Thursday, November 13, 2008

Stay Safe

In my last post, I mentioned that I had noticed myself doing some unsafe things in these old photos. Here is what I had noticed:

Photo One:

There is too much slack in my reins here. I am leaning forward out of the saddle. Should My Boy have jumped or spooked, I not only was in a precarious position, but would have been struggling to get a hold of those reins to get some contact and regain control of my horse.

I did not even notice the helmet until someone mentioned it in the comments section! Here is the scoop on Pony Girl and helmets. I wear my helmet a lot. I really do. This particular day, I was just working my horse over obstacles, walking and jogging. If I had been doing any loping, I absolutely would have been wearing my helmet. I almost always wear it on trail rides. I don't always want to wear a helmet though, for whatever reasons. I know it is safer to wear one. I witnessed Paint Girl fall off her mare and put a crack in her helmet. But sometimes I just go with my gut and I don't put one on. I also think that helmets can also give me a false sense of security. I might ride a little less carelessly because I am wearing a helmet.

Photo Two:

This photo shows me using my Parelli 12 ft. line when it was fairly new (notice how white it is?) I was still getting used to working with a rope of this length. If I am working with My Boy on this line and want it short, I now try to bundle the rope into my hand, instead of holding it in a loop. It was not wrapped around my hand here, however, had my horse pulled back, the loop could have tightened around my hand.

The extra rope is hanging near my feet. What you don't see is that not much of it is actually touching the ground, mostly just the leather popper. But the potential is there to step on it, or get my legs caught up in it.

My Boy is not facing me here. He looks as if he is thinking of what our next move will be. If I remember correctly, I was preparing to ask him to go forward and away from me, which would explain why he was not looking at me. I think I was holding the carrot stick in my right hand and he was probably wondering what I intended to do with it if he did not move forward!

At the Buck Brannaman clinic I attended two weekends ago, he referred to safety several times with the participants. At one point, a rider had dropped his reins to take off his jacket. His horse caught sight of the jacket and subsequently spooked and jumped forward, which caused the jacket to flap around more, and the horse spooked even more. Buck witnessed the whole thing (he appears to have eyes in the back of his head) and did berate the poor guy a bit for not having good control of the horse before attempting this. This is something I do quite often on the trail as we are riding and get either a bit warm or cold in our ever-changing climate. It does usually require two free hands to do efficiently. But on the trail, where at any moment a duck could fly up out of the creek or a dog could come crashing out of the woods, it is best to make sure you are in a safe position, the horse is stopped (as well as the other riders you are with), and that you have a hold of the reins before attempting to put on or remove a jacket via horseback. It might seem more time consuming, but it is the little moments where one can be caught off guard and find themselves into trouble.

Has anything like this ever happened to you, on the trail or in the arena? A simple action where a decision ended up being an unsafe one? An experience that you learned from, perhaps helping you to rethink your habits and practice safer ones?


  1. actually something did happen when I was riding my daughters mare. It was our third ever trail ride. We had been riding her for about 1 year or so. There were 5 of us, I was last in line. It was fall and there was a roundbale hidden partially in the weeds. Horses 1,2 and 3 went by fine, but when horse # 4 got almost by it she must have seen it out of the corner of her eye and it .spooked. her. She whirled counter clockwise and slammed right into my green-as-grass mare. This naturally spooked MY mare and she began to whirl away from the mare who slammed into her. At some point in the few seconds all of this transpired, Sue lost her reins, I got tangled up in Sue's reins and found myself attached to one frightened horse and riding another! I had been working diligently on teaching Xena to "whoa" without touching the reins so i dropped my knotted reins on her neck, said "whoa" and she stopped right now. *Right now*. She stopped blocking the trail so Comet couldn't get by her.

    What I learned from that is that equipment may very well fail. Sue had Comets reins and that sure didn't stop the mare from her near bolt, I didn't have my reins but the training held. I learned that fluency in training is important.

  2. Super safety pointers. I'd hate to have someone see our early photos.


  3. Oh yes, something like that happened to me. I was talking to my trainer about an equitation pattern. I asked her if I could see it on the paper. I was riding my 2 year old colt that I had broke out and had been riding for about 6 months. When my trainer walked up to me with the paper and tried to hand it to me, my horse saw it out of the corner of her eye, and she jumped to the left. I of coarse was paying attention to the trainer, and I stayed in the same place and the horse flew left. Needless to say, I was way too relaxed and not ready for that. I was fine when I fell, but I might have been able to stay on if I had been paying attention to my horse and not my trainer.

    I think we all have moments. We learn. That is what is important. I am with you on the helmet thing. I wear mine off and on. It depends on the situation.

  4. I was playing with a lawn chair while the DOR was relaxing, talking to her instructor. I was nosing it and knocked it over-I blew marbles and jumped two feet up and three feet over. Lukily the DOR never really completely relaxes, she did a one rein stop and kept her seat.
    On a side note...thank you for the great virtual trail ride today, you are a wonderful leader.

  5. The fall off of my Paint mare caused more than a crack in my helmet. It basically showed me what my skull would have looked like if I had NOT had it on that day. It scared me so bad that every time I got back on that horse I always had my helmet on.
    I do have to admit that I don't always wear a helmet now. I don't wear one riding my Arab and I am not as faithful wearing one on my Paint as I use to be. I know I should since I had a bad fall.
    I have a permanent neck injury from that fall off my Paint and a
    I know a helmet does not protect the neck BUT if I did not have my helmet on that day I know I would have had a SEVERE head injury also. I will have pain in my neck (sometimes severe)for the rest of my life but at least I still have my mental abilities!
    PG is VERY good about wearing her helmet! You will see her with her helmet on 97% of the time (ok I don't know if my math is all the way correct but it should be close!).

  6. Just wanted to mention something from the horses safety point of view. I just learned not to ride in the open counrty with closed reins (no break) after hearing of a man who fell of his horse in the back country and had his horse take off. They searched but could not find the horse. A few weeks later they found the horse dead because the reins had become hooked around the saddle horn and the horse hand been unable to lower its head to eat or drink. It was in the summer and the horse would have survived had his head been free. The horror of that story lead me to mention it as it has really stuck in my head. Sometimes little things like that are the ones that you dont think of until something horrible happens.

    For people safety, I am guilty of some safety no-no's for sure but I think that one of the most important things a person can learn is how to FALL safetly. Taking some classes on tumbling with the big cushy matts to soften the blow and learning how to roll or push away from the horse can mean the difference between life and death. No matter how hard we try to avoid giving them any excuse, horses are unpredictable and we are, in most cases, bound to take a tumble at some point. I have bailed off of horses more times than I probably should have (when I could have tried to stay on a little harder) but I chose to fall so that I could pick the safest moment and do so in a controlled way, rather than being thrown (literally). That is my two...or three bits:)

  7. I have a little duck cloth saddle bag with a velcro closure that I loop over the pommel on trail rides. It contains cell phone, kerchief, maybe camera and, most importantly, COOKIES. Both horses know this to be the cookie mother lode ... on the GROUND. Nita and I took Jaz and Poco down the road on our inaugural ride and the first time I reached down and snapped that velcro closure open, I thought I was gonna either end up in a ditch or airborne. Lesson: on the ground is NOT the same as up and behind. It needs to be not scary on the ground AND not scary in the saddle.

  8. You always have such good pointers PG! I too have taken my jacket off many times while walking along the trail and it is not safe. So many times I find myself getting really relaxed with my horses as I have had them for so many years and they are basicly bombproof BUT anything unexpected can happen even to the best of them and we need to be heads up at all times. Great post!

  9. I have never even seen a helmet in real life much less worn one. I guess I should consider it since I ride alone most of the time. I started riding at age 6 and it would be like trying to ride backwards I think.

  10. I'm a partial helmet person...always wear it when it's a youngster that I'm starting in their 1st 30 days. As they mature and I understand them, I get a little less worried about it.

    Now, the closed rein thing. I recommend anyone who is riding a questionable horse to NOT EVER use closed reins. Trail or arena. I was in the arena working a horse I had in for a "tune up". He had lots of go and not a lot a whoa. My closed reins were long...not the short barrel racing type. I'm trotting the horse on a loose rein around the arena and he stumbles...I didn't have a firm enough grip on the rein and it went FLYING over the horses head. I have NOTHING in my hands!!!

    This horse would only go faster no matter what I did. I was terrified that he was going to step into the rein and take a tumble. How he didn't I don't know.

    Thank God that my husband was home and heard me yelling for him. The story is longer...and scarier. But, in the end, husband got the reins for me, handed them to me over the horse's head and I had to finish the session. The last thing I could do was get off...I had to go on.

    Ok...I have to tell this too...sorry it's so long, but the scarier part of the story is that I had left the arena gate open (which lead into a pasture). So, this horse ran from the arena into the pasture with lots of trees...back into the arena...back into the pasture. How he didn't duck under a tree and wipe me off I don't know...God was watching over me.

    Summary, NEVER ride with closed reins unless the horse is well broke and always close the arena gate behind you.

    Did I have my helmet on...nope...stupid huh?

  11. Eh...just put the reins in your teeth and take your jacket off. ;)

  12. Oh PG #2, you wild n' crazy girl! I dare you to say that to Gracie when she's riding someday!! ;)

  13. Oh, I'm sure I'm guilty of a few of those things you mentioned.

    Just the other day my left rein came off - luckily I was slowing down to a walk in the arena - it was mostly funny. Checking the chicago screws/ties/buckles on your bridle before a big ride would probably be a good safety tip! That goes for the rest of tack as well - checking the straps/buckles, etc. before a ride.

    I try and be pretty careful with ropes and long lines these days, as I had a nasty rope burn when I was a kid - got a little tangled up in a lead line and tried to hold on to a spooking horse. Not so smart.

  14. when the horse is behaving his best you let down your guard - thats when the **** can hit the fan. One time I was having to dismount and mount in an alley to close a gate that was in a corner & my arms weren't long enough to do it from horseback - so, after mounting and dismounting 15 or 20 times - dudley was standing there like a champ - was I bothering to pick up the reins? - NO - so he took off as I stepped up on the stirrup - I quickly jumped down and thankfully nothing happened - don't ever let your guard down.


I love hearing from my readers!! I truly enjoy all of your feedback, advice, helpful tips, and stories. You all make me laugh and I learn so much from you, too. I will try to post replies to your comments as often as I can.

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