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Horse Source
November 30
th 2007


How to Stay Safe Horseback Riding

It might surprise you to know that an estimated 30 million Americans ride horses each year and that more than 2,300 American riders under the age of 25 years are hospitalized annually because of horseback-riding injuries.  Isn't that a shocking statistic?

This report specifically addresses the issues of safety both whilst riding and looking after your horse on the ground

For full details click here




Now for this week's tips and advice 

It's More Important To Be Relaxed Than You Think

Relaxation. It's just one simple word, yet it holds the very secret to success for not only horse-handler relationships, but also life in general. Most people would readily agree with this sentiment at face value but how many actually understand what it means in practical terms? We are all so faced with the demands of daily life and the usual hectic schedule that we dont even consider how stressed we are and what effect that might be having on those around us your horse included. So this week Im going to look at why it's essential for both horses and handlers to be relaxed before undergoing training, a trail ride or any ride at all.

Nowadays a month can't go by without national news shows sharing studies about the devastating effects of stress on the body. Stress breaks down the immune system, leads to obesity, causes sleeplessness, can cause hair loss and much, much more. Although stress is a natural human and horse reaction to negative stimuli, it is not a natural or healthy state to remain in! You have probably noticed that your horse can pick up on your moods do you find him skittish sometimes when you are with him and cant think of a cause? Well, next time consider that he might be picking up on your stress vibe and its making him wary.

It is essential that you provide an easy-going, calm and happy lifestyle and atmosphere for your horse in order to ensure positive health and longevity. He will respond positively to this just as any human would after all wed all love a stress free existence wouldnt we!

But It's A Stressful World, I hear you say. Yes, it often is, but your horse doesn't need to know that. As long as a horse's basic needs (food, grazing, productive exercise and companionship) are met, he will live a relatively stress-free life.

Sometimes it can be difficult for us to avoid stress, but a properly cared for horse really has little or no reason to experience life's anxieties.

Customer service personnel are often told to "check their attitude at the door," and while such advice is fairly blunt and candid, it's 100% true. Just as no customer service representative has a right to mouth off at a customer because they are having a bad day, no horse owner has a right to lash out verbally, emotionally or physically at their horse to make their horse as miserable as they are. Horse owners, like CS representatives, must learn to suppress their stress and negative feelings so that they can provide suitable care and respect to their animals all animals, so the dog and the cat will benefit from it too.
If you cannot provide for a horse's basic needs, you shouldn't own a horse until you can. If you cannot suppress your negative emotions, try not to work with your equine partner until you're a bit more relaxed. Ultimately there is little reason for a horse to live in a stressed state.

My friend asked me when I mentioned how stresses she is sometimes - How do I know if my horse is relaxed? Well, it sounds flippant but you will know. I dont mean that hes going to roll over on his back to have his tummy tickled, but if your horse is relaxed he will look and act in a relaxed manner; it's really that simple.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself when considering a horse's comfort level and this hold true for most animals:

  • Does my horse enjoy my company, or would he rather evade me or find companionship with the herd?

  • When I pet my horse does he tighten his muscles and brace himself, or does he loosen up even further?

  • When I lead my horse, do I have to tug on my line to get him to move, or does he gladly walk by my side?

  • Does my horse seem to enjoy his riding or exercise sessions, or does he begrudgingly follow instructions?

  • Does my horse pass a lot of gas or manure (particularly the loose variety) when working with me?

Horses really aren't that different from us when it comes to dealing with stressful situations. When we anticipate something dreadful we tend to tighten up, hold our breath or assess the area to scope out potential routes of escape. When we're not happy we sometimes slump our shoulders and appear downcast rather than alert and perky. When we're unhappy or stressed we have a hard time focusing on the goal at hand since our mind wanders constantly to that that distresses us.

Although the verbal queues such as voice tones aren't available with horses, the above physical cues do indeed exist. Watching your horse's body language and mental clarity and awareness will go a long way to assess his state of mind and take the appropriate corrective actions to lessen the stress in your horse's life. Remember, relaxation is the key to your horse's health, attention span and ease of learning during lessons.

For a comprehensive guide to safety with horses and their protection check out my book "How To Stay Safe Horseback Riding" which covers
  • You and what to wear for your own safety
  • Your horse and the equipment needed to remain safe
  • How to work safely around your horse
  • Trailering - and how to do so without harming your horse
  • How to prevent a fire and what to do should it happen to you
  • The precautions needed to prevent your horse from being stolen
  • The key aspects of safety and etiquette when riding in an arena
  • Ways to stay safe when riding on roads or in the countryside

For full details click here

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