Recently we learned a Newby horse rider was kicked and had a good bruise as the result. It wasn’t one of our horses and not at the ranch here. However, the rider had been here, ridden some of our horses, and decided to ride with some others he didn’t know as well. Although he had been taught to walk immediately behind the horse with his hand on the rump, he forgot. Instead, he walked several feet behind the feet of a horse he didn’t know and failed to give the horse warning. He was in the strike zone and learned the hard way.
It doesn’t hurt to remind new riders several times about safety and the proper way to do simple things. Just like walking behind a horse, staying close to the horse may not guarantee you won’t get kicked, but it will make it hurt a lot less. A horse’s rear feet when fully extended can reach 6 -12 feet depending on the size, slope to the ground, and how much the horse thrusts back with his front shoulders while in motion. The safest zone is obviously well out-of-the-way. Most of us don’t want to go that far and walk right behind the horse. Before we go around, we say whoa or call the horse by name. We usually will brush a hand across his butt before we start behind him.
It is really easy to forget those with less experience may not understand the safe way to work around horses and need some verbal reminders to keep them from learning the hard way. If you have new riders out, make a point to warn them several times as well as demonstrate how to perform simple activities.
Another point we usually try to emphasis is that our horses have good manners and understand how to act. The inexperienced rider on a well-broke trail horse may come out to the ranch, ride three or four times successfully and have a great time. It is so easy and simple that he starts to assume he knows how to ride. Not realizing it’s not his riding ability that allowed the pleasant experience, he accepts an invitation to ride horses that aren’t broke or don’t have suitable manners. He winds up hurt. We try to make new riders understand that just because you ride one of our horses doesn’t make them ready to climb aboard whatever they find saddled and waiting some place else.
Some listen and heed the warning, others allow their pride and ego to get in the way. Knowing your limitations is important for all of us, and more important for people new to horseback riding. Fortunately, the event here wasn’t a serious injury. Bruises, even big, dark ones heal pretty fast. We like to see new riders learn from coaching rather than the hard way.