Proper handling helps protect horses, people

Posted: Friday, March 30, 2001

Farm animals run the gamut from some of the easiest to the most difficult animals to handle. Whether you are picking up a chicken or trying not to get trampled by a horse, the most important part of your body to use is your mind.

Understanding how to keep the animals calm and how they may behave should they become excited are the keys to safe and effective farm animal handling and restraint.

The following are some questions and answers regarding horses.

Q: How many appropriate types of handling-restraint techniques are used on horses?

A. Five types: halter and lead, lip twitch, hobble, stock and blindfold.

There are also other ways to restrain a horse, such as cross-tying, tail-tying and using a chain shank.

It is extremely important that you fully understand each of these methods and their proper uses before attempting to use any one on a horse. You could easily injure the animal, yourself or both if you don't.

Q. Is there a proper way to approach a horse?

A. Yes indeed. First of all, because of their unique anatomy, horses cannot see what is directly in front of or behind them, so keep this in mind when approaching.

Always approach a horse at the shoulder or near the neck so it can see you. Never approach from behind if you can help it.

If, however, you have no choice, speak softly to soothe the animal, place your hand on its rump gently gliding the horse to one side to give you room to move up.

Also, the horse may be asleep, and talking to it will awaken it. Don't make any sudden noises or movements that may frighten the animal.

One last note on approaching from the rear. Allow approximately 12 feet of distance, since horses can kick 6 to 8 feet straight back, or pass behind the horse as close as possible because a horse kick will cause less injury at close range.

Horses are quite strong and can be temperamental. You and the horse can suffer serious injuries from an inappropriate restraint. Try to use the least possible restraint since this tends to keep the animal calm.

This has been a very brief summary on some proper handling-restraint techniques for horses. Please remember, horses are very powerful and temperamental animals.

Even the most experienced riders will tell you to learn about your horse and the signs it will give you, for example, if it is hurt or it doesn't want to be ridden. Be careful and have fun.

If you would like additional information on handling or restraint techniques, contact the SPCA of the Kenai Peninsula at 262-8800.

Michele DeMilta is the founder and CEO of the SPCA of the Kenai Peninsula.

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