These basic horse-handling guidelines, designed to enhance safety bareback and in the saddle and at the arena and/or trails, are important for everyone but especially volunteers and children.
Horse Safety – Approaching
Always speak to your horse before approaching or touching him. Some horses are likely to jump and may kick when startled.
Always approach your horse from the front. If he’s turned away from you, call to him or entice him with a treat to get him to come to you. Never approach your horse directly from the rear. Even in a tie, it is possible to approach from an angle at the rear.
Pet a horse by first placing a hand on its shoulder or neck. The touch should be a rubbing action. Don’t “dab” at the end of a horse’s nose.
If he is tied, get him to look at you. Always notice a horse’s expression before advancing.
Horse Safety Manual – Handling
When working around your horse, wear boots or hard-toed shoes to protect your feet. Never wear tennis shoes, moccasins or go barefoot.
When working around your horse, tie him securely with a quick-release knot, or have someone hold him with a lead rope. Use cross-ties when possible, but be sure they have panic snaps or are secured with a breakable tie, such as baling twine.
Always work close to your horse. If you are near his shoulder, you won’t be struck with the full force of his feet. Nor will you receive the full force of a kick if you stay close to the body when you work about the haunches or pass behind your horse.
Know your horse and his temperament and reactions. Control your temper at all times, but be firm.
Always let a horse know what you intend to do. When picking up the feet, for example, do not grab the foot hurriedly. When lifting the foot, touch the shoulder or hindquarter, and then run your hand down the leg. When you get to the fetlock say “up,” and squeeze the joint. The horse should pick up his foot for you.
Work about a horse from a position as near the shoulder as possible.
Never stand directly behind a horse or directly in front of him. To work with its tail, stand off to the side, near the point of the buttock, facing to the rear. Grasp the tail and draw it around to you.
Be calm, confident, and collected around horses. A nervous handler can make a nervous horse.
Do not drop grooming tools under foot while grooming. Place them where you will not trip on them and the horse will not step on them.
Don’t tease your horse. Teasing may cause it to develop dangerous habits for the rest of its life. Avoid feeding the horse treats from your hand frequently.
Punish a horse only at the instant it disobeys. If you wait, even for a minute, it will not understand why it is being punished. Punish without anger, or your punishment may be too severe. Never strike a horse about its head.
Be sure your turnout area has been checked for old machinery; broken boards and nails; poisonous plants; and wild cherry, red maple, or black walnut trees. Fences should be checked frequently for loose nails, broken sections, and loose wire.
If it is necessary to leave a halter on a loose horse, the halter must be a breakaway type. You can make a breakaway halter by using a piece of baling twine or by replacing the crown piece with a section of an OLD, lightweight leather belt.
If the halter is too loose, the horse may catch a foot in it, especially if he is trying to scratch his head with a hind foot. A loose halter may catch on fence posts or other pasture objects. Some halter materials will shrink if they get wet, so be sure to check the fit.
Horse Safety – Leading
When leading your horse, walk beside him—not ahead or behind. A position even with the horse’s head or halfway between the horse’s head and its shoulder is considered safest.
Always turn the horse away from you and walk around it.
Use a long lead shank and both hands when leading. If the horse rears up, release the hand nearest to the halter so you can stay on the ground.
It is customary to lead from the left (near side), using the right hand to hold the lead, near the halter. The excess portion of the lead should be folded, figure-eight style. When leading, extend your right elbow slightly toward the horse. If the horse makes contact with you, its shoulder will hit your elbow first and move you away from it. Your elbow can also be used in the horse’s neck to keep the head and neck straight as well as to prevent the horse from crowding you. A horse should be workable from both sides, even for mounting and dismounting.
The horse is stronger than you, so don’t try to out-pull him. Never wrap the lead shank or reins around your hand, wrist, or body. A knot at the end of the lead shank aids in maintaining a secure grip when needed for control. Never drape a lead shank or reins across your shoulders or neck.
Don’t wear jewelry around horses. Rings can cut deeply into fingers, and bracelets can get caught in reins or lead lines. Dangling earrings are particularly dangerous.
Be extremely cautious when leading a horse through a narrow opening, such as a door. Be certain you have firm control and step through first. Step through quickly and get to one side to avoid being crowded.
At any time you are dismounted or leading the horse, be cautious of the stirrups of a Western saddle, which can catch on objects.
Use judgment when turning a horse loose. Lead completely through the gate or door, and turn the horse around facing the direction from which you just entered. Then release the lead shank or remove the halter or bridle. Avoid letting a horse bolt away from you when released. Good habits prevent accidents.
Avoid use of excessively long lead ropes so as to prevent you from becoming entangled. Watch the coils when using lariats or lunge lines.
Horse Safety Manual -Tying
Know and use the proper knots for tying a horse. Two basic knots every horseman should know are:
Quick release knot—should be used whenever you tie a horse with the halter rope. This knot allows you to release the horse quickly if the horse gets into trouble.
Bowline knot— should be used when tying a rope around the horse’s neck. The loop will not tighten up and the knot will not slip.
Tie your horse far enough away from strange horses so they cannot fight.
Tie a safe distance from tree limbs or brush to prevent the horse from becoming entangled.
Tie your horse with a rope long enough to allow comfortable movement but short enough to avoid becoming tangled or getting a foot over the rope.
Never tie your horse by the reins as he may pull back and break the reins or injure his mouth. Always use a halter.
Be sure to tie to an object that is strong and secure to avoid the danger of breaking or coming loose if the horse pulls back. Never tie below the level of the horse’s withers. Tie to a post set in the ground, not to a rail on a fence. If a horse has broken loose once, he is more likely to pull back again.
Horse Safety - Riding Bareback
Carefully give your horse a massage on its neck and down its spine. Mount on the horses left side by holding the lead rope in your left hand. When mounted up on the horse, be sure to find balance in your seat by lining up your shoulders, hips, and feet. Point or flex your toes and feel the weight in your feet. Remember to breathe and to roll your shoulders back and smile. Remember to relax your hips and stay balanced with the weight you feel in your feet. Ask the horse to walk by clenching your hips forward and when the horse begins to walk, relaxing your hips and allowing your hips to move with the horses front feet. Breathe and listen to the beat of the feet walking. To stop, relax your hips completely and move your hips back and say whoa. If the horse does not stop then pull its head to either side with the lead rope.
Carefully check horse and tack before saddling. Make sure all stitching is secure and the blanket is clean. Be sure the horse’s back and the girth area are clean.
Place the off-side cinches and the right stirrup over the seat. Stand with your feet well back in the clear, and reach forward when saddling.
Swing the Western saddle into position easily—not suddenly. If you drop the saddle down quickly or hard, it may scare the horse.
Go to the off side of the horse and gently let the stirrup and cinches down. Don’t let them hit the horse on the belly or the leg.
When using a Western double-rigged saddle, remember to fasten the front cinch first. Unfasten the rear cinch first when unsaddling. Pull the cinch up slowly when tightening. Don’t cinch too tightly at first. Tighten just before mounting. Then, walk and turn the horse before mounting.
Fasten accessory straps (tie-downs, breast collars, martingales, etc.) after the saddle is cinched. Unfasten them first when unsaddling.
The back cinch should not be so loose that your horse can get a hind leg caught between the cinch and its belly, or so tight that it irritates the horse.
Check the cinch three times:
Just before mounting.
After riding a short distance.
Horse Safety Manual – Bridling
Always untie your horse before removing the halter. Stand in close just behind and to one side (preferably on the left side) of the horse’s head. Handle the horse’s ears carefully.
Keep control of the horse when bridling by re-fastening the halter around the neck.
Be careful not to bang the horse’s teeth when bridling or unbridling. Ask your horse to open his mouth by putting one or two fingers in the corner of his mouth.
Be sure the bridle is properly adjusted to fit the horse before you ride:
Check the bit—there should be one or two wrinkles at the corners of the mouth.
The throatlatch should be adjusted so that you can insert three fingers between it and the horse’s jaw.
The cavesson (if used) should be relatively tight. You should be able to insert only one finger between the cavesson and the nose.
The curb chain (if used) should be flat and not twisted. You should be able to insert two fingers between the chain and the horse’s chin groove.
Never let your horse eat when wearing a bridle. He may step on the reins or get his feet tangled in them. Also hay or grass may get caught in the bit and injure his mouth.
All the photos on the website are from our programs from the last seven years