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horses and horsemanship
4-H HORSE PROGRAM
4-H HORSE PROGRAM
HORSES AND HORSEMANSHIP
This educational material has been prepared for 4-H use by the Cooperative Extension Services of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture and State Land-Grant Universities in cooperation with the National 4-H
Council and the American Quarter Horse Association.
Trade or brand names used in the publications are used only for the purpose of educational information.
The information given herein is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no
endorsement of products or breeds of horses by the Federal Extension Service or State Cooperative
Extension Services is implied, nor does it imply approval of products or breeds of horses to the exclusion
of others which may also be suitable.
This material was originally published by the National 4-H Council, 7100 Connecticut Avenue, Chevy
Chase, Maryland 20815.
Programs and educational materials supported by National 4-H Council; Extension Service, United
States Department of Agriculture; and all Cooperative Extension Services of the State Land-Grant
Universities are available to all persons regardless of race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin or
handicap. All are equal opportunity employers.
SAFETY RULES AND PRECAUTIONS
Safety for yourself and others, courtesy for others and
kindness to horses are basically akin. They fit into the
same "package" for discussion. Safety goes
hand-in-hand with common "horse sense" and good
animal husbandry practices. Horses have an instinct or
awareness for reflecting the care, caution and concern
of the rider. They are normally gentle and quiet
animals, but can become highly excited or nervous if
frightened or mistreated. A calm attitude, slow easy
movements and a gentle flow of soft words will lessen
fear and excitement in nervous horses. Disregarding
simple safety rules in handling horses can result in
serious injury, or even fatality.
Basic safety rules are a must and should be learned and
practiced until they become everyday habit and custom.
For purposes of clarity and convenience, we shall
discuss horse and rider safety and courtesy under five
1) Safety in catching, handling & leading horses.
2) Safety in bridling, saddling & mounting horses.
3) Safety controlling and riding horses.
4) Showing the horse with safety and courtesy.
5) General safety rules.
I. SAFETY IN CATCHING, HANDLING
& LEADING HORSES
1. CATCHING YOUR HORSE SAFELY
a) Approach a horse from his left and from the front.
Never walk or stand behind a horse unannounced. The
horse is always on the defensive. If he becomes aware
of something behind him his immediate instinct -
prompted by fear is either to kick or run. If tied or
confined in a stall, the animal cannot run, so he usually
kicks. Even in single stalls it is possible to approach
from an oblique angle at the rear.
b) When a rider is kicked, it is usually through his own
carelessness. If it is necessary to approach a horse from
the rear, speak to him to warn of your presence. As
soon as the animal is aware of you, stroke him gently
on the croup, then move calmly to the head, keeping
always close into the horse's body. The closer you
stand to a horse, the less likely you will be kicked; you
may be shoved away, but not hurt.
2. SAFE HANDLING OF YOUR HORSE
a) Always let the horse know what you intend to do.
For instance, when picking up the feet, do not reach for
and seize the foot hurriedly, as this will startle the
horse and is liable to cause him to kick. Learn the
proper way to lift the feet.
b) Learn simple means of restraint, such as crosstying
in the open and holding up a front foot.
c) Tie horses with right length of rope. Don't stake
d) Pet a horse by first placing your hand on his
shoulder and neck. Don't dab at the end of his nose.
e) Work about a horse from a position as near the
shoulder as possible. In this way, you cannot be
touched by either the front or hind feet of the horse.
This is particularly true when passing around the
horse's head, or in working about the haunches.
f) Always walk around your horse. Never walk under
the tie rope nor step over it.
g) Tie your horse far enough away from strange horses
so they cannot fight.
h) Always untie the lead shank before taking the halter
off your horse. This may prevent him from pulling
back and becoming a "halter-puller".
3. LEADING YOUR HORSE SAFELY
a) Walk beside the horse when leading, not ahead or
behind him. Always turn the horse to the right and
walk around him.
b) Use a long lead strap and both hands when leading.
If the horse rears up, release hand nearest the halter so
you can stay on the ground.
c) When leading a horse, grasp the reins 12 to 24 in.
from the bit on the left side.
d) Your horse is stronger than you, so don't try to
out-pull him. He will usually respond to a quick snap
on the lead rope.
e) Never wrap lead strap, halter shank, or reins around
your hand, wrist, or body. Always keep a secure hold
on lead strap.
f) If the horse hangs back on the end of the rope, lead
him a few steps forward before touching him with your
g) Keep leads and long lines off the ground.
h) When leading into a box stall, turn the horse so that
he faces the door before releasing the lead strap.
SAFETY RULES AND PRECAUTIONS
II. SAFETY IN BRIDLING, SADDLING
& MOUNTING HORSES
1. BRIDLING SAFETY
a) Keep your head in the clear when bridling the horse.
He may throw his head or strike to avoid the bridle.
Avoid bridling a nervous animal in close quarters.
After buckling the throat latch always place the loose
end of the strap through the keeper on the buckle.
2. SADDLING SAFETY
a) In using a double rigged saddle remember, saddle
front cinch first, rear cinch last; but when unsaddling a
horse, be sure to unbuckle the rear cinch first. Failing
to do so can "spook" your horse and cause a bad
b) When saddling be careful to keep cinch ring from
striking the off knee.
c) Adjust the saddle carefully and the cinch tight
enough so it will not turn when you mount. Lead the
horse a few steps before mounting.
d) In addition to safely putting equipment on your
horse it must be kept in good repair. Keep bridle reins,
stirrup leathers, and cinch straps in the best possible
condition, as your safety depends on these straps.
Replace any strap when it begins to show signs of
3. MOUNTING SAFETY
a) Stand with your feet well back in the clear and
reach forward when saddling the mount.
b) Swing the saddle into position easily-not suddenly.
Dropping the saddle down quickly or hard may scare
c) Soon after starting the ride, dismount and again
tighten the saddle girth. Horses often swell up when
first saddled, and failure to tighten girths later can
result in serious accidents.
d) Never mount the horse in a small barn, near fences,
trees, or over-hanging projections. Side-stepping
mounts have injured riders who failed to take these
III. SAFELY CONTROLLING AND
1. CONTROL YOUR HORSE SAFELY
a) Keep your horse under control and maintain a
secure seat at all times. Horses are easily frightened by
unusual objects and noises. Anticipate these and steady
b) When your horse is frightened and attempts to run,
turn him in a circle and tighten the circle until he stops.
c) If your horse is frightened by an obstacle, steady
him; give him time to overcome his fear. Then ride by
the obstacle. Do not punish him.
d) When your horse is too full of steam, work him on a
long line a few minutes before riding.
2. RIDING YOUR HORSE SAFELY
a) Ride with your weight at the balls of your feet so
you can free your feet from the stirrups if your horse
should happen to fall.
b) Hold your mount to a walk when going up or down
c) When riding in groups, keep a horse-length between
animals, and be alert for overhead tree branches.
d) Reduce speed when riding rough ground or in sand
mud, ice, or snow, where there is danger of the mount
falling or slipping.
e) Avoid paved roads or streets. Slow your mount to a
walk when crossing such roads. If he is a spirited
young horse, dismount and lead him across.
f) Don't forget you are doing the driving. Keep away
from obstacles where you or the horse may get hurt.
g) Travel single file and on the right side of the road.
h) On long rides, dismount and lead for five minutes
i) Walk the horse to and from the stable. This keeps
him from running home and refusing to leave the
SAFETY RULES AND PRECAUTIONS
IV. SHOWING THE HORSE WITH
SAFETY AND COURTESY
a) Don't try to show a green horse. Teach the horse at
home, and not in the show ring.
b) Avoid letting the horse kick when close to other
horses. Space horses when possible.
c) Keep calm, confident and collected. Remember that
the nervous showman creates an unfavorable
d) Carefully and courteously follow the instructions of
the judge and the ringmaster.
e) Be cautious and respect the rights of other
f) Be a good sport: win without bragging and lose
SAFETY RULES FOR JUMPING
1. The rider should be able to go over Cavaletti (poles
on the ground which are properly spaced) and do this
adequately both with and without stirrups.
2. Before starting to jump the main objective is to
instill confidence in the rider and therefore a safe,
quiet, but willing horse is a necessity.
3. A great variety of low jumps should be used at first
until skill has been sufficiently developed.
4. The rider should go over these low jumps at the
trot to develop control and the ability to "stay with the
5. Keep the rider at the low jumps until all errors
have been corrected.
6. Riders should wear "hard hats" at all times when
7. Only riders with superior riding ability should be
permitted to jump.
8. If a rider should fall from the horse in the process
of jumping, he should not be moved until checked by a
nurse or a physician.
V. GENERAL SAFETY RULES
1. SAFETY LESSENS DANGER
a) Know your horse, his temperament and reactions.
Control your temper at all times, but let him know that
you are his firm and kind master.
b) Know your horse's peculiarities. If someone else is
riding him, tell them what to expect.
c) Horses require kind, gentle, but firm, treatment.
There are few vicious horses. Most of those become
vicious through abuse. However, you must be firm and
consistent. Decide what you want from your horse, and
insist on getting it.
d) Never tease your horse. He may develop bad and
dangerous habits the rest of his life. If so, your safety is
in serious jeopardy.
e) Do not punish your horse, except at the instant of
his disobedience. If you wait even a minute he will not
understand why you are punishing him. Punish without
anger, lest your punishment be too severe. Never strike
or kick your horse about the head or legs.
f) Riders and attendants should not be loud or rowdy.
Noise makes a horse jumpy and nervous both on the
ground and under saddle. Eventually, some horses will
react by kicking. A sharp tone of voice may be used for
checking an animal, but your voice should never be
louder than is required to meet the situation.
g) Ask permission when leading through a group of
h) Manners and suitability to the experience of the
owner are prime qualities in any horse. Above all,
know your horse, and make sure your manners are at
least equal to his.
i) Never race. Horse play is only for the unmounted
horse, not for the horse and rider.
j) Always treat other people on horses and afoot in the
same way you would like to be treated.
k) Remember "Kickin' never gets you nowhere,
less'n you're a mule." Cowboy Proverb
SAFETY RULES AND PRECAUTIONS
DRAW OR PLACE A PICTURE OF YOUR HORSE HERE.
SAFETY RULES AND PRECAUTIONS
1. This document is 4HHSG02, one of a series of the 4-H Youth Development Program, Florida Cooperative
Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Printed. Please visit the
FAIRS Website at http://hammockifas.ufl.edu.
2. William F. Taggart, Oklahoma State University, Debbie Glauer, member of 4-H Animal Science Design
Team, Department of Family, Youth and Community Science, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of
Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611.
.LI, UNIVERSITY OF
Cooperative Extension Service
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION SERVICE, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, INSTITUTE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES, Christine
Taylor Waddill, Director, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture, publishes this information to further the purpose
of the May 8 and June 30, 1914 Acts of Congress; and is authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only
to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, age, sex, handicap or national origin. The information in this
publication is available in alternate formats. Single copies of extension publications (excluding 4-H and youth publications) are available
free to Florida residents from county extension offices. Information on copies for out-of-state purchase is available from Publications
Distribution Center, University of Florida, PO Box 110011, Gainesville, FL 32611-0011. Information about alternate formats is available from
Educational Media and Services, University of Florida, PO Box 110810, Gainesville, FL 32611-0810. This information was published
December 1989, Florida Cooperative Extension Service.