“If I have a good relationship with my horse, does that mean that my horse will always do what I tell him to?”
I get this question a lot.
And it’s usually followed by this one:
“And does that mean that I’ll be 100% safe?”
And my answer goes something like this:
Well, you’ve probably been driving a long time and you feel like you’re a good driver, right?
But does that mean that you’ll never have an accident?
Like being around horses, driving carries with it inherent dangers…
A tire might blow.
Your car might suddenly develop a mechanical issue on the highway.
Or another driver may crash into you – like what happened to me back in the day.
They say that there are only 2 guarantees in life: Death and taxes.
So yes, accidents do happen.
I have seen beginners, advanced horsemen, and even exceptional trainers have accidents.
So, no one is immune to them.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for them.
One of the best things you can do is to make sure you have a really sound relationship with your horse.
When you have a solid foundation of trust, understand each other and your communication is good…
You will go a long way to decrease the risks and conversely increase your safety.
As I said, no one is immune to them and I very nearly had one with Jazz this week.
First a little background…
Jazz and I have been together for 32 years.
I rescued him when he was 1 from a toxic and abusive relationship.
Jazz would say “no” and his owner would retaliate with a 2 by 4 to the head.
Jazz would then fight back even harder. It got ugly fast.
But hopefully I have made the last 32 years of his life much more fun, happy and secure.
We have both learned a lot from each other over the years.
Plus when he was 4 he sired a son, Apollo, and the 3 of us are still together.
So Jazz and I have a great bond, a great relationship and a great foundation of trust between us.
Since moving to Maryland we have spent more time hanging out together, done more ground work and spent less time riding.
This means that we have started new habits and have developed new cues.
One of which is that when we hang out together for a while and everything becomes calm and settled…
Jazz will stop eating grass and lay down next to me and we just zone out together.
It’s so calm, relaxed and amazing. We both really enjoy this special time together.
My “oops moment”…
We’ve recently had a heat wave here, but the other day the temperature had dropped to a more reasonable 72 degrees.
I was so happy to have a cool day that I ran out to the barn, saddled Jazz up, and went for a ride. It was great!
We only rode for about 30 minutes exploring the property and a few small trails together.
By the time we got back it was starting to get warm again so we went into the large pasture and rode down to the fresh green grass.
I wanted to give Jazz a treat and thank him for a great ride.
It was so nice being out there, relaxing, and enjoying our time together.
I was loving it so much that I started to zone out.
The next thing I knew Jazz’s legs had started to buckle and he was headed to the ground fast.
That awoke me from my “zone” and I managed to pull my feet out of the stirrups before Jazz hit the ground.
As he hit the ground, I was able to leap out of the saddle and onto the ground next to him.
I was on the left side of Jazz and he then put his legs out to the right side of him and turned his head towards me as if to say…
“Mom, why did you get off?”
I then realized by his body language that he was about to roll which wouldn’t have been a good idea because he still had the western saddle on.
So I gently and calmly asked him to stand up with our usual cue of “up” and he instantly stood up again.
He just stood there all ready to go again so I got back on and we rode up to the barn where I took of his tack and rinsed him off.
Then we went back down to the fresh grass together again to enjoy it without tack.
So, whose fault was it?
The fault was totally mine – 100%.
I always tell people to stay aware when riding and never let your guard down.
But that’s exactly what I failed to do.
I was so calm and relaxed that I let my guard down and “zoned out”.
That feeling triggered Jazz, since to him me zoning out was his cue to lay down and relax.
Because of my experience I knew to pull my feet out the stirrups before he went to the ground, so I didn’t get pinned or squashed.
And because of our lifetime of knowing each other, I knew he would want to roll after going down like that. So I was able to jump off to avoid getting rolled over on.
Plus, because of our connection and relationship, Jazz knew to put his legs out to the opposite side of me as not to kick me.
He also knew that when I cued him to stand and get up, that he should trust me and he responded right away.
The truth is we trust each other and we protect each other.
So, what could have been a very dangerous situation only turned into a small oops moment with no injuries to either of us.
What you (and I!) can learn from this
Oops moments are always going to happen but being prepared can stop them from becoming full-blown accidents.
So work on:
- Developing a loving, bonded relationship
- Your two-way communication and understanding with each other
- Building a strong foundation of trust!
- To always stay aware
- Be cognizant of all your cues – verbal and non-verbal
- Be prepared for anything!
“There is no guarantee, but having a great relationship with your horse will decrease your risks and increase your safety.”
Happy horses and be safe!