Thursday, May 7, 2020

What Keeps You Safe Around Horses

What Keeps You Safe Around Horses

safety around horses is a big topic for any writer whether you've been riding for years or you just got started or whether you're on the ground with a horse or you're in the saddle horses are big animals and they can hurt us even accidentally so I'm Callie this is crk trainings weekly video show and for this week's video I wanted to focus on the idea that awareness keeps us safe more than a specific set of rules so if you've worked with different instructors or if you've been to different barns you may have noticed that there's some very general safety rules for being around horses and there's sometimes also ones that are specific to a person or to a barn so general general rules are we don't sit on the ground next to a horse we don't crawl under their belly we don't want duck under their head as they're in the cross ties and we don't walk behind them without pay attention there's some specific rules some barns want you to always lead a horse a certain way or they have certain ways or certain places that you know you tie a horse to groom or to tack a lot but there's there's something else that is going to keep us safe more than just following rules and I notice from my own personal experience and also from watching others that have some kind of an accident with horses or that you know act that get hurt it's usually a lack of awareness it's a lack of paying attention it's often not by you know just missing a rule but instead it's just not being aware of of where the horse is in their kind of emotional state so for people that have been around horses a long time we can often feel like we get kind of a gut instinct for how a horse is feeling we might you know see a horse and immediately be able to say you know he doesn't look quite right he looks like he's about to spook at something or that rider needs to be careful because that horse is really not liking the one next to him but for those of you that may be more new to horses it's harder to pick up on this and if understandable because a lot of what develops our gut instinct is experienced in a number of different situations so when we feel kind of a gut feeling part of that is our brain kind of going back into its its database of experience and being able to pick up on things at a subconscious level and extremely quickly and then giving us a feeling as to what that meaning is but even as a new rider or a new horse person you can start to develop this for yourself and if you're someone that's experienced and that kind of has this this database of different experiences you can also develop more awareness so that you're going to be safer again whether you're on the ground or you're in the saddle so there's one thing with horses that I find is the most important to pay attention to there's lots of little signs that are often taught that you know give us some indicator of what the horse might be feeling for example the ears I'm often teaching a lesson and the horses ears go back and the rider asked what does that mean I've heard that

when the horse turns his ears back it means that he's angry or he's upset about something but just the ears moving back don't necessarily have that meaning it's usually these different movements these different tells or body language of the horse that we're taught combined with the idea of the overall tension of the horse so let me explain this a little bit more the horse is emotion or kind of the horse's general tension in his body is controlled on a simple level by the automatic nervous system or the autonomic nervous system and there's two main kind of branches to this there's the parasympathetic and then over here there's the sympathetic and we can think of this as kind of a spectrum so the more that a horse goes towards the parasympathetic state the more they're in a mode of resting and of calm this is where the horse is if he's just out in the field moseying along grazing and digesting his food the sympathetic state is at at its max it's fight or flight so it's where adrenaline kicks in it's where the whole system starts to speed up and again this this is a continuum and the the nervous system is always kind of toggling back and forth but the more that a horse goes into sympathetic state the more we're going to have likelihood to have a spook to have a horse that maybe does some kind of a disruptive behavior like he jumps around playing or he does an exuberant buck or a rear and the most important thing to kind of recognize as this as the horse changes along the spectrum is the amount of tension in the body so as they go towards sympathetic the system is speeding up heart rate increases breathing increases and muscle tension is also going to start to increase as they go into this the parasympathetic those things slow down so if we go back to that early example of the horse that has an ear back if the ear is just swiveling back without any tension then the horse is probably just paying attention to his surroundings and it means nothing more than giving us a little indicator of where the horse is most interested in taking in sound or where his attention is but if the ear goes back with a lot of tension if the ear is being pulled back flat against the horse's head then we have a horse that we know is very upset about something maybe he's just angry at the neighboring horse that walked a little bit too close or maybe he's really uncomfortable from the at all and we need to fix something before we have an escalated behavior so the most important thing I find to pay attention to is this idea of tension the more that a horse's tension in their body is increasing the more that they're starting to go into the sympathetic state and the more that we need to respond by one making sure that we're aware of it so that we're careful when a horse is in this state it's not a good time to be just walking behind them not paying attention or to be sitting on their back and talking to a friend with a loopy rein the more the horse goes into this state then that we can be closer to the horse we can maybe walk behind them with the hands safely on their rump because they're calm and they're attentive so understanding this idea of tension and starting to recognize this is going to keep you safe more than anything else it's going to build this awareness of what's going on with the horse so that you can respond appropriately so that you can repair so that you can prepare yourself so that maybe if you're a new rider it even means that sometimes you have to you have to remove yourself from the situation and you have to give the horse to someone that is more experienced for a moment so that you can watch what's happening but places on the horse that you can look for these signs of tension would be one around the face so if the horse has a soft relaxed eye and there's not a lot of tension around the face that's a good read that he's probably in a more calm state if his nostrils are are calm and he's just breathing slowly and deeply but if the horses eye is pulled wide open from the muscles around that area or if his nostrils are flaring if his ears are tight and alert either facing forward or being pulled back and then also the amount of tension in the body so is he standing very erect with all four legs tight and he looks like he's ready to just move off at a moment's notice or is he standing calmly with a hind leg cocked just looking relaxed relaxed and looking like he's enjoying himself so when you can start to these subtle signs of the horses tension then you'll have a much better feeling of what's going on with that horse emotionally if you calm or is he more uptight is he getting fearful is he getting upset about something and you can respond to it appropriately so I would love to hear your comments if you have any questions about this or if you would like to share your own experiences and times that you noticed what was going on with a particular horse and then how do you respond so go ahead and scroll down leave a comment 

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