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Horse Safety Concerns for all Horse Owners

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July 23, 2019

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Myers: Today, we're talking about horse safety concerns for all horse owners. Hello, I'm Amy Taylor Myers and welcome to Farm and Family. Today, we're speaking with Dr. Clay Cavinder, Mississippi State University Extension horse specialist and animal and dairy science associate professor. Clay, many people perceive horses to be friendly especially the ones who are handled on a routine basis. Are there any safety concerns when working around or with horses?

Clay Cavinder: Sure. There are definitely with horses being a thousand pound animal on average. In the United States, there's a little over nine million horses. Here in the state of Mississippi, about 113,000 horses, so a lot of horse interaction. That combined with the fact that horses are fight or flight response animals and the fact that if they perceive a threat, they're either going to encounter the threat or they're going to run people from it, puts people at risk no matter how much horses are handled or how safe horses may be perceived by the horse handler. But just following a few safety tips and knowing one's limitations when working with horses definitely can limit those risks.

Amy Myers: What are some steps that horse owners can take when handling horses from the ground?

Clay Cavinder: Some simple things like I see a lot of people that lead horses on the end of a lead rope and that gives the horse a lot freedom if they were spooked by something to run to the person and run over them or to simply get away from the handler. Leading horses by keeping their hand close to the horse's halter on the lead rope, not leading by the halter, but keeping a close grasp of the horse. Also things like turning horses out. People walk into a turnout paddock and they just simply let the horse go.

The safest thing to do is to turn the horse around to keep the handler between the gate and the horse so that if the horse runs off because it's excited about being out or whatever, he has to turn 180 degrees to do that. Tying horses up, making sure that we tie horses to a sturdy post and things that are able to contain the horse and also using quick release knots are definitely good ideas. Then little simple things like when grooming horses, keeping a free hand on the horse. In case he moves into you, you can push him away or push yourself away. Those are just little things that people probably take for granted when working around horses on a daily basis.

Amy Myers: Right. Also, don't tie the horse up too loosely.

Clay Cavinder: Exactly. Yeah. I see a lot of people do that where the horse can get its head on the ground. Next thing you know, he's got a foot over the lead rope and then pulling down a panel or pull himself away from wherever he's tied to.

Amy Myers: Right. Obviously many people ride horses, so there are some additional steps that horse owners should take to ensure their safety while riding, right?

Clay Cavinder: You bet. One of the most common things I see is people not handling horses with the proper attire. Simple things such as wearing boots. Everybody should wear boots when handling horses. Definitely not leading and handling horses with flip flops or riding with tennis shoes. Anything that can slip a foot through the stirrup is a safety concern. Making sure you ride with jeans. I see a lot of people ride in shorts and that's just a simple safety concern from the rider's perspective. Probably most importantly is making sure that you take a prudent determination whether or not you want to wear a helmet.

A lot of people ride with helmets and making sure that it's approved ASTM riding helmet for horseback is important. Some people ride with like bicycling helmets which are not going to protect the rider's head. Those things are definitely important. Also making sure that you pay attention to your surroundings. Dogs running into a paddock or simple things like a sack blowing into where it can spook a really broke or gentle horse. Also properly fitted and conditioned tags, saddles that are in good condition and repair so that they don't break or stitches to come undone or straps that are done in a safe tight manner are going to keep horses from being spooked. If they are, keep the rider be able to control them.

Amy Myers: What about legal considerations with horses that you own?

Clay Cavinder: Definitely there are some legal determinations with Equine Limited Liability Laws that will keep us protected from that to some degree. Everyone owns a horse should be aware of what those laws and what limitations that surround those laws.

Amy Myers: Okay. If folks want to learn more about limited liability laws, they can just go to their search engine on their computer and type in Equine Limited Liability Laws, right?

Clay Cavinder: That's right.

Amy Myers: What about if they want to learn more about safety?

Clay Cavinder: If you go to MSU Extension homepage and kind of navigate through their livestock horses and come to the horse production page, there's a list of publications at the bottom of the page.

Amy Myers: Okay. That's at Today, we've been speaking with Clay Cavinder, horse specialist. I'm Amy Taylor Myers and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Department: Animal & Dairy Science

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