The majesty and grace of a horse causes even the most nonchalant observer to briefly pause and enjoy the moment. However, some people, understandably, are intimidated by the sheer power and size of a horse. Others are drawn to the beauty and gentle nature of the horse while being intrigued with its ability to connect with humans. Then, there are some people who are naturally at ease around horses.
We, As Experienced Horsepeople, Hold the Keys to Putting People at Ease Around Horses
Key #1 Help Them Be Safe
The horse can’t speak for itself, so we as horsepeople must lead our fellow humans into the world of horses to put them at ease. Safety is a key factor to putting people at ease around horses. We must learn to educate others on how to conduct oneself around horses. Here are a few things to consider when helping people feel safe around horses:
- Slow and purposed movement: Horses can be startled quickly and will raise their head, step back or pull away from sudden movement. All our actions must be slow and purposed.
- Be quiet: Horses are always listening for any threat coming near them. Excessive noise takes away their ability to listen for clues that they are in danger.
- You are in charge of your feet: A horse will not purposely step on your foot, but when it does it WILL hurt and could cause damage. A horse is looking to the horizon not down at his feet. You need to keep your feet out from under the horse.
- Stand to the side of its back end: A startled horse will step back or kick out behind and if you are there you will be pushed over or kicked. Instruct people to stand next to the horse not directly behind the horse.
- The best way to approach a horse is from the side: Since a horse’s eyes are wide-set on its face it sees best to the side. Patting a horse directly on the face often causes the horse to lift his head to get away. Encourage people to pet the neck and talk to the horse when approaching any horse.
Key #2 Help Them Understand a Horse’s Nature
Fight or Flight Nature: Since horses are prey animals they are designed with two survival mechanisms of either fight or flight. A horse will usually choose flight first, meaning they’ll pull away or run away from a scary situation first. Yet, if cornered with nowhere to go the horse will fight with its feet through kicking out behind or striking forward. A horse will also bite to defend itself. People need to understand the basic nature of a horse in order to feel at ease around horses.
Key #3 Help Them Understand a Horse’s Purpose
Horses are designed for work. Just think of the role the horse has played in developing civilization. Horse-power plowed fields to grow food, conquered lands to expand territories and moved people and things from one place to another to grow communities. A horse needs a job. A bored horse often develops a myriad of stable vises like cribbing, pawing, chewing, rubbing and biting and kicking. People need to understand that a horse is designed for work and is really happiest when it has a job.
A Tool You Can Use
My side-gig as a horse carriage driver in San Luis Obispo many years ago, put me in contact with people who knew basically nothing about horses. Most had zero to minimal contact with such an awesome creature prior to meeting one of the carriage horses. I was commonly asked questions about the horse and its job of taking people for carriage rides. I began to realize I was in a key position to educate people so they would understand these amazing creatures and know that we had the horse’s best interests at heart.
Would you like to know the top seven questions I was asked as a Horse Carriage Driver? I’ve put the questions and my answers in a swipe file to share with you. This can help you answer the questions you might get from people who don’t understand horses. You can download the free complete swipe file “FAQ of a Horse Carriage Driver” < here.
You should be prepared to help others be at ease around horses. As our society drifts away from its connection with horses and agriculture in general, you can be a key in helping others understand horses and stay connected agriculture – the industry which puts food on our tables every day. My challenge to you is to develop your own script to use to help those you come in contact with. The free complete swipe file, “FAQ of a Horse Carriage Driver” can get you started.
Action Photos Credit: Michael Jantzen of kids at Ag Adventure Camp