Safety Basics: Learn to be safe around Horses


By Cheryl Spencer, B.A.


Our first goal while working around horses is to make sure that we are safe, and that the animal is safe. Working around horses has hazards simply because of their size in relation to ours. They are animals whose first instinct when faced with danger danger is to flee, and as such, we must make sure that we are not in the way of a fleeing horse. A spooked horse who feels that it is in danger, may use its' hind feet to kick or front legs to strike and may use teeth to bite.

If you are inexperienced with horses, never work around horses you don't know without assistance and instruction from the animal's care-giver.

Below are some simple tips to remember, as you become accustomed to working around these wonderful, but large and powerful animals.


1.       Always wear safe clothing and use safe equipment: 

·         A helmet when you are working near horses,

·         Boots or hard-toed shoes to protect your feet in case you are stepped on.


Many injuries can happen when you are handling a horse from the ground, so wear a helmet even when you are not riding.



2.  The horse has several blind spots from different angles:

·         Always speak to your horse when approaching him or working near him.  This way, he will know that you are there even if he cannot see you well.

·         Never to approach him directly from the front or rear.  Always approach the horse by his shoulder or to the side.

·         Never stand directly in front or directly behind a horse, even when you are brushing his tail or forelock, because he may not be able to see you well.



3.   Always make sure the horse knows where you are by speaking to him, or by keeping a hand on his body as you move around him.  When you walk around a horse, either walk far enough away that you are not in his kicking range (at least 8 ft.), or so close that you cannot receive a full blow should he kick. Most people opt for the latter, and if you do, make sure to keep your hand firmly on his rump when walking behind him so that he will stay aware that you are there.



4.   Never wrap any equipment that is attached to the horse around any part of your body.

This includes lead ropes, reins, lunge lines and all other equipment.



5.   Always work with the horse on the left side if you do not know the horse very well, when you are saddling, leading, mounting, etc. This is because many horses have been accustomed to only being worked with on their left side.  This may not be the case with all horses, but, better safe than sorry!



6.   Do not yell around horses – repeat DO NOT YELL AROUND HORSES! and don’t allow anyone else to, especially when you are working around or riding a new or young horse. Do not make sudden movements.  Some horses will become startled from sudden actions or noises and a startled horse is more likely to cause injury to you than a calm one.



7.   Be gentle when petting a horse.  The action you make with your hand should be a rubbing or soft scratching motion.  The most similar action to a slap or pat-like motion to a horse is a kick or bite, and most horses do not find this very pleasurable.



8.   Let a horse know what you intend to do.  For example: when picking up his feet, do not grab the foot hurriedly.  Instead, run your hand down starting at his shoulder and down to his pastern, and the horse should pick up his foot for you.



9.   Never leave a halter on a horse that is turned loose.  A horse may paw at his halter or accidentally get it caught on a fence or other object, which can result in severe damage and even possible death should the horse panic while he is stuck.  There are many horror stories of horses breaking their necks due to panicking from getting their halter stuck on something, even when wearing so-called “break-away” leather halters.



10.   Never walk under a horse or step over a tied lead rope.  Doing either of these actions can result in severe injury to you should the horse become startled.  



Raspberry Ridge Farms, R.R.# 1 Newburgh, Ontario, K0K 2S0 (613) 378-0321  www.raspberryridge.com