Safely Handling Your Horse

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Safe, Humane Handling and Awareness

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 horse needs people who provide safe, respectful handling.

Your Horse’s Awareness, Instincts and Responses

Horses need people who understand that horses are not people. They are animals with instincts and sensitivities that help them survive in the wild. Horses have a strong fear response. A horse that becomes agitated during handling is usually showing fear.

Horses have a natural instinct to flee from danger. When panicked, even a well-trained horse will revert to this flight instinct.

Horses use all their senses to detect danger. Horses are highly sensitive to touch and have an acute sense of sight, smell and hearing.

Pay attention to signs of fear and distress in horses:

  • tail swishing/wringing, in the absence of flies
  • the whites of the eyes are more visible
  • sweating with minimal physical exertion
  • flared nostrils or wrinkling at the mouth or nose
  • both ears laid flat back
  • pawing or striking
  • running away from or charging at the handler
  • vocalizations (e.g. snorting, squealing, calling)
  • head held very high
  • kicking or turning the hindquarters towards the handler.

A horse has:

  • A wide angle of vision, and a blind spot directly behind it and directly below and in front of its head
  • An acute sense of hearing
  • An excellent sense of smell

A horse needs people who understand that horses see, hear, feel and smell the world in their own way.

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