I recently wrote about the zen of hand-grazing a horse. It’s a centering activity for you and contributes to your relationship with your horse and their emotional well-being (as well as physical health if it’s the only source of fresh grass that your horse has.)
I failed to mention something.
My horse is small. He weighs about 1,000 pounds. Standing square, that’s approximately 250 pounds of weight per hoof, but if he spooks at something, and wheels around to hightail it the other direction, all of his mass bears down on one metal-shod hoof.
Here is what Tonka looks like, standing calmly.
A while back, late in the afternoon, I was hand-grazing Tonka. A friend at the barn was out on the grass with her horse. It was a peaceful evening. Tonka, although he is a laid-back guy, is also always aware of what’s going on in his surroundings. One second he had his head down, munching away, the next, it was up (This photo was taken at a different time, what I’m describing happened too fast to photograph!)
A half-second later he swung around to take a good look at what had alarmed him. (Although horses are labeled flight animals, the behavior is more complex than that. The alert horse – like a Tonka – will turn to face the new and/or scary thing to assess it. Sometimes, they even head towards it to better check it out.) So, Tonka wheeled around to see what was coming. In doing so, his right hind hoof landed squarely on my boot, and stayed there while he pivoted. And stayed there while he quivered, assessing the “monster” coming around the corner. It seemed like a very, very long time that he had me pinned to the spot.
The scary thing was actually the mom of a teenage rider. She was walking in an odd way – she was looking for something that had been lost in the grass, and she was coming from a direction that no-one comes from that time of day. Tonka was right to be alarmed. (A savvy horse person would have called out to announce her presence, but this is not a “horse-person”. Like at many stables, we are constantly loudly saying “door” to let others know when we’re coming into the barn, or around a bend. It prevents a lot of mishaps.)
One reason that I like being at a boarding barn is that there are often people around to help. Tonka was taken to his stall by one friend, and I was helped into the tack room by another. An ice pack was procured. We all have first aid kits for our horses. Sometimes we use the stuff on ourselves.
This is my boot. You can see the line in the dust where the hoof was.
When I got home, I iced it some more. It helps to have a sympathetic nurse dog.
My little toe was broken, and over the next few days, my foot turned various shades of yellow to purple. (I’m fine now!)
It could have been much worse, but I was wearing my sturdy leather paddock boots. Horses, even kind, calm ones, like Tonka, are dangerous animals and so I do what I can to minimize the risk. I always ride with a helmet. I always wear sturdy boots. Even today, with the temperature a scorching, humid 93, and even though I’m not going to ride, I’m still going to wear my boots.
By the way, Tonka gets a day off because we went to a show yesterday. We entered just one class and he was super. We scored a 66.8 (dressage people will recognize that that’s an excellent score.) It would have been higher but the judge said I didn’t salute and so applied two penalty points. I did salute, but somehow she didn’t see it. I’d been taught, years ago, to do a straight, polite, salute. Perhaps it’s too subtle? Next time I will add a bit of a flourish off to the side. Anyway, once again we scored higher than many of the big fancy warmbloods, which was nice, but the most affirming moment of the day was when a competitor came up to me and said, “You had a beautiful test. It was so relaxed and flowing. That’s what I want to be able to do with my horse.” So we talked briefly about how to ride and have happy horses. That’s why I go to the shows.
Thank goodness they weren’t steel toed boots!!!
An excellent service message, Terry!
I know you’ve had your share of accidents with horses, so you appreciate this 🙂
I don’t know how many pounds of pressure steel-toed boots can withstand before they crumple. Tonka would have likely made an impression!
Good point to mention. I take the same safety precautions: always wearing sturdy footwear (even in summer) always were a helmet and so on. It is weird that some people don’t seem to notice the importance.
Yesterday a new horse arrived at the barn. The horse came that day because they couldn’t load him the day before. Even though the owner didn’t load her own horse, she was in flip flops. At a barn! Her horse was still very nervous (this was the first time away from home) so she went into his paddock to calm him down. In flipflops. I am relieved nothing happened, but still… Makes me shiver. I have seen pictures of injured feet due to improper footwear. Stay safe people, your horse needs you. 😉
At a previous barn the owner of a massive Percheron mare was an orthopedic surgeon. She’d go out in flip flops to say hello to her horse. Of all people, she should have known better! Interesting what blind spots people have to safety.
So grateful that with all the other things you do, you also take time to write! Always a pleasure to read your thoughts, see that beautiful horse and sweet nursedog too Thank you
Of all of the things that I identify as, “writer” is at the top of the list. Thank you for being here with me.
I had that happen to both my foot (in boot- broken pinky toe too) and my head. The head was following an unexpected trip. I rolled off over his shoulder. No biggie, hopped right up. I had to untangle my reins from his feet which was my big worry, but he stood calmly. Then I noticed that my helmet felt funny. I took it off and there was a shod, studded, hoof print on my crushed helmet.
Even the best horse is a big, dangerous animal. We must take simple safety precautions.
Thanks for sharing Terry!
That’s scary. I, too, have had a helmet that showed exactly what my head hit (in my case a painted rail). Glad you’re okay.
When I was a child in Canada my friend and I not only rode without helmets but also barefoot in the summer. Safety was something we did not think off but that was some 65 years ago !!
With Jess it is very different, boots and helmet at all times and a body support ( can’t remember what they are called ) when riding. Glad you are okay and Scooter makes a great companion…:)
I always wore a helmet – but those early ones didn’t do much! Thankfully by the time I had a hard fall, the design had improved.
I also am a member of The Broken Toe Club. The bruise on top of my foot was the perfect image of a horse shoe in color. It was interesting to watch the colors fade over several days.
Those colors are something, aren’t they? I took photos but thought I’d spare my readers 🙂
I love the picture of Scooter, the official Nurse Dog. A valuable role, certainly, and one requiring much cuddling skill. We all have our talents, and Scooter clearly knows his.
I’m so sorry about the salute mishap…that would have irritated the bejesus out of me, especially as I was taught to do a deliberate but quiet and understated salute, as well.
Relaxed and flowing….ah. That just about makes up for all of it.
Good luck with your toe. I’ve broken eight of mine and boy, does it hurt!