I believe it was John Wayne who said, “Life is hard; it’s harder if you’re stupid.” Likewise, horsemanship can be tough. Guess what? Yep, it’s tougher if you’re stupid.
Here we’ve compiled our top 10 list of “Are you kidding?” ridiculous local horse-related antics pulled by (usually) green handlers, often with (relatively) green equines. Trainer Jim Montgomery once said, "Green on green makes black and blue." We have a lot (a LOT) of evidence to prove just how true that is.
- Bamboo torture. A guy set up those little skinny bamboo garden stakes in an indoor arena to help teach his animal to “walk through brush.” Surprise; most horses and their relatives naturally understand how to walk through brush. In this instance the barn owner arrived to explain how dangerous and absurd this was before one of the stakes became buried in the dirt and skewered an unsuspecting horse’s intestines. This one had to take the #1 spot because of its potential danger to other horses and riders. If someone wants to add their own name to the list of Darwin-award nominees that’s one thing, but putting others at risk takes it to a whole new level of dumb.
- Pallet plight. Packing pallets don’t make good “bridges” or walk-ways or any other assortment of DIY tricky obstacles. They easily break and splinter, they contain nails and they’re dangerous. This one almost tied with number one. The outdoors are filled with natural obstacles. Be smart enough to find and use them.
- Helium hilarity. Maybe funny to some demented humans, but most horses would not enjoy this desensitizing trick: tying balloons (the helium filled variety) to a horse’s halter. We actually observed someone doing this last summer. It is an easy way to terrify a horse and create an out-of-control, run-away disaster. Bad enough in an enclosed area (round pen), this one’s extra-dumb if attempted in an open area.
- Makeshift mounting blocks. These usually aren’t bad enough to injure or endanger anyone other than the person who’s dumb enough to do it, so it couldn’t be put in the top three. Suffice it to say that tippy buckets (many of us have tried that one), wagons (those things with little wheels on them) or any assortment of unstable items don’t make ideal mounting devices.
- Slack cinch. Often the new-to-horses human doesn’t understand the importance of the properly secured cinch. And sometimes they don’t listen even when told repeatedly how to properly tighten a cinch. Loose cinches regularly lead to the saddle ending up underneath the horse, where it (a) terrifies the animal (good luck getting it saddled again) and (b) dumps the rider onto the ground (often painful).
- Crash test dummies. Unreasonably trusting and uneducated horse handlers sometimes put friends, relatives, kids, grandchildren (even greener than themselves) on newly started horses. Then they let go of the lead line. Not a good idea.
- Killer snacks. Someone dumped an entire bag (a large bag) of horse treats in their mare’s feeder. It choked to death. Not all of these are funny. Some of them are just plain dumb.
- Trailer tricks. Trailers are often a disaster waiting to happen anyway, and we won’t fault anyone for accidents that occurred even after their careful, methodical and well planned preparations. The number one hauling rule: never hurry. Dumbest hurry-related result; the trailer door wasn’t latched and the horse was dumped on the freeway. Did the horse survive? No, it did not.
- Halter in the stall. Leaving a halter on a horse in its stall is a great way to break the horses neck if (when) the halter snags on anything. If you’ve owned a horse for more than 4 hours you’ve probably figured out that they’re accident prone. They don’t need your help. Take off the halter.
- Just for kicks. Horses kick. It’s kind of instinctual to most. Kids crawling under their belly often get a kick to the head. People walking within kicking range of the hind end (either not close enough or not far enough away) get kicked in the leg or hip or (if short enough) the head. Dogs coming up behind the horse are frequently rewarded with a kick that will swiftly rearrange their face. Be smart enough to avoid the hind feet (and usually the front feet, and probably the teeth).
Here’s to a smart, safe and reasonably thoughtful new year!