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SULKING HORSE

By Julie Goodnight

THE INCIDENT

It was a typical afternoon feeding; I had a bridal shower to go to; so I had my mind on getting the feeding done and getting out of there. The farm owner and I loaded up the hay bales in the back of the tractor's trailer and headed out to the fields to distribute the hay.

My horse, Red, is an older, docile, gentle gelding who has never been known to kick anyone before or since. My 4-year-old niece rides him and he is very popular with my younger riding students. He is excessively cute, and people-oriented.  That morning my farrier had been by to trim his hooves, and we both noticed he was very grumpy; pinning his ears and "sulking".  The weather had been gloomy, and having to compete with 12 other horses in his field, even though it is a large field, I think, was taking a toll on his usually happy nature. Red is a bit spoiled and prefers one - on - one attention and feed also.

I got out of the tractor to fill the 100 gal. water tank, which sits next to an open gate that connects two fields. As I headed back to the tractor, my horse, Red passed through the gate. As he did, I reached out to pat him on the butt, without thinking. The next thing I know, I was in at the emergency room with my Mom, who was telling me that my beloved horse had kicked my face in.

Apparently, as I reached out to pet my horse, he kicked out, hitting me in the mouth, sending me flying through the air onto the back of my head. I had a concussion, deep, multiple lacerations to my mouth and lips, and four damaged teeth. I spent all night and the next morning in an ambulance and two different hospitals, having my face surgically repaired.

THE ANALYSIS

Of course, there is so much that could have been done to prevent this from happening, and as one who preaches safety to my students all of the time, I felt really dumb for not doing something about my unsafe feeding habits long before:

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    • Keeping the horses out of the field I was putting hay in by closing the connection gate and opening it after I was done. It requires an extra step, but it is the conscientious and safe thing to do.
    • Not approaching my horse from behind and surprising him; knowing that a horse’s natural instinct is to kick out when surprised from behind. Horses can be touchy during feeding times, and it is even easier to startle them when their focus is elsewhere.
    • I am reconsidering feeding by myself in the mornings. If it had been a morning incident, it would have been hours and hours before I was missed and discovered. Although there may be times when feeding by yourself is unavoidable, I’ll make sure that I am extra cautious when that happens.
    • Haste makes waste; it never pays to get in a hurry around horses. Needless to say, I never made it to the bridal shower!

I am sure there are many other areas in which I can improve the safety at feeding time and I recognize now that I had become complacent. Just because “I’ve always done it that way,” doesn’t make it safe. One thing we have all learned in working with horses over the years, is that what can go wrong, will go wrong, eventually.

Editor’s Note: Normally this column includes true stories that have been fictionalized. This article is a true story written in the words of the victim, with editorial assistance from the author… Thank you for sharing stories that will prevent others from being hurt. If you have a story you would like to share, please email it to us at office@CHA-ahse.org