How do you define the word “luck”?
Luck defined by successful people is when preparation meets opportunity. This is my favorite definition of that word.
Others may think of luck as a self-fulfilling prophecy, and I believe this has some truth to it. For example, those who tend to have a more optimistic outlook, usually have much better life experiences.
Those are also the individuals who will seek out something good in a seemingly bad situation.
Then there are those who make it a habit to complain and to blame anything else instead of redirecting that energy and looking at themselves.
You can create your own luck to some degree.
Horse Safety and Preparation
I believe it’s important to be prepared, especially when it comes to horses. I’ve had many opportunities where if I hadn’t been prepared, those situations would have turned out much differently.
Preparation has more to do with what to avoid. Being prepared teaches you to look ahead and avoid undesirable situations.
So what does this have to do with horses?
It has everything to do with them!
If you’re not good at thinking ahead about almost every possible thing that could go wrong, then you’re setting it up to where you or your horse could get hurt or, Heaven forbid, even killed.
Something I’m always mindful of when I’m around horses is that I could get hurt or killed. If you don’t think that a horse can kill you, then think again.
If you don’t know horses and you’re not good at reading them, they can be dangerous.
So what’s my point?
Horses can be complicated if you don’t learn how to read them and study how they tick.
There are many people who have been around horses all their lives and they still don’t know horses. You may ask … how can that be? Good question. 🙂
Those are usually the people who have bad things happen to them with horses. They’ve probably had many close calls, horses who routinely get hurt or they may have ended up in the hospital a time or two.
These people usually have bad relationships with their equine companions as well.
They’re also the ones who will immediately blame the horse for their “bad luck” when in reality about 99% of the bad situations with horses can be prevented.
You ask again … what’s my point? I’ll answer that question with a story…
Preparation Meets Opportunity
One evening just before dark, I was scheduled to meet two friends of mine for dinner. Both are experienced horse people.
I just happened to be driving my truck that night. It contains all my trimming gear and always includes a quality rope halter with a 12 foot lead.
The way I had to exit the highway caused me to enter the parking lot back behind the restaurant.
As I drove through the parking lot, I immediately noticed a loose horse covered from head to tail in a blanket and hood grazing on a small area of grass.
My first thought was … why is that horse loose next to a major highway in a busy parking lot?
Evaluating the Situation
If you’ve ever seen The Terminator with Arnold Schwarzenegger, I tend to evaluate situations, especially with horses, the way he does in the movie. I know that sounds strange, but it’s the only way I can think of to describe it – it’s automatic for me.
My mind looks at the entire situation and I calculate all the possible combinations of things that could go wrong.
I then take that evaluation and I determine how I can possibly prevent those things from happening. This usually happens for me in a matter of seconds.
I immediately noticed a huge 18-wheeler truck parked right next to the truck and trailer of the horse’s owners. The horse that was loose was fairly close to his buddy who was also blanketed and tied to the trailer.
I then noticed the loose horse’s lead rope dangling from the trailer. His buddy was tied on the other side, which just happened to be next to the grass.
Where Were the Owners?!
No one was around when I got out of my truck. I immediately grabbed my halter and lead rope and all I kept thinking was, not only could the horse get killed if he panicked and ran onto the highway, but also some innocent bystanders could get killed or severely injured as well.
As I approached the situation, I thought, “At least he’s calm and nibbling on the grass.” Not once did it run through my mind that it would be easy to halter him. What kept running through my mind was, “How I can prevent him from panicking and running for the highway?”
I then got closer and realized that the situation was worse than I thought. When the horse pulled back from the trailer and broke away, the hood covering his head and neck slipped over his eyes.
He couldn’t see much of anything – he could see the ground and that was about it.
I knew that if I surprised him or frightened him in anyway, it could cause a horrible accident.
A gentleman wearing a cowboy hat came walking up around the same time I did. I asked if it was his horse and he said no. I warned him to stay back and said, “the horse can’t see anything.”
I also noticed a couple standing by their car taking pictures of the horse like tourists. That blew me away!
The best thing I had going for me was that he was at least grazing and staying close to his buddy. Knowing horse behavior, I was constantly reading the evolving situation.
First and foremost, I took into consideration my own safety. I knew that if I wasn’t careful the horse could panic and unintentionally hit me in the head or face once I got close to him.
As I approached, I let him know I was there with a soothing voice just to get his attention more on me. I was able to get close enough for him to sniff my hand – the minute he did he snorted and backed up in fear.
I hadn’t done anything at this point. I knew he didn’t understand what was going on.
I then retreated. I knew I had to get his attention on me and off both the grass and the hood that was over his eyes. I decided to use the leather popper on the end of my 12 foot lead rope to tap him gently on the nose from about 6 feet away.
If you’re thinking this would scare him, usually where horses are involved, if you do the opposite of what others would do, it’s often right. Timing, feel, accuracy and experience are essential.
That worked and he decided to pay more attention to me. Again, I bent down so he could somewhat see me from under the hood that was over his eyes. I kept talking to him and allowed him to sniff my hand again.
He snorted less this time but I knew I should still retreat. At least that was progress, because in the beginning he would hardly let me near him.
I repeated this and, the third time, he gave me permission to come in closer.
Just Grab Him!
The gentleman who was there watching kept saying “Grab him!” but I knew that wouldn’t work.
I kept thinking to myself, “What an idiot,” and then I said to him, “He can’t see me so stay BACK!”
I couldn’t help but say to the guy, “What stupid person would cover a horse from head to tail with a blanket when it’s only 44 degrees outside? This horse doesn’t need a blanket.” (Funny timing – this incident occurred just a few weeks after I published my article on blanketing).
That was just one of the many stupid things the owners did to create this situation.
In general, I was mad about what was going on, and it takes a lot to make me that angry. However, my anger was not directed at the horse at all.
I said to the gentleman at least three times, “What stupid people. They have no business having horses.” (That was my anger coming out.)
I was able to gently get a hold of the hood’s face piece that was almost pulled over the horse’s nose. It kept running through my mind to be very careful and to stay in a good position, so in case he panicked he wouldn’t accidentally knock me out.
Every action I took with the horse was gentle, but obvious, so I wouldn’t scare him.
Safety in Numbers
I was able to get the lead rope around the base of his neck close to his wither. The blanket was making it hard for him to feel what was going on. At that point, he got a little afraid and started backing into his buddy, who was still tied to the trailer.
I knew I could have a real problem on my hands if I didn’t get him farther away from the other horse; however, I understood that his buddy was what he perceived as safety.
The hood was still over his eyes at this point, but I was able to convince him to come far enough away from the other horse so I wouldn’t put either of them in danger.
The next step was to attempt to remove the hood that was completely over his eyes.
I Don’t Assume Anything with Horses
Most people at this point would have assumed that everything was fine, but this was such a crucial moment, I knew I had to take the right precautions in order for this situation to have a happy ending.
I held the lead rope wrapped around his neck with one hand as I rubbed him through the hood constantly making sure he knew where I was at all times, because he still couldn’t see me – he could only feel me.
As I rubbed the top of his neck through the hood with my right hand, my left hand was gently unbuckling it (about 7 buckles all together).
I finally got the hood safely off and haltered him. I could tell he was relieved, and so was I.
Ignorant Owners Arrive
At this time the owners arrived – both idiots in my book. Good thing they didn’t arrive any sooner or it could have been a complete disaster.
I led the horse off the concrete to keep him from slipping. During this ordeal, his hind feet would occasionally hit the concrete and he would slip a little due to his horseshoes.
I had the horse in hand and I was so angry. One of the owners abruptly approached him and went over to his right side. The other went to get a halter.
I was still holding the horse and had control of him. The owner on the right grabbed him at the base of the halter for no apparent reason.
I don’t know what he thought he was accomplishing.
I was so angry I grabbed his hand and pushed it away to make him let go of the halter. I said, “You don’t have to hold him that close!” Clueless, the owner couldn’t tell that the horse was still agitated and fearful at this point.
Before I could stop him, the other owner returned with a beaten up halter in his hand and immediately took my halter completely off and then went to put his halter on. In those few seconds that the horse was totally unhaltered, he could have spooked and gotten away again.
I thought once again, what idiots! They obviously knew very little about horses and horse safety.
No, Really … No Thanks Are Necessary
I barely got a “thank you” and then I just walked away.
During this ordeal, one of my friends called from the restaurant. I asked her to come outside quickly because there was a horse loose. She saw part of what went on, and as we walked away, the first thing that came out of her mouth was, “They didn’t even thank you.”
As we were leaving, I heard the gentleman who was observing the whole time say to the owners, “She really helped you out.”
In hindsight, I wish I had said something to the owners. I was so angry that all I could do was walk away. Maybe that was the best thing to do, maybe not.
I probably should have said something, but what good would it have done? They still would have gone about their business thinking it was no big deal.
Why was I so angry?
I was angry that their ignorance and lack of horse knowledge put their horse’s life, my life and other people’s lives in danger, and after all that happened, they probably still didn’t have a clue how many lawsuits may have been avoided by keeping their horse from running onto the highway.
Why did this happen? It happened because the owners didn’t know or understand horses.
How Could All of This Have Been Prevented?
What the owners could have done to prevent the entire situation:
- Not unload their horses when they stop to eat right next to a major highway
- Be sure to leave the horses in the trailer and park the truck and trailer in sight while in the restaurant. (The truck and trailer was on the backside of the restaurant where there were no windows.)
What I Think Happened Before I Got There
They had the horse tied to the trailer on the concrete. The horse spooked when the 18-wheeler drove up and parked next to them. The horse pulled back and at the same time he slipped on the concrete because he had metal shoes on.
Then the horse broke loose. What confused me is that once I got the hood off, he didn’t have a halter on at all. Where was the halter? I just remember seeing the lead rope dangling off the side of the trailer.
So, my question is, did they have the lead rope snapped to the hood? I still haven’t figured that one out.
Again, what idiots! If there was an annual idiot’s award they would have won it for sure.
How The Situation Could Have Gone Badly
Imagine how this situation could have turned out differently if the owners found the horse loose, or if the gentleman who kept saying, “Just grab him!” tried to handle the situation:
- Owner sees horse loose
- Owner assumes he can just walk up to his horse and put the halter back on
- Horse spooks and backs into his buddy who is tied to the trailer
- The buddy panics, breaks his lead rope and almost falls over
- Both horses are now loose
- Owners yell and scream, run after them and scare them more
- Horses run onto the highway
- Cars slam on their brakes trying to avoid them and a horrible accident occurs with many injuries and possible deaths
With no exaggeration, this situation could have easily turned out that way.
Every day someone either gets hurt or killed by a horse.
Is it the horse’s fault?
No, it’s the human’s fault.
If you and your horse are not prepared, then accidents will happen.
By not knowing horses and understanding their behavior, accidents will happen.
It’s our responsibility to prepare our horses for living in the human world.
Of course, you and your horse can be prepared and something bad can still happen. For example, you could be driving over a bridge with your truck and trailer and the bridge collapses. That’s totally out of your control.
But in most cases, if you know and understand horses, you can have much more control over the situation.
So What’s the Fast Track to Getting Hurt with Horses?
The fast track is:
- Not understanding horse behavior
- Not knowing how to accurately read the situation and take the appropriate action
What’s your experience with either getting hurt or having a close call with a horse? Was there a time when your preparation prevented a situation from having an undesirable outcome?
Keep it soulful,
Photo Credit – original photo modified in size and to include the Soulful Equine name and URL