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Wrangling on the Range #171

Hazards and Safety



From the Summer 2012 "Paint Horse Connection"

In any situation when we're around horses, we need to take
responsibility for their safety. When turning your horses out
into a pasture or leading them in, you need to ensure their focus
is on you-they have to be attentive and aware of their handlers.
If your horse is distracted and something spooks him, he might
react to his environment with no regard for your safety. But if
he's responding to you as the handler, it cuts down on the chance
of a negative reaction and injury.

Distracted Handler

Andrew is talking on his cell phone, thinking about that
conversation, and is completely inattentive to his horses and the
environment. As a result, his horses have forgotten they are
being led and have stopped to eat grass. Andrew isn't paying
attention to them, so they're not paying attention to Andrew

Leading Two Horses

Leading more than one horse at a time can be trouble waiting to
happen. One horse might react to his environment, bolting in
another direction or causing the other to become anxious, or they
might react to each other and kick, potentially causing injury
and putting the handler in harm's way.

Handler in Front

Andrew is walking in front of his horses; therefore, they're out
of his eyesight. He can't keep tabs on their demeanor and body
language, and he's putting himself at risk of being run over if
one of the geldings decides to bolt forward.

Pulling on Horses

Both geldings are grazing while they walk, and Andrew is pulling
them forward. This not only reinforces a bad habit, but it also
is causing the bay gelding's balter to twist and cover his eye.


Tack, equipment and other debris-a wheelbarrow, wooden boards and
a metal hay ring-litter this pasture, making it dangerous for
horses. Faith's bridle and grooming bucket, for instance, are
placed near the gate, and her mare could become ensnared in the
reins or knock over the bucket, causing her to panic.

Wrapped Leads

Both Andrew and Faith have their lead ropes wrapped around their
hands and wrists-if their horses make a sudden move, there will
be no time to release the leads. They're at risk of being pulled
off balance and dragged.

Open Latches

The latches on this gate are sticking out-prime candidates to
poke or gouge the mare as she moves into the pasture.

Narrow Gate

This gate is only partially open-the hinge doesn't even work in
that direction, creating a space only a few feet wide. Horses are
a little claustrophobic, and going through a narrow opening will
likely cause this mare to bolt forward out of anxiousness. She's
also at risk of catching a hip on the corner of the gate or one
of those latches, which could cause serious injury.

Sending Horse Through Gate

Faith is unsnapping the lead from her mare's rope halter,
allowing the horse to run through the gate. Running through a
gate is a bad habit in itself, but it also puts the handler
behind the horse-and if this mare decides to celebrate her
freedom with a touchdown dance, the first thing she's going to do
is kick, and Faith will be in the line of fire.

Non-Breakable Halter

Faith has decided to leave a nylon rope halterone that won't
break easily-on her mare for turnout. If the horse decides to
roll or scratch against a tree, the halter could get stuck on
something, or something could get caught in it. Feeling trapped,
her horse might panic and struggle, which could cause the mare
serious injuries.


With several horses to juggle between a single pasture, Faith has
enlisted her older brother for horse-handling help. They are well
prepared with a plan of action.

Andrew is operating the pasture gate and watching Faith, making
sure everything is going well for her while he also holds her
other two horses. After she turns out her mare, Faith and Andrew
will each lead one horse back to the barn.

He's positioned the geldings behind the gate, a barrier that will
curb any inclination they might have to join the other horse in
the pasture. His hand is on the gate, prepared to close it if
need be. The geldings are attentive, paying attention to what is
going on as well as their handler. You can see by their body
positions that they're comfortable.

Faith has walked her horse into the pasture through a wide,
inviting gate to turn her loose. She's standing to the side of
the horse with her arms in front of her to send that horse
forward. She has also angled the horse toward the widest part of
the pasture, to encourage the mare to go forward.  Her horse is
looking forward, but still paying attention to Faith. The extra
lead is in a figure-eight configuration in Faith's left hand,
which eliminates her risk of becoming caught in the rope. As she
unsnaps the lead shank, Faith remains in control of the mare by
having her hand on the cheekpiece of the halter. That helps teach
the horse to stand until she's turned loose by the handler,
instead of ripping away at the sound of the snap unfastening. You
could also turn the horse around to face the gate or fence.

This time, the mare is wearing a well-fitting leather halter. If
you have to leave a halter on your horse in the pasture, a
leather halter--or a "breakaway" halter, which has a leather
crownpiece-has a greater chance of breaking if it becomes caught
on something, so that's a safer alternative to nylon or rope
halters, which don't easily break.

Faith's tack is put away, and the debris in the pasture has been
removed. All in all, the whole situation seems like it is
in-balance and much safer. 

Jessica Hein is managing editor of Paint Horse Connection. To
comment on this article, email
Pete Lichau is an APHA member and owner of Rose Gate Farm
( in Argyle, Texas. 

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