Being in a horse’s dance space

While in the saddle, if you ‘stay in the middle with your legs on both sides’, you can usually make it safely through anything that happens. A good rider uses balance and mindfulness, not muscle.

But in some ways, handling a horse from the ground is more dangerous than being in the saddle. When you’re working with animals on the ground it’s like ‘dancing’ with a thousand-pound unpredictable animal – with very hard feet.

Even if you’ve been around horses all your life or perhaps especially if you’ve been around them all your life, you know how unpredictable they can be, given the right circumstances. And still, because you’ve been around them a long time, you become lax in your handling of them. It works out fine, most of the time.

Even the animals that seem mean to us humans, never start the day thinking, “I’m gonna get him today.” Many new horse owners are clueless about an animal’s nature or its natural ability to hurt you without trying to and if someone is hurt, they blame the horse, ‘oh that’s a baaaaad horse!’.

So many animal owners seem to have been raised in a Disney movie, where all the animals sing and just love ‘people’ and will save ‘people’ from danger. I read once it’s called anthropomorphize or something.

Animals start off pretty neutral. It’s how humans interact with them that makes them seem a certain way. One of the basic horsemanship rules is ‘don’t ever stand directly in front of a horse’ and newbie dudes often follow that rule better than the old hands.

Allowing a horse to man-handle a human even in a way that seems affectionate or harmless can lead to problems. Horses don’t rub on people because they like them. They do it because they itch and they’re just using their human for a scratching post. Horses should respect their humans more than that. Given the right circumstances, not respecting their humans space could result in the injury of the human or even the horse.

Allowing a horse to be too close or too ‘familiar’ can result in the animal thinking he can be too close at other times and even try to dominate their human as though they were another horse. If they are too close and they are spooked by something for example, they horse could just run over the human to get away. Horses bang and bump on each other all the time in a herd. The horse must never think you are part of his or her herd.

Brody lets his horse, Archer get away with breaking all the rules sometimes, but the teenager is athletic and most of the time, can get out of the way. He and Archer also have an unusual understanding between them, and even the horse seems to know when it’s important to respect Brody’s space. Not everyone is as athletic or strong as Brody is, and not all horses are as well mannered as Archer is.

If rules are broken, sometimes . . . there is no place to go to get out of the way.

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