The above picture is interesting, isnt it? The photo was simply titled "Horse Trampling Man". Apparently this was such a popular topic that someone carved it into stone! As horse people, we both hate and love those pictures and videos of horse and rider crashes, topples, and mishaps. Even a cute little foal tripping on its own spindly legs will grab our attention! We just don't want to be the one caught in the photo...
I see it all the time, pictures posted online about (usually by young gals) horses stepping on feet that were either barefoot or wearing sandals; a mass of bruising and staples to put the foot back together. I’m sure you have seen them as well or even learned that very important lesson first hand. Accidents happen in the horse world, after all, we are dealing with very large prey animals with a sometimes fight but mostly flight instinct. Stuff happens. However, most accidents in the horse world happen for the simple fact that we become too familiar with our horses, assume “they would never do that” and forget safety procedures.
The term “take it for granted” is very familiar and often used but the meaning has also faded over time. Its specific meaning is “to take something as less valuable and too lightly”; in this case, safety.
For the last 12 years, I have had my hands on all kinds of horses. Short, tall, little, big, calm, hyper, trained and untrained horses have reached a level of experience where I feel comfortable with just about any horse I am around. There are only two areas I have not dabbled in and that is with mustangs and stallions. I honestly admit that both make me very uncomfortable with the “vibes” they put off and I decided those were areas I didn’t need to expand to…until last year.
I made the decision to find another project horse so I went to my first horse auction. Several nice riding horses ended up out of my price range so I had decided if that happened I was going to bid on an untrained captive born Mustang/Appy mare that seemed very sweet and would make a fun project. At the time I was leasing a boarding stable and had the facilities to train her. Sadly, soon after bringing home the mare, the property owners decided to sell and we had to find a new property to lease. We found a cute little farm with 5 acres, a five stall barn but no indoor arena. As we live in Oregon, not having a covered arena really puts a crimp on training time due to heavy rains. I was not able to put as much training time into this mare before our move and my horses went from stalls and single turnouts to a herd setting. In comes the “taking for granted” moment.
It has been several months since our move in, and I was slowly integrating this new mare into a herd environment. She proved to be very dominant and I really began doubting keeping her. I know that some people reading this will immediately think “once you buy an animal you keep it!” but I’m sorry, sometimes the best thing to do for everyone involved is to place an animal in a different home. I completely agree, however, that rehoming an animal safely is as important to the animal as to the people involved.
Enter the reason for this story. I had decided it was time to incorporate another horse into this two-horse herd (the Appy and another mare) and I knew it was going to be challenging as the last mare (my main horse) was also fairly dominant but it was becoming a necessity. They were put out together with minimal fussing and much running around the field. They spent the day in relative peace and just before dark I went out to start bringing them in. And then the trouble began.
My lead mare Senti was right at the gate as expected (she is ruled by mealtimes) and so I went out to grab her before the other mares came up. Just as I was putting the halter on, the Appy mare came running up right on her tail. I could see the looks on their faces and knew a fight was about to begin. Before I could even finish the thought, the Appy turned and started to kick Senti. Trying to get away, Senti knocked me down and the Appy went right over the top of me! The third mare got into the fray trying to escape the fight and went over me as well!
I know many of you are cringing right now as being trampled by a horse can mean broken bones, concussion, if not a flat-out death sentence. However, my guardian angels were doing their jobs that day and I got off with some bumps and bruises, some strained muscles and the worst: six staples in my head from an emergency room visit. Try convincing an emergency room doctor that there is a vast difference from a kick to the head and a mere scraping of a hoof! If it had been a kick to my head, I would not have survived the battle.
So what did I take for granted? Though I am always super aware that horses can be very unpredictable and have rarely gotten any injuries around horses, it still happens. What I did not expect was the outright ugliness that would come of this fight, and that I wouldn’t be able to move fast enough to get out of the way. Part of safe horse ownership is realizing when you need to move on to other enterprises, to learn new things. For many trainers, this means moving on to teaching rather than being the "hands-on" trainer. It’s the story of “what do old horse people do”. For me at 51, with a growing herbal supplement business, grandkids to homeschool and feeling like my body won’t take the beating that comes with riding and training, its time to take a step back and do some redirecting.
We are adopting two senior mini mares. They arrive tomorrow.
The Appy will soon be moving to a new home.