Log In

Reset Password

NBLA Trail Notes: Safety Around Horses For The Non-Rider



Text Size

The Second Company Governor’s Horse Guard and the Newtown Bridle Lands Association collaborated on presenting a very informative talk given by retired Lieutenant Colonel Gordon Johnson and Sergeant Lawrence Reinhardt on the topic of how to be safe around horses on February 20. The presentation took place at the headquarters of the Horse Guard on the Fairfield Hills campus.

Tex, one of the Guard horses, participated in the presentation. The two officers covered a wide variety of topics such as body language, vision, herd behavior, checking the horse for injuries, checking your tack for wear and tear, desensitizing your horse to stimuli, and safety clothing. This talk sparked today’s column about good safety practices for the non-rider.

Horses are large, powerful creatures and while they rarely want to inflict injury on their human friends, it can happen when we don’t understand how to act and react around them. We know that in the wild they are a prey animal and their best defense to danger is to run away. That desire overrides everything else, regardless of where you are, either on or near the horse. The other major force in a horse’s psyche is their herd mentality. To stay safe, they always prefer to be in a herd and to do what the other horses are doing.

One question the non-riding public often asks is how they should behave when they see a horse and rider out on the trail. The best advice is to STOP, SPEAK, and YIELD. Make sure your dog is leashed. You STOP to allow the horse to get a good look at you, you SPEAK to reassure the horse that, yes, you are a friendly human being and not a predator, you YIELD by moving to the side of the trail to allow room for the horse to pass. A few don’ts: Don’t walk up and pet the horse without the rider’s consent, and don’t allow your dog to get close because you have no idea how the horse will react. Have a chat with the rider; we are friendly!

If you are driving down the road and see a horse and rider on the shoulder, please slow down and give them plenty of room. Equestrians are required to ride with the traffic so you’ll see them on the right. Please do not honk your horn; this can scare the horse who might jump into the road. If you are driving a truck or bus, please don’t downshift right by the horse, that also makes a large scary noise. Slow down, pass with a wider berth of at least six to eight feet, and do not pass on hills or curves. When approaching a horse from behind, let oncoming traffic pass the horse first, and when returning to the traffic lane, do not cut quickly in front of the horse; give them plenty of room and, finally, stop and wait if the rider is having difficulty controlling the horse. You might occasionally see a horse and cart in the traffic lane. In that case, please drive a minimum of 20 feet behind them when following on the road.

Connecticut State Law (14-293b) requires motor vehicle operators to reduce speed or stop if necessary to avoid endangering the rider or frightening or striking the horse, and it is forbidden to blow a horn or cause a loud or unusual noise in a manner to startle or frighten the horse. You might be held liable if your carelessness causes an accident. Please be calm and patient when interacting with our equines on trail or road!

For more information about this and other horse-related topics, the Connecticut Horse Council at cthorsecouncil.org has lots of great information.

Tracy Van Buskirk is a 39 year resident of Newtown and president of the Newtown Bridle Lands Association, at www.nblact.org, a nonprofit volunteer organization formed in 1978 to foster an interest in horseback riding as well as preserving, protecting and maintaining riding and hiking trails in the community. Horses have always been a part of her life. She owns a small bay quarter horse named Little Bear.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Gordon Johnson discusses the importance of maintaining tack in excellent condition. One frayed leather strap can turn into a major accident. In the foreground is a McClelland saddle. The McClelland was designed in the 19th Century and adopted by the US Army in 1859. The open seat design was lighter and easier on the horse, although not necessarily the rider. —Tracy Van Buskirk photos
Sergeant Lawrence Reinhardt, left, and retired Lieutenant Colonel Gordon Johnson stand with Tex during a discussion about safety around horses at the headquarters of the Horse Guard on the Fairfield Hills campus on February 20.
Comments are open. Be civil.

Leave a Reply