Leadership in Horsemanship — Part IV Safety
By Dr. Mike Guerini (www.dunmovinranch.com)
In this four part series, I will be exploring my Leadership in Horsemanship philosophy. The four components to my leadership philosophy include: 1) Honesty, 2) Wholeness, 3) Creativity, and 4) Safety.
Although last in the discussion, safety is likely the most important component of Leadership for Horsemanship. Think back to a time, possibly in college or high school, where somebody asked you to be part of something wild and crazy and it turned out to be unsafe. If we are honest with ourselves, we need to admit that when someone puts us in an unsafe situation we begin to trust him or her less and less. In fact, we may distance ourselves from someone who is not safe.
Now let us think about safety in terms of our horsemanship and being a leader. If you never practice safety with your horse and your horse continually gets into predicaments/hurt/scared because of your lack of safety — it is very probable that your horse will not look to you for leadership.
Today while I was touching base with a fellow horsemanship coach (Kristina Mundy), she said something that is spot on accurate. Kristina said “…owners must be dedicated to the good of their horse…” and I would add that the good of the horse means the safety of the horse.
So let us ask a series of questions to evaluate how safe we are with our horses:
1) Do we check our tack each time to make sure it is ready for the ride?
2) Do we scout the trail or get info from someone who has ridden the same path?
3) Do we use proper equipment for protection of our horse (leg wraps, shoes/proper trims, etc.)
4) Do we ride with a helmet?
5) Do we pay attention and ride actively so that we see potential issues before they can hurt us?
6) Do we ride with safe people?
7) Is our hauling equipment (trailer, truck, etc) safe to operate?
8) Do we check our horse out for 1 to 2 minutes of groundwork before riding?
9) Do we wear appropriate clothing and footwear when working with horses?
Therefore, when we speak of safety there is an underlying debate out there. Some folks say — I have ridden for years and never needed to pay attention to any of those things. Others are concerned about the relationship and protection of their horses so they consider each one of the above questions. Those that consider safety first are sometimes silently laughed at by those who have “ridden a long time and never been hurt.”
Two final points about safety as part of Leadership for Horsemanship.
1) If you practice safety first, then you significantly decrease the chance of you and your horse getting hurt. If you are not hurt, then you should be mentally and physically able to help your horse. If you get hurt — who is going to help your horse? I sure would want a leader who can help me if I get into a bad spot…and I am certain your horse wants a leader who can keep him/her safe.
Now it is this second point that I know has the biggest area of disagreement but I want to make sure I say a few words here.
2) Children under the age of 18 should wear a helmet while riding. Why under the age of 18 — because after that you are an adult and can make your own choices. If we want to see the next generation of great equestrians — we need to help them be safe. There should be no need for laws…this should be common sense. (Note: my equine liability insurance requires that all students under the age of 18 wear a helmet while I am teaching)
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cite some interesting statistics relating to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and horseback riding with respect to children. Click here for information — http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6039a1.htm
In a nutshell — CDC the above link will share with you the following information:
During 2001–2009, an estimated 2,651,581 children aged ≤19 years were treated annually for sports and recreation–related injuries. Approximately 6.5%, or 173,285 of these injuries, were TBIs. Overall, the activities associated with the greatest estimated number of TBI-related Emergency Department (ED) visits were bicycling, football, playground activities, basketball, and soccer. Activities for which TBI accounted for >10% of the injury ED visits for that activity included horseback riding (15.3%) [this is ~2900 kids per year], ice skating (11.4%), golfing (11.0%), all-terrain vehicle riding (10.6%), and tobogganing/sledding (10.2%). One more link with information worth reading is found here — http://www.biak.us/brain-injury-and-horses.
I encourage all of you with children to have them wear helmets and I urge all of us to speak to our delegates from the different breed associations, rodeo events, 4H, FFA and other horsemanship activities to find ways to encourage children to wear helmets.
In summary — practice being safe. To be that leader that your horse wants, you need to be healthy and able to help your horse. If you become injured — who is going to take care of your horse partner?
Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician and author of multiple books and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).