By Connie Jehlik, USPC Instruction Director
Notice that the title of this blog is not about horse management knowledge, but skills. Both are important to keep you and your mount healthy and safe! Horse management (HM) knowledge is the basis for learning those essential horse care and handling skills. In addition to performing the skills, you must be able to apply what you know to the situation at hand, in the moment.
What horse management skills do you think are most important to know how to do? Would it be as simple as how to tie correctly or feeding a group of horses in a pasture, or something more complicated such as treating a wound or putting on a stable bandage? I would consider all those important to learn, but it’s more than just the skill alone. Each of those tasks involves safety considerations for both the human and horse. Horses are large creatures with minds of their own and powerful instincts, something that everyone, beginner or advanced, always needs to be mindful of while working around them.
Even when we know how to perform a skill, we must also pay attention to surrounding factors such as time of day, weather, what is happening around the farm or arena, and how our horse or pony is responding.
Every fall I am reminded to pay attention to safety when doing the simplest of barn chores, all of which require horse management knowledge and skills. As the temperatures drop (the 40-degree swing in one day) you really have to be on your toes when performing the simplest of skills as now the once calm and sleepy-eyed Welsh pony is now acting like a large 16-hand horse who just wants to run around and kick up his heels. Notice I did not mention the off-track Thoroughbred who is 6 and is typically lazy—this change in weather is anything but a walk in the park day as he has come alive also!
Let’s remember that wearing appropriate footwear, taking the time to put the lead rope around the horse’s neck before you halter, closing doors behind you, making sure the aisleway is clear of clutter, and noticing your surroundings and the attitude of the horse or pony are all critical to staying safe and enjoying our horses.
I was that horse crazy girl who wanted to learn all I could, and Pony Club was the way for me to learn good horse management skills both simple and more complex. I am still learning, which is exciting, but most of all I love to help and teach others. That is what it is all about.