Basic Horse Handling (Book Excerpt)
Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Understanding Basic Horse Care by Michael A. Ball, DVM.
Always think in terms of safety first when handling horses — safety for you, the horse, and anyone else in the general area. Like it or not, horses are fight or flight creatures and can be unpredictable when faced with new people or surroundings. With quick thinking and action, close attention to the horse’s language, and some common sense, you can handle most situations safely.
A close colleague once shared a saying to help me deal with university politics: if there is going to be a battle, make sure the time, place, and person are worth it. This applies well to horses, too. For example, I was at the ring with a show hunter and needed to switch bridles. The horse went bonkers whenever the leather straps got anywhere near the ears, even bolting and running away — definitely not the time or place! So, I took the bridle apart and reattached it to the leather already behind the ears. The moral here is that there are many ways to accomplish the same task and get it done somewhat correctly. My preference is to avoid a fight with a horse if possible — it keeps the whole process more fun.
The Bare Basics
One of my first rules when working on a horse is to have a well-fitting halter in place and a correctly placed lead shank attached. Being prepared for the unexpected — the engine backfiring on a passing motorcycle, for instance — can prevent an accident or even
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