I’m going to tell a little story, followed by a dissertation that I hope will be received with the humility and concern with which I intend.
I did a mailing this morning to the email list that follows our horseback riding retreat business, and received a request from a lady who asked me not to send them to her anymore. She had been in a bad riding accident a year ago, and she said it was just too hard to see the information and photos that I send out.
Of course, I unsubscribed her and wrote a short note to her. Her anguished message confirmed to me once again, that bad horse wrecks seem to be so prevalent among many women of middle age and older. I’ve known women personally who have had wrecks that resulted in death or life-debilitating injuries. I’ve had some incidents myself in which I was injured, mainly because I did not listen to my gut or practice the proven safety measures I know when putting myself in to the situation. There are many reasons these incidents happen, a few of which are just out of our control. However, I do believe that there are some things going on with how we approach horses and riding that, if we changed our preconceived notions and beliefs, took on some education and fundamental ideas that we either have not been exposed to or have not considered for ourselves before, then perhaps some of the problems and exposure to unsafe conditions and situations might be mitigated.
It isn’t all about the tools (helmets, bits, nosebands, vests, etc.) which have a place certainly, but about a thought process that puts our personal safety first, every time we are around ANY horse, and preparing ourselves with every advantage we can attain to be safe around horses both on the ground and in the saddle. Complacency is one of the most dangerous issues I’ve personally witnessed with people around horses. The other is not being honest with ourselves about what our own capabilities, both physical and skill-wise, are. I’ve had some close calls myself in my nearly 55 years of horseback riding as a big part of my growing up on cattle ranches, wilderness packing and outfitting, and horseback adventure rides as the guide. Every incident leaves it’s mark.
The horses we choose to ask to be our partner are often not an animal than we can safely have a riding relationship with, no matter how much we may desire that to be so. Finding a “safe” horse is challenging at best, but can be deadly at the other extreme, and I think we often deceive ourselves that we can make a horse into something he cannot be, at least with the skills and knowledge we may have in our own experience. If there is any doubt, it’s better to walk away than take the risk.
It breaks my heart to hear of someone like this woman who has been so damaged from an experience with horses that she cannot bear to think of them again. And while nothing is 100% when horses and humans try to come together in a harmonious way, I do believe that if we can change our thinking and become more deliberate when making decisions, we are giving ourselves more of a chance at success and safety. It is my personal mission to help anyone that I can, using my experiences and knowledge, such as they are, to never lose that desire and opportunity to have horses in their lives. Ladies, your own life is everything, you are valued, and you deserve to be safe.