The initial approach to a horse can determine the level of your interaction with him. While it is true that some horses are very difficult to upset or frighten, others can react on the negative when approached wrongly. If a horse ever feels intimidated or frightened by you, he may bite, kick at or run away from you. You should understand that approaching a horse for the first time is not difficult if it is done the proper way.
It is worthy of mention that horses are very smart, hard-working animals that could be great companions. However, it’s also very easy to forget that they are very large, powerful animals that can prove to be dangerous if they’re startled or stirred up. By adhering to a few simple rules of horse safety, it’s relatively easy to show care, support and respect for your animal without too much effort. The following could prove to be very helpful tips to guide you on how to approach a horse for the first time.
How To Approach A horse
Here are a few things to know when you meet a horse for the first time:
1. Learn basic horse body language
It is very important to be able to spot the difference between a happy, welcoming horse and an anxious or frustrated one when you approach the animal. Watch out for the following signs:
Comfortable Signs (if you notice these, proceed)
- Having calm, gentle eyes that aren’t staring at you
- If the horse turns his head or front quarters toward you
- If he strokes his lips with his tongue
- When the horse’s ears are stimulated towards you.
- Having a tranquil, relaxed overall body position
Uncomfortable Signs (if you see these, step back and do not approach)
- When the horse moves or runs away from you as you move towards it
- Having, violent, wide eyes or eyes that are gazing persistently at you
- Pinning his ears (moving them back against his head)
- When the horse heads his teeth towards you or tries to nip at you
- Stirring up on his legs or kicking wildly
- Fillip his tail repeatedly in violent fashion, often with back legs trampling heavily.
2. Always Be Very Conscious Of Where The Horses Are At The Moment
All it requires is just a single moment for a horse to run up behind you and potentially prance up on you. Make sure you can see where the horses are all the time and be vigilant. Horses can get extremely shocked by almost any and everything. If a horse seems to be running towards you, in order to ensure that you don’t get crushed, lift your arms to appear seemingly larger and say in firm quiet, voice “whoa” or “get”. This will help with getting the horse to head towards another direction.
3. Create A Welcoming Rather Than Insisting Presence Before You Approach It
With horse behavior, there is a similitude of contraction and relaxation. Horses are herd animals, and will most likely not stand in an area waiting for you to approach them. Simple gestures, such as making stern eye contact, is actually mounting pressure on the animal, causing him to move away from you.
4. Approach The Horse From The Front Whenever Possible
The most important rule for approaching horses is to make sure that they know(possibly see you when) you’re coming. This can be easily achieved (by far) if you come towards the horse from the front and slightly to the edge (to avoid the blind spot right in front of it). If possible, approaching from the front-left of the horse is mostly preferable: many a horse are groomed specifically to work with humans on their left side and as a result are most relaxed with this.
It actually is far-fetched that horses prefer one side over the other. It is rather synonymous with us humans that over the years, we have developed a habit of doing almost everything from the left side of our body, conditioning and desensitizing to the left, but mostly forgetting about the other side. Horses usually will approach one another out in the wild without a care in the world as to which side they are coming from. Humans, although, try to make sure that they are setting both themselves and the horse up for success.
Use a mild, even walking pace. Try to stay comfortable, as horses are good at picking up on the littlest signs of tension. Make no real effort to conceal yourself or the noise attached to your movement.
Also necessary is the ability to avoid the temptation to stare the horse at the horse directly in the eyes. This may be conceived by the animal as a threat. Rather, look at its knee as you move towards it.
5. If You Have To Approach From Behind, Do So At A Corner
Note that this should be totally avoided by anyone except experienced trainers with the fore knowledge of drive lines. Advancing towards a horse from a direction other than from its front is not the best option — just like it can be uncomfortable for someone to sneak up on you from behind suddenly, this could have almost the same effects on the horse. To make sure the animal is as comfortable as possible, move forward towards the horse from an angle (not directly from its rear).
The wider the angle you approach it from, the better the odds that the animal is not startled: horses have monocular vision, which means they have the ability to use each eye independently to see you on their corners. And as earlier mentioned, the horse’s left side is generally preferred to the right.
6. Use Your Voice To Let The Horse Become Aware That You’re Coming Towards It
For all first-time riders, seeing an experienced horse handler communicate with her horse regularly can seem unreal. However, this basically serves an important intent: it lets the horse know where the human is at all times. As you move towards the horse, call to it with a gentle voice at a calm tone. You can say virtually anything you desire to say here as long as it’s in a non-violent, even tone, but it is commonplace among riders to say simple things like “Hey there, are you ready to go on a journey today?”
It is advisable you do this not considering the direction you approach the animal ( in this case, the horse ) from, but it’s even more necessary if you’re made to approach the horse from an angle besides the front. The horse may not see you right away, therefore it’s important to let it be aware that you’re approaching it by using your voice.
7. Allow The Horse Smell You
As with dogs and most other animals, horses use their powerful sense of smell to recognize the presence of other animals and identify threats ( dangers ). When you reach out to the horse, hold out your hands for it to smell. Don’t thrust your palms right into its nose — rather, stand a step or two in its front and calmly move your hands (palms pointed down and held wide and open) to within a foot in front of it. If the horse doesn’t desire to want to smell your hands, don’t continue to disturb it. Rather, withdraw your hands and move on to the next step.
8. Be Generous (Give The Horse A Small Treat If You’ve Got One, And Only If You Have The Permission From Its Owner)
This is not necessary, but it could prove to be great assist for getting an unfamiliar horse to cozy up to you. One of the most important dietary dangers for horses is bloat ( to cause to become distended ) which can often result into a fatal scenario, so it is best to stray on the side of caution and consult with the horse’s owner before deciding to give their horse a treat.
Bloating can be caused by varying factors, which includes even little amounts of foods that the horse is not used to eating as food, foods that the horse could react to, or, foods that are consumed at the wrong times. A few canned foods, or perhaps wild plants growing around the area can be dangerous for the horse’s consumption too. Another thing to consider is that the owner may have put the horse on a specially recommended diet or it (the horse ) is on medications, and some meals can interfere with the ability of the horse’s body to receive certain medications or supplements. These are all good, viable reasons to check with the owner before offering their horses any meal.
Present your treat to the horse by putting it on your palm, keeping your fingers completely wide and open. This method prevents the horse from unintentionally chewing on your fingers. Allow the horse receive the treat from you. Don’t insist on giving it the treat if it does not look like he wants it.
It is worthy to note that treats could make horses nervous – some will become violent very quickly if they receive treats for no particular reason, it has to be offered immediately after a worthy show of character and followed by the verbal nudge to eat it. Small amounts of common fruits or vegetables make great special meals for horses. Most horses will enjoy a carrot or a few slices of apple.
Place A Headstall On The Horse
Once you have succeeded in moving towards a horse and have made it comfortable(relaxed) around you, you may desire to be able to move it around or wherever you want. This is easy achieved with a device called a headstall (halter) that is put over the horse’s nose and mouth. A halter affords you the ability to control a horse’s head, making it head where you want it to.
N.B. Most headstalls have a small opening that slips over the horse’s bridle with a larger loop that straps either sides behind the horse’s ears or beneath its jaw-line. Slip a lead rope around the horse’s neck before you start moving, so you’ll have something to hold on to if it does not cooperate willingly.
Saddle Your Horse
A saddle lets you ride a horse by acting as your seat (chair, stool or bench) on the back of the horse. This is something you should not try if you’re a beginner, therefore, do not be afraid to enlist the help of an instructor. Set the saddle down calmly and keep the foot-rests out of the way so as not to startle the horse (the foot-rests could act as impediments).
The saddle should be made firm with a cinch that allows you to slip two fingers underneath, but not much looser. Don’t forget to lay a cover (blanket or any other piece of thick clothing) beneath the saddle to protect the horse’s hair and back. Take note that there are two very common styles for riding a horse: the Western style and the English style.
Get On The Horse
Ascending on the horse simply means getting on top of it so as to enable you to ride it. You’ll definitely be needing a horse with a strapped saddle, headpiece ( halter ) and a set of reins for this exercise. Traditionally, horses are climbed from the left side or their body.
Place your left foot in the foot rest with your left hand holding on to the reins, then tightly grip the saddle with your right hand and use a soft healthy movement to swing your right leg up and over the saddle. Put your right foot in the other foot rest and hold the reins. It is important to have an elevated platform ( like a piece of metal or wood with considerable height) above the ground for fresh beginners when getting on the horse for the first time, like steps or anything of that nature.
Now You Can Ride
This is it (the most important point) — the very history making moment many horse lovers who are riding for the first time have been waiting for. Horseback riding is a subject that large volumes of literature have been written about, it is therefore not necessary to even try to explain it all in this article. You should find suitable articles on the internet that could guide you on your journey to become a horse rider. Most importantly, find a suitable horse farm that offer lessons you wish to learn.
Some Basic Things To Avoid.
Avoid Being Close To The Horse’s Kick Range
Disregarding the amount of experience you may have around horses, there’s always the minute but possible chance that any gesture outside your control may scare the horse. If and when this does happen, you will be safer if you are not within the range of the horse’s extremely dangerous and powerful kicks. Most horse trainers handle these situations in either ways:
- Keep a great distance away from the horse when you are behind or to its side. Depending on the size of the horse, the translation of a “safe distance” may differ, so give the horse appropriate room, especially when directly behind it.
- Maintain a safe distance to the horse and keep eye contact. Place a hand on the horse and speak to it with a calm tone of voice. If you decide to stay very close to the horse, it may still be able to get roused and maybe kick at you, but it won’t have enough space to use its full force, so the chance of getting injured is lower.
Avoid Making Quick Startling Movements Around A Horse
Always bear it in mind that it is absolutely possible to frighten a horse even if it has knowledge of your exact same location. Brisk, forceful movements can make a horse sense the presence of danger and incite a spontaneous response, it is therefore pertinent to avoid this incident at all costs. Specific things to avoid include:
- Charging any object into the horse’s face (always put it in mind that it has a blind spot in front of its nose
- Sprinting abruptly towards the horse
- Hitting or striking the horse in any way.
Endeavor To Shun To Loud, Shocking Noises
In the very likelihood that sharp unexpected noises can startle humans, they scare horses as well and can put them on the defensive. Try as much as possible not to make loud startling noises near or around horses, especially if they’re not used to hearing such noise as it would sound foreign. If you must do something that makes a loud noise, endeavor to move away from the horse before you do it. Some specific things to avoid doing include:
- Loud claps, shouting, or screaming
- The sound of guns being shot
- Extremely loud, noisy music
- Loud industrial machines (chainsaws, dirt-bikes, etc.)
- Occasional loud noises caused by natural effects (e.g. thunder, windstorms, cyclones, etc.)
Avoid Startling Or Harassing A Horse While He Is Eating
As common with most animals, horses can be, and are very defensive when it comes to their food. However, this is of greater help as a personal safety tip for a particular horse rather than a part of a general guideline. If the horse is aware about its eating routine, give it enough room while it is feeding — even a horse that is normally very compliant may get infuriated if you try to interrupt its feeding process.
You should especially avoid putting your hand or anything else near the animal’s face or mouth, as this can be conceived to mean that you trying to steal its food away from its mouth, as this can prove to be very fatal to the intruder.