the BHS was all about trying to micromanage and control the fine details (never let the horse loose for a moment, never walk behind the horse, always mount from the nearside in case you spook the horse, keep your hands on the reins and your foot in the stirrups when you adjust the stirrup length, put the headcollar around the neck when you put on the bridle….), now we consider safety to come more from preparing the horse for all the eventualities he might meet, and enforcing some clear boundaries around personal space and “manners”. I have been on the backs of horses where sneezing would be a terribly bad idea, and where twitching a toe to get it into the stirrup might provoke a bucking fit. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, and Sitting Very Still is something you need to do. But it’s always been a top priority for us to get the horse to the stage where they can cope with just about anything you might normally want to do up there, and a few more things besides just for good measure.
Horses can look lovely from a distance.
If at this point you decide horses look better from a distance and you’d like to take up a safer pastime, like sky diving, motorcycling, or knitting, I wouldn’t judge you. I can point you in the direction of some excellent knitting resources and would love to sell you some high-welfare, hand-dyed, locally produced stunningly beautiful yarn. I could sell you some lovely yarn even if you would like to continue on in horsemanship, but we can also assist you in acquiring some very powerful tools to help you stay as safe as possible.
Long-lining, spook-busting, work-in-hand, seat training, leading, boundaries, body language, horse psychology, confidence, environment and diet, brakes and steering….. The list isn’t endless but it’s a long one. If there are some gaps in your skill set, perhaps that might be why being around horses makes you just that little bit nervous, or why it suddenly becomes ultra important to comb every inch of your horse’s tail, which, oh dear, won’t leave quite enough time for working your horse…. We can help, and in whichever ways suit you and your circumstances best: individual, on-going lessons, workshops, callouts, residential stays…. Next long-lining workshop on the 25th April 2015.