Thursday, July 17, 2008

Risk Mitigation

I have been mulling over some of the comments made on Mugwamps blog yesterday and decided it was as good of time as any to explore risk mitigation in the horse world, a foreign and often repudiated concept. Why is that horse people as a whole feel that they are obligated to keep a horse that is dangerous, insane or simply not a good match? or to risk their lives and in some cases, the livelihood of their families for what one could argue is purely a stubborn and ego gratifying position? How many people do you know that not only willing put their own safety or very life in danger but are willing to put their children in dangerous positions for the same grandiose reason?

In any sport there are risks and in a lifetime of participating you more than likely to have one injury or another but I personally believe in mitigating that likelihood as much as possible by implementing novel ideas such as- Not riding a horse that is known to buck, bolt or rear on any given ride (regardless of whether I can "stick" or not), preferable ones with a good set of breaks and basic steering, oh ya, and that seem to value their own personal safety.

In the past three months their have been three major accidents at the barn I board at. A beautiful, black, WP bred, three year old mare was in the trailer when a truck went by and honked his horn. This mare blew up in such an explosive manner that she managed to break her own leg. She had to be put down on the spot. This was not the first time she had caused injury to herself by blowing up or over reacting. A few months before her death she had flipped herself out of a round pen and narrowly missed landing on a harrow. In my opinion it was only a matter of time, whether it be this year or five years from today, before someone was injured because they were on her or unable to get out of her way during a blow up. As beautiful as she was, she was an accident waiting to happen and I wouldn't have ridden her for all the tea in China.

A few months before that another mare, this time a rusty bay Friesen cross was loose in the arena when something her owner could not see or hear set her off. She ran straight through the end of the arena and somersaulted over the fence, landing on and breaking her neck. She lived. If someone had been on her at the time, I doubt they would have.

The third accident was as a result of human bravado. A woman who had not ridden in a few years but still considered herself capable decided to get back on the proverbial saddle. She is partially disabled. Her chosen mount? A huge 16 year old black Impressive bred gelding that they had owned for about 6 months. He was known around town and had been through a half dozen owners. They had "rehabilitated" him and given him a new name. He had left his crazy ways behind, they were sure. She came home with a broken collar bone. The gelding had his old name back and was sold within a month.

I am perfectly aware that every singe horse out there, regardless of how tested and true is dangerous and capable of blowing up or killing themselves or their rider at any time. But this post is about risk mitigation. Meaning that I acknowledge the inherent risk, but wish to mitigate the likelihood of injury as much as possible.

I know a mare named Jetta. We call her Jub Jub. She is about 20 something now and still carries herself like a queen. Small, square built and gray with the sweetest eye you have ever seen. She is as canny as they come and would eat up a cow. As a young horse she found herself caught up in a bundle of barb wire. The rest of the herd was well out of sight, somewhere in a 400 acre pasture. The owners only came every three days and they figured she had been that way for at least two. They cut her out of the wire but couldn't find a single scratch on her. She is the best horse I have ever known and truly one in a million. In the 18 odd years Jub was used under saddle she demonstrated countless times that she was not only concerned about her own safety, but she would take care of yours as well. Not one person was ever hurt because of that horse. Jetta wasn't trained by a professional and was ridden hit or miss most of her life but mentally she was solid as a rock.

I don't believe you can train a horse to be mentally solid. I do believe you that a mentally solid horse can be ruined through abuse. As much as I love horses and find myself drawn to the challenging and/or complex ones, I owe it to myself and loved ones to make a decision that best mitigates my chances of injury. I wish that more people would do the same, especially for their children.

Often I see a correlation between rowdy or dangerous horses and the personal lives and/or life choices of the woman who own them. The older I get and the more settled I become in my personal life, the more I seem to demand of my animals. I consider them a reflection of myself much as people consider their children. I want well behaved, smart, talented and wholesome horses that I enjoy riding. I'll express my wild side elsewhere.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your views and opinions on this important and interesting topic. I trotted over here from Pony Girl's blog and am very glad I did.