A Horse Can Hurt You and Even Kill You
The Horse That Can Kill You Is Your Own
When Doing Anything With A Horse, Always Use A Halter And Lead Rope. Stay Connected
Always Place Yourself Between The Horse And The Exit
Become The Leader
To Be A Leader Of A Horse You Need To Know The Personalities Of Horses
Seek First To Understand
Then To Be Understood
The Law Of Energy
A Horse Is A Horse
www.theequinepractice.com © Geoff Tucker, DVM
" An irrefutable law is impossible to deny or disprove. Many say laws are meant to
be broken. A plane defies the law of gravity by flying, but the law of gravity always wins
at the end of the day.
" We look at laws more as an inconvenience when in reality, the laws of this earth
are never broken. For the plane, the law of lift becomes stronger than the law of gravity.
We outsmart gravity until lift is gone and then gravity rules again.
" In the horse world there are laws as well. Often we try to break them with
" This short book is for all who work with horses. Everyone, because these laws
apply to anyone who gets near a horse. The nation you live in and the language you
speak have no bearing on how these laws apply.
" For the person who is new to horses, learn these laws and apply them. You will
live long and without serious injury. Many of you are supplemental to the ownership of
the horse. You may be just the bill payer, but you will need to learn these laws as well
as discuss them with your children. You have a responsibility to them for their safety.
Experienced horse owners may have developed a system without these laws that works
for them. Years have passed without a problem, but like the plane that looses lift, you
too will lose to these broken laws.
" Prevention is far easier. Preparing in your mind and turning prepared actions into
habits will diminish your chances of injury. It is in the mind where you need to start. A
helmet secured to your head will prevent many injuries, but paying attention to and
constantly connecting to your horse will diminish the action that causes the wreck.
" Why is this book so important? Simply put, our relationship with horses has
changed. For the majority of people in the US, horses are recreational vehicles parked
in the garage and pulled out on weekends or maybe an hour at the end of the work day.
No longer are horses an integral part of life where 12 hours a day were spent with
horses. Many owners show up just to ride while a hired hand does all the work.
" The connection between man and horse is rarely made which makes the
following rules even more important.
" At first the rules will appear restrictive, but they are not. Once they become habit,
they will be second nature. They may save your life or your horse's life.
LAW #1 - A HORSE CAN HURT YOU & EVEN KILL YOU
" The reason this is the first law is because I have seen many horse owners be
clueless about the fact that these beautiful animals weigh 5 to 10 times more than we
" Let me ask this. Would you allow me to swing a baseball bat at your head? A
horse's leg has more weight and moves as fast as a swinging bat. Their hooves can
fracture bones as well as organs and that can cause you to bleed internally.
" Here's another question. Would you let me run into you as fast as I can? Even if
we were equal in weight, my mass times speed will hurt you. Now imagine 10 of me
running into you at the same time. No question - you would be hurt.
" Yes, law #1 is to be aware that a horse can kill you. Usually it is an inadvertent
act and not a direct act. "He was kicking at a fly and I was in the way," has been said
too many times. Why were you standing behind the horse in the first place?
LAW #2 - THE HORSE THAT CAN KILL YOU IS YOUR OWN
" This law brings it home. Often I see people be cautious around a strange horse.
Yet around their own the tragedy strikes.
" If we all agree with law #1, why do we think it doesn't apply to us and our own
" Almost every person I know either hurt or killed by a horse has been caused by a
familiar horse that kicked while being groomed or fed, or the rider just fell off the horse
that was walking. There have been outright attacks by what I call FELONS.
Unprovoked attacks, or so they seem. Once I was working on an anesthetized foal and
while it was asleep on it’s side it kicked me. Couldn’t predict that!
" Another time I was passing a stomach tube up the nose of a mare and she
stepped forward with her hoof onto the tip of my shoe. My toes were OK but my foot
was pinned to the floor. Her body moved forward into me. Because my foot was
pinned, I started to fall as I was pushed. All would have been OK, but my rib met the
corner of a wooden box feeder and it broke my rib. Any other spot in the stall and I
would have been OK.
" Yes, accidents do happen all the time around horses. The more you are with
them the more chance you have of getting hurt. Be aware of your horse and your
surroundings at all times to minimize your risks of injury.
" The remaining laws deal with minimizing the risks. Use them to favor you in
preventing injury and pain.
LAW #3 - WHEN DOING ANYTHING WITH A HORSE, ALWAYS USE A HALTER AND
LEAD ROPE. STAY CONNECTED.
" Mechanical Advantage is a physics principle dealing with leverage. In simple
terms, a lever allows you to multiply your strength.
" When a horse wants to go in a direction other than where you want it to go, you
need to only turn it’s head for the body to follow. The head is attached to a very long
and strong neck.
" When the head and neck turn and you get behind this movement, you have lost
control of the horse. However, if you are attached directly to the head with a length of
rope where your closest hand to the horse is about 2 feet away, then the leverage you
can apply to the head can overcome the strength of the neck. Control can quickly and
easily be returned to the handler.
" When the length of the rope between the horse and the hand holding the rope
becomes longer than 2 feet, the leverage is lost because the horse can get ahead of
you. In addition, with too long a lead the horse can get ahead of you and kick you.
" When you lead a horse or work around him, keep the lead near this 2 foot mark.
This will keep you in the safety zone next to his shoulder. Here a horse will have
difficulty striking or kicking you, though it is still possible to do both.
" Keep yourself connected to the horse even if you need to move your hand further
than 2 feet. For example, when you need to work around the back end of a horse you
can allow the lead to lengthen. If the horse spooks, he will come up short and bring his
attention back to you where it belongs. If you are not attached, he is gone creating the
potential for injury. " A better approach is to have someone else hold the horse. That
person should always remain on the same side of the horse that you are working on.
" If alone and the horse ties, then tie him to keep control. Be sure to use a safety
release on the rope.
" I have seen people use halters without a lead or even lead a horse with only a
handful of mane. These people have developed bad habits that will eventually cause
injury. In addition, this teaches bad habits to young people who may be watching, and
they are always watching!
" For those taking shortcuts, I realize you may have a good track record and your
horse will never hurt you. Beware of this: we are always teaching someone who is
watching us, and those people have learned your bad habits. They then buy a new
horse that does not have the manners of your horse. The new owner uses your poor
habits of leading or working around the horse and subsequently one of them gets hurt.
You are to blame.
" If new to horses, learn the proper way to stay physically connected to your horse.
Take the time. Don’t be lazy. Do it right every time. Set the example.
LAW #4 - ALWAYS PLACE YOURSELF BETWEEN THE HORSE AND THE EXIT
" This location needs to be in your head at all times. There is nothing worse than
to be in the back of the stall especially when LAW #3 has been broken & there is
nothing connecting you to the horse. If the door is open, the horse will usually leave.
If the door is closed and the horse is upset, then you could end up pressed between his
hind hooves and the stall wall.
" I know, this won’t happen to you because your horse loves you. So lets take a
look at another situation; turning your horse out into the paddock.
" Do you lead the horse through the paddock gate, turn him loose, then slap him
on the butt as he goes by? If so, you may become a statistic when he kicks out as he
" The correct safe way to turn out is to walk through the gate, turn the horse
around and have him face you. Now you are between the exit and the horse. Before
letting go, have the horse reach a clam state. When he is calm, release the horse and
start walking away from the horse through the gate and close it.
" Releasing a horse that is not calm and allowing him to run away from you is not
respectful, dangerous, and promotes anarchy in the herd. This is a loss of your
leadership position. From this point everything else continues downhill.
" Placing yourself between the horse and the exit places you in control and keeps
LAW #5 - BECOME THE LEADER
" Horses live in a herd world with an organization of one boss and the rest. You
are part of that herd. If you won’t be the leader, the horse will.
" The horse has a brain that is similar to ours. Think of my Mac computer and your
Windows computer; both do the same thing but each use a different operating system.
Similarly, our operating system is different from a horse.
" Both our brains have a neocortex about the size of a dinner napkin and as thick
as 3 business cards stacked together. It covers the outside of the brain and is the
source of all our memories and thoughts. I am going to assume that because our
neocortex and the horse's neocortex are so similar, we can have similar thoughts,
memories, and personalities. However, because of the different operating systems, our
structure of important life issues is different.
" We can all agree that when a new born baby or foal gets hungry, they are both
wired to nurse. After that, things differ. The foal gets up and starts to run, his first step
to becoming part of the herd. The infant on the other hand seems to crawl forever and
becomes dependent on the family unit.
" In the herd dynamic, there is a hierarchy, also known as a pecking order. Foals
don't read a book on this. It just is. Each foal compares itself to those around it, then
based on it’s wiring plus life experiences, either settles for where he is, allows himself to
be placed at the bottom of the heap, or fights for top position.
" It is important to realize that you are part of this herd positioning.
" Does your horse follow you everywhere or does he stay far away? When you
ask him for something, is his answer “yes,” “no,” or “maybe?” Does he snap to attention
or does he ignore you or disrespect you?
" If your relationship with your horse places you at least equal or better in the herd,
then your life with horses will be good. If your horse has become the leader and runs
rough shod over you then at best, your life with horses will be miserable and at worst,
you may become injured or even killed. Unless of course it is not in you to be a leader.
If that is the case, then it is best for you to find the horse who also doesn’t want to be
the leader. You will both be very happy.
LAW #6 - TO BE A LEADER YOU NEED TO KNOW PERSONALITIES
" Almost 2000 years ago, philosophers thought that our personalities came from
our body fluids. They named them Sanguine, Melancholy, Choleric and Phlegmatic. I
will briefly describe them here but you can read more from hundreds of books written
about this. My favorite is Personality Plus by Florence Littauer (see bibliography)
" Before I describe the personality types, you need to know 2 things about them.
First - we are blends of these with one or two being dominate. Ideally we should be an
equal blend. Second - since becoming a vet in 1984 I have worked with over 44,000
horses and I have seen these basic personality types in horses.
" Sanguine - the life of the party, loves attention, loves the spotlight, fun to be
around, makes friends easily, energetic, emotional, loves people, charming.
" Choleric - demanding, dominate, strong willed, independent, confident, goal
oriented, good under pressure, loves the competition.
" Melancholy - organized, orderly, thinkers, analytical, artistic, perfectionist, needs
to complete things, avoids attention, faithful, compassionate.
" Phlegmatic - Low keyed, easy going, doesn't get flustered, takes his time,
peaceful, everyone likes him, balanced but hides emotions.
" Have I described your horse? In my business I need to know what the dominate
personality of the horse is as soon as I enter the stall; 9 times out of 10 it’s easy.
" Become good at this because your ability to communicate with your horse is
proportional to your understanding of his personality.
" For instance you would never say to a dominate choleric horse, “Excuse me, but
would you like to walk with me out to the paddock?” His answer will always be
determined by him and not you; “yes” if he wants to go, “no” if he doesn't want to, or
“maybe” if he thinks there might be something in it for him but he needs to be sure first.
" You best be on your game when you walk an excited sanguine horse out to the
paddock because there will be a lot of dancing.
" Have fun learning these and play a game with your friends and family.
Determine their personality then determine their horse's personality. Become good at
this improving to the point of being confident in the shortest amount of time. Don’t be
frustrated if you don’t get it right away especially when people cover up their true
personalities or hide behind them because of life experiences. Luckily, the horse
usually wears his personality on his sleeve. That’s why we like them so much.
LAW #7 - SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND
" This is part A of the basic tool of communication.
" Horses have become a part time endeavor for most horse owners in the United
States. Like a recreational vehicle parked in a garage and brought out on weekends,
horses have become objects. This isn’t as bad as it sounds. When it goes wrong is
when we don’t take the time to listen to them. That is when they truly become an
inanimate object; a very sad day in the life of a horse.
" I know many of you love your horse and talk to them all the time lavishing gifts of
treats, but how many of you listen to them? More importantly, how many horses have
stopped trying to tell you what you need to hear?
" Here is an example. Pretend you cannot speak Chinese. Now pretend you are
in a room of 1,000 Chinese people and you need to go to the bathroom. As time passes
your sense of urgency mounts, but everyone you ask doesn’t speak your language and
you don’t speak theirs. You have tears rolling down your face, your legs are crossed,
your foot is tapping, you’re embarrassed, you can’t think of anything else, you are
agitated, and you are starting to hate all people who don’t speak your language.
" There is no difference between not knowing a language and not listening; it is
your choice. Just because a horse cannot form or speak words doesn’t mean he can’t
" You are about to give up when a Chinese person who does not speak your
language understands the “other” language of someone needing a bathroom. He takes
your hand and leads you through the crowd to the bathroom.
" Guess who just became your best friend? The one who sought first to
understand you. You may be a Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholy, or Phlegmatic and the
same with the person who helped you. Seeking to understand is universal and is not
personality dependent. That comes next.
" In all communication - human or horse - there is always a starting point. If you
want to become a leader of your horse, you have a choice. You can go in and demand
action much like climbing into your recreational vehicle, starting the engine, and
stomping on the gas, OR you can ask permission to enter the stall and ask simply, “How
are you my friend?”
" As the leader you set the tone. There is no better way to set the
tone than to recognize that these are living, breathing animals with thoughts and
personalities. This only takes a moment. The words don’t have to be said. Just offer
your hand and let him sniff, rub the head, or touch the shoulder. STOP AND LISTEN,
then ask, “Are you with me?”
" You have established communication effectively by doing this. Believe me
because I do this about 3500 times a year before I place a carbide steel file into their
mouth and start filing the teeth. Nine out of 10 horses let me do this willingly without
drugs or equipment.
LAW # 8 - THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD
" This is part B and is always applied after LAW 7 - SEEK FIRST TO
" You are the leader of your horse at all times. Now that you have established an
open and willing line of communication and determined that your horse is willing to
listen, you need to select the form or style of your communication to him. This is where
understanding their personality is important.
" A larger body of work may be needed here, but the basics are simple. A point
needs to be made first. Just because a horse cannot speak human languages doesn’t
mean he can’t understand your words. A case in point is your dog. “Come, sit, stay, roll
over, play dead” - all human words your dog understands. Another case in point -
saying words to an infant. So use words effectively when working with your horse and
stop calling him “BUTT HEAD”!
" Each horse has a dominate personality over the rest of the types. When you
want a horse with one of these dominant personalities to do something (select the type):
" Sanguine - make it fun, congratulate abundantly, smile, laugh, but don’t
expect them to follow orders. Guide gently. Keep a low energy.
" Choleric - make it his idea, use language like you were talking to a human,
be confident, show him that he can do it and that he wants to do it, work together and
allow him leadership in the task while offering confidence and guidance, constantly
communicate ideas but stop nagging him. He gets it already.
" Melancholy - Be organized, be proactive, if anything changes (a bird
suddenly flies up) stick to the plan and maintain your direction. These guys follow orders
well and are focused but be clear and detailed. Vagueness doesn't work."
" Phlegmatic - remain the rock of confidence he needs, never sway, be the
decision maker. He will always forgive you and he will save your butt when you get into
trouble. These horses become the “bomb proof” ones.
LAW #9 - THE LAW OF ENERGY
" Never exceed the energy of the horse. Leadership never comes from a
higher level of energy.
" Think of every leader you have known - real or in the movies - they are calm and
confident. Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry - “Go ahead make my day.” I also know that
only a few people can lower their energy levels on demand and rarely in the face of high
" The first step is to recognize that you and whoever you are with have an energy
level. When you are with someone you are comfortable with your energy level is low
because of your confidence in your relationship with that person or situation.
" A teacher is confident on the first day of class even though all the students are
new. Don’t confuse excitement with a high energy level. The teacher is in his element
and is therefore confident. He automatically is the leader.
" What happens when a student challenges that teacher’s authority? The result is
dependent upon the teacher’s reaction to the student’s elevated energy. " Pretend you
are the teacher and your horse is the student who is claiming the responsibility of
leadership. Here are the various outcomes:
" #1 You surrender the leadership role to the horse and he becomes the boss. He
eats all day and you go in the house either wondering why you are wasting your money
or worse, you are in an ambulance.
" #2 No one surrenders the leadership. The horse raises his energy and you raise
your energy to match. Then you up the energy level and the horse does the same.
This is what I call a crescendo - a word which means that the music is growing louder.
" Both the human and the horse think they are the leaders because each is
increasing their energy trying to dominate each other. In reality there is anarchy.
" Not only is there no leader, each party is a follower. After the battle there’s a
winner and a loser - not a very good relationship. The possible results are the same for
both the human and the horse: a) spirit is broken and/or b) bones are broken.
" #3 You remain the leader. Leadership comes from the lowest energy level, from
confidence. As a leader you cannot raise your energy to the level of the horse. When
your horse starts to act like “The sky is falling!”, the leader does not look at the sky. He
does not crescendo. The leader only sees where the leader wants to be and leads the
followers to that place. When you feel energy levels rising, consciously bring your
energy levels down.
LAW #10 - A HORSE IS A HORSE
" This Law is so important to understand and is easily applied no matter what your
personality is, yet in my experience this simple thought seems so elusive because
people live in a complex world. People become confused between the emotion they
have being with horses and the fact that it is the connection with the horse that brings
the joy and not the physical horse.
" If it was just the horse then why do we cry when he dies? Logically you should
be happy; one less stall to clean and less supplies to buy. The reason we cry is
because upon the death of the horse, we have lost the connection that means so much
" Before you read more, please let me explain. We all love horses, but it is our
definition of love that we may not agree on. I know well the saying, “A way to a man's
heart is through his stomach.” When I first met my wife she cooked up a storm. Now
33 years later, it is not the cooking that has kept us together. It is the CONNECTION. It
is the conversation we have while we eat or the fun we have trying a new restaurant.
" Nurturing the connection of who we are, not who we think the other should be is
what has worked for us. Same with your horse. Don't try to change him into something
he can never be. Your horse is not a surrogate child, a surrogate spouse, therapy for
your problems at work, the friend you cannot find in the people world, a cow, dog, cat, or
any other animal. Take the horse for what he is - an individual living being with certain
needs and desires unique to that horse.
" You were a child once. Did your parent greet you in the afternoon after school
with a bowl of candy then ask if you wouldn't mind cleaning your room and possibly do a
little school work? No! Then why is it OK to greet your horse with carrots, candies, and
treats and then ask if he might want to do a little work?
" Why do we feed horses “meals” when they are continuous eaters as evidenced
by being one of the few animals I know that has no gall bladder? They cannot store bile
in preparation for digestion of a meal. They are supposed to have hay or pasture
available at all times.
" Why do we want to avoid chemicals such as dewormers in our horses claiming
an all natural approach to parasite prevention? If that is what you want, then take down
the fence and open the barn door. Natural deworming is letting the horse eat here,
defecate there, and be 50 miles away from his last manure pile by the next day. That is
how horses prevent parasite infections naturally.
" These are a few examples of how we have “humanized” the horse. I am sure
you can think of more. Remember though that they are still a horse. Understand that
they have similar personalities, that they have a language, they have agendas, they
have “horse rules”, and they are kept by humans but are not humans.
" When I walk into a stall I am very clear with the horse. I am a human and he is a
horse. To open up the dialog that leads to communication, I offer my presence as an
equal being using the common language of respect. For me to offer him a brochure on
the floating process before I start floating would be ridiculous. Even if he could read it,
he would not understand the concept. A horse understands respect and a willingness of
a human to seek first to understand their position, then to explain what we humans are
trying to do.
" Watching the slow and gradual look of understanding transform their fearful and
tense body into a relaxed and almost sleeping patient as I remove their oral pain still,
after 27 years of doing this, almost brings tears to my eyes.
" This book is a product of my experiences with horses since 1973. I have been
blessed to have a job where I experience on average more than 3500 different horses a
year. I see people continually make the same avoidable mistakes. It is my goal to bring
The 10 Irrefutable Laws Of Horsemanship to every horse owner in the world.
" I know I will get mixed reviews ranging from brilliant to stupid. It really doesn't
matter. What I am looking for is not reviews. I am looking to save at least one life -
either man or horse. These laws have saved me over and over again. Learn the laws
and let them become a part of your life.
Personality Plus by Florence Littauer
ISBN 10: 0-8007-5445-X
www.theequinepractice.com © Geoff Tucker, DVM
Last updated by Barnmice Media Aug 14, 2010.