Safely Approaching Your Horse

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How to Safely Approach Your Horse

Always be aware of potential danger when working with horses. Take precautions to ensure the safety of yourself and others.

When you approach a horse, be aware of the blind spot directly in front of and below its face and directly behind the horse. If the horse cannot see you approaching in this spot, your approach might startle the animal.

Speak in a calm, reassuring tone before you approach a horse. Avoid loud noises or sudden movements, which can startle the horse.

Sound Indicators

Listen to the sounds a horse makes.

  • Nickers are positive, soft vocalizations towards familiar horses or during courtship.
  • Neighs are greetings towards familiar horses.
  • Squeals are associated with defensiveness and aggression between horses.
  • Snorts can be associated with defensiveness and aggression or fear responses.
  • A horse will blow when investigating a new object.

Physical Indicators

Watch a horse’s ears to help predict its behaviour. A horse generally points its ears in the direction its attention is focused. Ears that are “laid back” can be a warning that a horse is getting ready to kick or bite.

Watch the position of a horse’s head to know what it is looking at. A horse must position its head to focus its vision. It must be able to lower its head to focus on low, close objects and to determine depth.

Icon of a bookWhat does the Code of Practice say about Handling?

The Code of Practice suggests the following handling guidelines:

  • Horses should be handled quietly, with care and patience, to avoid injury, pain or distress.
  • Handling and restraining devices must be used humanely and with regard to the horse’s natural movement, temperament and physical capabilities.
  • A properly equipped handling area should be available to facilitate the treatment of horses.
  • All tack and equipment should be maintained in good operating condition.
  • All materials used to restrain or handle horses must be equipped with a method of quick release in case a horse becomes entangled in the equipment.
  • Chutes used to restrain horses should have breakout walls to assist horses that go down during handling.
  • Ensure lighting is adequate so horses do not baulk at shadows.


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