Think Ahead, Plan Safe Facilities, and Train Your Horse
By Kim Roe
Things with horses can go haywire in an instant. A horse’s immense power combined with split-second reactions and a powerful flight instinct can result in a horrible wreck. Anyone who lives with horses for long has a story about the trouble a horse got into.
And it doesn’t seem to matter how safe your facility is; they still find a way to hurt themselves. We shake our heads in wonder about those horses who live in fields with farm machinery and barbed-wire fences without obtaining a scratch, while our pampered horses tear holes in themselves on their water bucket. We think ahead, trying to foresee what might happen, but still miss potential problems.
A few days ago I was reminded of this and also the importance of putting a good “whoa” on a horse. Training a horse to stop—no matter what—can save his life.
My horse, Exodus, was grazing peacefully in his field. I’d hung a hose on the far side of his wood fence – out of his reach (I thought). I was riding around on my lawn mower and looked up just in time to see him running backwards with the hose wrapped around his pastern and a large section of the fence, including a post and boards, had broken free and was “chasing” him.
A major wreck was imminent. I jumped off the mower and yelled, “Exo, whoa!” He froze and looked at me. I was able to go to him, pull the hose off of his pastern and take him back to his corral without even putting a halter on him. He was immediately calm and relaxed—because he was trained to stop, not move, and follow me.
Donna Kelleher, featured in this month’s Trainer’s Corner, helped me train Exo. Donna is a small-animal veterinarian in Bellingham, Washington who’s passionate about liberty work. I’ve given Donna some dressage lessons over the years, and she’s helped me with liberty work. I started it with Exo because of his affinity for reactivity and explosiveness.
She explained to me that it doesn’t take much training to “rewire” a horse’s brain with a little liberty work. Boy, was she ever right! I’m forever grateful to Donna for her help. Exo is fine, and I have a fence to fix, but it could’ve been much worse.
I hope you are all enjoying summer and staying safe. [email protected]
Kim Roe grew up riding on the family ranch and competed in Western rail classes, trail horse, reining, working cow, and hunter/jumper. She trained her first horse for money at 12 years old, starting a pony for a neighbor.
Kim has been a professional dressage instructor in Washington state for over 30 years, training hundreds of horses and students through the levels. In recent years Kim has become involved in Working Equitation and is a small ‘r’ Working Equitation judge with WE United.
Kim is the editor of the Northwest Horse Source Magazine, and also a writer, photographer, and poet. She owns and manages Blue Gate Farm in Deming, Washington where she continues to be passionate about helping horses and riders in many disciplines.