SELECTED ARTICLE
Author
Alex Gwen Thomson 
Article Title
Keeping Your Kids Safe around Horses 
Posted Date
12/9/2009 

Almost 65 percent of animal-related injuries are a direct result of carelessness. Inexperienced handlers and owners leave children either unattended with the animal or in ignorance of any horse-related safety knowledge. Learning a few basic safety guidelines can give you a leg-up on horses and help to prevent unnecessary injuries.

Blind Spots
All horses have two blind spots: under their chin (neck) and right behind their tail. They also have poor depth perception which can cause fear when navigating shallow water, a ditch, or a ramp. To safely approach a horse, walk slowly toward it from its side. Give it time to focus on you. Speak softly to help him locate you. If you are moving around a horse, lay your hand on its side, shoulder or hip to let him know what direction you are taking. Do not try to coax it into a trailer unless you have plenty of help and experience.

Sensitivity
Horses are sensitive to loud noises (yelling), strange odors (smoke), sudden movements and rough handling. Horses have survived for eons due to their honed flight or fight instincts. If they sense danger, their first impulse is to run. If they feel trapped, they may kick, rear or bite. Use a well-modulated voice when speaking to a horse and instruct children how to do this. Never leave a child alone with a horse and instruct people not to smoke around them. Always ask its handler for permission before you do anything to their horse.

Saddle Safety
Saddles are not a play area. There is a safe way to mount a horse and no other. Never step into the stirrup with one foot and swing the other over the saddle the way cowboys do in the movies. If something startles the horse while you have one foot in the stirrup, your next move is the emergency room. The safe way of mounting is to pull yourself up onto your stomach using the saddle horn and then swing one leg over the saddle. Put your feet in the stirrups after you are properly seated. To dismount, remove both feet from the stirrups, lean forward onto your stomach, swing your right leg over to the left side of the horse and then (hanging onto the saddle horn) drop slowly down onto both feet.

Ropes, Leads and Reins
Never loop a lead or rein around your wrist, hand, or any other body part. If you fall, you will be caught by your own rope and dragged by the running horse. Never walk under or step over the rope of a tied horse. Horses should not be tied to a long rope and left to graze. To safely lead a horse, stand on its left side with your right hand on the lead rope under the horse's chin. Excess rope can be folded and held in your left hand. To tie a horse, make sure about two feet of rope, between the knot and the halter, is secured high enough that the horse cannot get his legs tangled in it.

Mutual Respect
A horse is a big, powerful animal. Its sheer size should command some basic rules of respect. Stand where it can see you, walk beside it not behind or ahead of it, and wait until it has accepted you before you mount it. If a horse is panicked, wait until he calms down before you try to help him. Be aware of its hooves at all times. Look at his body language; if his ears are rotated back and flattened, it is warning sign; the horse is irritated and may be getting ready to bite or kick.

Dress for Success
Avoid any loose jewelry and dangly clothing. Cover your legs. If you wear shorts, you will have scratches from branches, and saddle rash. Sensible, heeled boots will keep your feet from slipping out of the stirrups. Remember, horses can be startled, so wearing a helmet will protect your only head from permanent damage. Trust between a horse and a human is vital to the human's safety. If you are nervous, the horse may interpret this as a threat. Waiting until you are both comfortable will ensure your safety and build the horse's trust.

References
Kerrie Tischer is the owner of Livery Stable. If you're in the market to sell or buy a horse, this is the place to start. They offer horse classifieds as well as detailed information on riding, selecting a good horse and much more. Visit online for more information. 
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