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Jean_B

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Years ago I wrote this for publication in our local miniature horse club's newsletter after witnessing several serious injuries to humans at horse shows - due to either their lack of knowledge about horse 'herd' behavior, or just not paying attention.

Distance, Distance, Distance

by Jean Barnhill Rudick

Dusty Lane Miniatures, Arkansas

http://www.miniatureequine.com/dustylane

Having grown up with large cows and horses, I have always had a strong appreciation for their strength and ability to do serious damage if you are not careful. My father always preached to us, from the time we could walk to always be aware of safety concerns. Like never put your arms between the bars of a pen full of friendly calves because a bump could easily break it. When working with animals - no mater how friendly - always work in an area where you can escape easily. Always let animals know you are there before you touch them because ALL animals will react, usually with a kick, when startled. And with the horses, to always keep distance between horses because they like their space.

Working with little horses is no different. But I'm finding that the people are - and it scares me. Just because these horses are small does not mean they can't do serious damage. They have the same personality as the big ones when it comes to space. They do not like to be crowded by unfamiliar horses. Mares invariably will react, usually with a good two-legged kick, to a stallion that gets too close. Stallions, especially during breeding season, will want to rip into another that gets too close.

Yet I'm finding that many miniature owners totally ignore safety. They want to visit with friends, pulling along their horse into a crowded situation. With geldings, this is usually not a problem, but if there are mares or stallions, the situation could get serious. So - some simple, common sense guidelines ...

1. If you are waiting to go in the show ring, don't crowd up close around the ring entrance. Keep at least 10 feet of distance between you and other horses. Remember, just because you have control of your horse doesn't mean that the person next to you has control of theirs, and you don't want to find that out the hard way.

2. When in the show ring and lining up, keep at least 10 feet (preferably more) between you and the next horse. This is for two reasons - so you don't get kicked by the neighboring horse, and so the judge has room to really look at the horses from all angles - and you do want the judge to have the best possible chance to look your horse over. This is true for lining up head-to-tail or side-by-side. If you know your horse tends to be a little "anti-social" around strange horses and the ring steward directs you to a spot that you feel is too close to another horse, tell them.

3. Keep plenty of distance from horses that are tied. There is absolutely no control over that tied horse, and you don't want to get kicked in passing!

4. If kids are handling your horse, make sure they understand how much power they are holding. Since miniatures are so small, people often think any child can handle them. That is true - if the horse is well trained, but again, that well-trained horse is still a normal horse and may react if crowded by an unfamiliar horse, and the child is the one that will be hurt.

5. Watch out for curious children. Tots are often fearless. They see this cute, little horse and are unaware of the danger of running up and touching them. And it's amazing how many of these kids are left unattended by oblivious parents, especially at county fair shows. Keep an eye out for them. Nothing would be worse than to have your horse be responsible for injuring a child. Remember, even a small miniature can seriously injure a small child with one well-placed kick.

So let's all keep our eyes open. Watch out, not only for your horse, but others as well. I don't want to see anyone get hurt and I know you don't either.
 

ckmini

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Good reminders Jean!

Also for all those drivers out there: make sure to keep a safe distance away (front, back, sides, ect) from ANY driving horse. With a new show season starting comes green driving horses. I can't tell you how many times I've cursed people in my head DURING a class who pass barely a foot away and then want to get to the rail right in front of you, when there is half the arena open. Utilize your corners and drive the whole arena.
 

targetsmom

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Good reminders and let me add one more. Also remember to keep you distance when you are LEAVING the ring. One of the worst accidents I witnessed, which caused kidney damage, was to someone leaving the ring with her ribbon after a showmanship class (so leading her horse), not paying attention, and getting kicked in the stomach by the horse in front of her.

I drill this into our 4-Hers because a lot of the time they will be in classes with "big" horses, who might feel challenged by our tiny minis.
 

Riverrose28

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A very good reminder, but I will add: If you are waiting for liberty class, stand back from the gate with your whips and shaker bottles. Some horses are still fired up after leaving the ring and if you shake your whip of shaker bottle they will react. I was knocked off my feet coming out of the ring, right at the gate becuase the next one in line was shaking a whip with a plastic bag on it trying to fire up their horse. Big NO NO!
 

wingnut

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Excellent! I'm working with a new young friend who is going to work with my mares and show with me this year. We spend a lot of time talking about safety. How these guys may not weight 1000-1200lbs but at 200-350lbs, they are strong and can hurt you if you are not careful. Safety first! Safety always! And training for good manners is a MUST, but just like dogs, you do not know what they've experienced or how they'e been trained (or not trained!). You can only know your own horse and you must protect yourself at all times.
 

horsenut50

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Thank you for this timely reminder. I show a stallion and last year had a teenager park her Paint mare right next to me so she could gab with her friend, I was waiting by the gate to into the class. I politely asked her to move because I have a stallion and all I got was the eye roll, sigh then ignored. Thankfully I didn't get my butt kicked by her mare and that my stallion is really well mannered. People can really be ignorant. I realize that they might not know he's a stallion until I say something but honestly I find it really rude for them to just assume that our horses are going to be best buds.
 

Carolyn R

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Great advice, wish there was a laminent printout that could be placed ringside at shows. So many young exhibitors, ESP. At local shows do not know what an acceptable comfort zone is. This info would make a great write up for people to share with their local mini clubs!
 

FurstPlaceMiniatures

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I find the WORST is when some poor little kid is blatantly over mounted, or has too much horse at the end of the lead! If your child is not 100000% capable of handling that horse when that horse is having a bad day, the sky is falling, etc, DONT PUT THE KID ON THE HORSE AT A SHOW. I wathced one girl get dragged ALL the way across an arena by her little mare (in heat) to get to my stallion, and what did the parents do? NOTHING, NOBODY HELPED THIS POOR KID. I seriously was peeved at the parents, and felt SO BAD for this humiliated little girl. My usually VERY good stallion was fired up (for obvious reasons) and I spent about an hour going over how to "think with the right head" again - something I really was not planning on, nor was necessary until that creature got less than a foot from him begging for it.

I have a 13 yr old cousin come to shows, she "holds" my stud for me when i change, etc. However, I am confident she can be left "alone" (with her very comeptent horsey mom) with him for, eh, 5 mintues while i change real quick and not get anyone hurt. She has been taught to handle horses. Would I turn her loose in a ring with him and a million other youth kids? NEVER.

I don't care how much that kid wnated to show - she either needed another horse, an adult to help her more, or not to be there. End of story.

Another tip -

I had a mare who got WICKED nervous is horses got close to her, and would threaten them, but was all talk. Hwoever, it definitaly bothered her. Put a HUGE red "kicker" ribbon on her tail outside the ring, and took it off before I entered the ring (usually showed jumper, so other horses there weren't an issue), people avoided her like the plague, but it kept her, (and me!) much more sane in the "in gate!"
 
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Pippin'

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I've only ever really showed in 4-H and usually those kids know how to keep safe and are great in the ring but I know of one family last year who actually ended up being asked to leave the group for safety reasons. It's a long story but it was really because they were way over horsed due to the mother having this idea that her green riders were advanced because of lessons they had years and years before.

I've run into a lot of issues at some of the Horseshoe Park shows. No one pays attention to other people on foot or on horseback, the in gate was always crowded, and there was no more (often less) than a foot between horses in a class. I was stewarding for a show there once and nearly got barreled over by a man leading a near psychotic Arabian mare in for inspection during a Halter class. Another time I was just watching and ended up racing into the ring with an old cowboy and a friend I was with because a little girl (probably six or seven years old) had lost control of her horse at the jog during a Western Pleasure class and no one was doing anything while the horse raced around the ring like a pack of wolves was after it. We got the horse and girl calmed down and led them out of the ring only to have the parent yell and throw the kid back up and send her back in.

I think my biggest ones for safety are:

1. Don't over horse yourself. I realize many people think they are a much better rider than they really are but it's a danger to yourself and others when you are trying to handle a horse way above your skill level.

2. Make sure your mare is not in heat if you are planning on taking her to a show where they could be stallions present. I was recently at a show with a friend and he asked me to hold his stud for him (great older QH with impeccable manners) while he went to change into other clothes and the stallion was asleep so I was slightly more relaxed than I probably should have been (I know bad but if you knew this stallion you would know it was normally OK to be slightly off guard). We were great until some idiot walked their very in heat mare through the barn aisle FULL OF STALLIONS and right next to JD and I. Poor JD was jolted awake and started trying to impress the mare with loud bugles, head tossing, etc. The mare flipped and started kicking and biting at JD and I which made the handler curse and yell at her before starting to yell at me to get my stallion under control. People started running to see what the commotion was and a security guard asked the man to leave. After he left it didn't take long to get JD thinking with the right head and back to his normal calm self. Scared the s**** out of me though.

3. If you know your horse has any issues with strange horses\people or is green make sure to make it obvious. Tie a red ribbon on it's tail (can't remember the color for a green horse), post signs around it's stall or grooming area, do whatever but make it obvious. People may still get to close but if something happens they can't say they didn't know.

I agree with all the things everyone else has said, especially what's been said about kids or other people handling your horses. I haven't gone to a show to compete in ages because I'm worried some idiot will do something stupid and my horse, me, or someone else will get hurt. My horses all have great manners but I don't know about others so for right now I'm sticking to trails and training.
 

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