Why is it that it sometimes takes close calls, brushes with disaster, to remind us to do the things we really know we should be doing in the first place?
Part of horse ownership/leasing/riding/being near horses is realizing that accidents can, will and do happen — often at the most inconvenient of times. Whether it’s a horse setting back in the trailer, scraping its leg while out on the trail or any number of the other creative ways horses like to get themselves (or you) injured, being handy with a first-aid kit is an important part of having horses in your life. Because of this, you’ve likely developed a must-have kit (slightly different from a typical first-aid kit) that you have with you when you haul or even when you go for a quick ride.
Note: If you haven’t built yourself one of these kits either due to extreme luck or being new to horses, don’t delay. Do it today. This article. from January can help you determine what should go in your kit.
Every time we have one of these little incidents (you know the ones — the horse manages to deglove some of its skin from some portion of its body, to get a scrape that should be relatively minor but still requires treatment), we restock our must-have kits and renew our diligence. We swear we won’t let our supplies get low again or that we’ll never leave the barn without our triage kit in hand.
But here’s the thing — we get complacent. Or, at least I do. And if I do, that means that at least a significant percentage of you, our readers, do as well. We go for a stretch of time when, hopefully, nothing happens. Our horses behave as they should, they watch their feet, they demonstrate the good manners we know they have, they lull us into a false sense of security regarding their safety and our own.
And then — BHAM! Something happens that reminds us that we should never have let our guards down and that we are dealing with flight animals, after all.
My latest wake-up call came after a lovely trail ride when my horse — who has been self-loading for months — decided that she did. not. want. to. get. on. the. trailer. She loaded up fine when we left the barn and nothing of note happened on the ride itself. Everyone had an enjoyable ride — it wasn’t overly taxing at 3.9 miles with gentle hills and no major obstacles. The horses arrived back at the trailers sound, riders in saddles, and with no injuries. Success!
When it came time to load, my mare decided it was time to express her opinion on getting into the trailer (a hearty no). We coaxed, we lunged, we did all the things that we thought we should be doing to get her on the trailer. Eventually she loaded, but not after a much longer battle than necessary and not entirely unscathed.
The trailer in question is a two-horse straight load with a ramp. In the process of getting on, getting off and generally avoiding the trailer, my horse managed to scrape the sides of both of her front legs. Although the scrapes were superficial, they were still bleeding and could benefit from some treatment.
And there I was, away from the barn, without my must-have kit. Doh!
Fortunately, one of the people with whom I was riding had hers and we were able to disinfect and treat the scrapes with no problems.
But there it was, one of those close calls that wasn’t disastrous, but gave me the reminders I needed.
I was reminded that good practice is good practice for a reason: no, wrapping your horse’s legs every time you haul isn’t overkill. I was painfully reminded that I need to brush up on my horsemanship, that I need to reinforce my horse’s ground manners and that I need to work on all the other aspects that go into a horse loading and unloading like a good citizen.
I was also served the reminder that I should never ever EVER travel without my must-have kit again.
I know, I know. This is not news. I know better, you know better, we all know better. But because I was only a mile or two away from my barn, in the process of transitioning stuff from one trailer to another and we had gone a while without incident, I was complacent. I became too comfortable and was left begging for supplies from friends to treat my horse’s wounds. Thankfully she had them on hand. I’ve seen situations that were worse and supplies weren’t readily available.
How do we stop this vicious cycle of having something happen, being really good about doing what we should do for a while afterward, but falling off once the rush of adrenaline fades and our horses’ wounds heal? How do we stay diligent when we seemed programmed no to?
Maybe this brush with an injury will give me the lesson I need. I’m in the process of restocking my must-have kit now. Hopefully I won’t need the reminder in the future — hopefully you won’t either.