Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tried, It's True! #1

This is the first post of a new series, "Tried, It's True!", in which I will recount events that I have really witnessed at horse shows that you should aim never to emulate! I hope that you will agree with me that these situations are not something that you should try yourself, but the stress of showing can lead our brains to shut down on occasion and these bad examples could help to set off alarm bells in your mind on those hectic days before anything gets to this point!
A very narrow aisle between tents

This past week I was at a horse show in which the tents were placed so close together that the aisle between them was literally four to five feet wide between the straps/anchors. I was walking down this aisle one day and I came across a horse being bathed in the cluttered space between the tents. When I got closer, I realized that the horse was tied to one of the D-rings on an end stall! I couldn't believe that the person bathing the horse was not aware of what a dangerous situation she had put this horse in.

There were a few others who I had seen attempting to shower horses between the two tents, but these horses were not tied and in many instances they were still getting legs on or under the straps or metal anchors. Many shows have designated showering areas; these areas are not only safer for the horses, but they also keep the ground from getting muddy where the horses and vehicles need to pass between the tents, and they avoid water spraying onto tack, hay, etc. This particular show did not have a designated showering area, but there were still hoses located in more open spaces and at the ends of the tents where there were fewer obstacles to contend with.

Many horses, especially at a busy horse show with cold water and no cross-ties, will move around during a bath. Even if your horse tends to stand still, plan the location of the bath as though your horse will move. Horses are unpredictable and you don't want the one time out of a hundred that your horse moves to happen when you're in a cluttered, confined area. It only takes a second for a serious laceration, knock, or more to occur.

I don't recommend tying a horse for bathing at a show unless there is a safe place to tie to, designed to be used as a location for tying. If your horse is used to being cross-tied for bathing, a stressful horse show is probably not the best place to attempt to tie with a single lead for the first time. Ideally, you'll have one person to hold the horse while the other wields the hose. You can also hold the horse and the hose at the same time, but you'll have to give yourself extra space because the horse will be able to circle around you.

Great for hanging buckets, not great for tying horses
Those little D-rings about halfway up the wall of a vinyl temporary stall are there for hanging buckets. They were not put there as a place to tie a horse. Temporary stalls are usually only fastened together by a couple of metal pins on each corner. This means that the wall can be lifted up easily without too much force, which would make it easy for a horse to lift it up when panicking, especially if the force is being exerted near the corner, where those D-rings are located. The last thing that you want for a panicking horse is something large and loose attached to it that will cause even more panic. Even when I'm putting up cross-ties in an aisle of temporary stalls, I like to wrap the baling twine (which the cross-tie is then attached to) around both vertical bars at the junction of two stalls so that if the horse manages to exert a lot of force on one cross-tie, it's not acting on a single stall front that can be lifted up and out of place to further panic the horse. If anything happens, it will lift both stall fronts as well as the pins so that the stalls don't lose their integrity. 

Sometimes you have no choice but to tie to part of a single stall wall, for instance if you need to tie a horse inside of its stall for braiding or to discourage rolling (although in that case the horse is contained and will feel less of a desire to pull back on the tie), but you just have to be as careful as you can be in your choice of location and in using something like baling twine to act as a breakable safety mechanism.
This is not a wash stall!

All of this put together makes the situation that I witnessed very dangerous. Not only was the horse tied directly to a weak part of a stall with nothing behind it to discourage it from pulling back, but it was in an area where stepping to either side could get a leg caught on part of the tent, and the act of showering the horse would make it much more likely to dance around or fight the restraint. The tents being so unusually close together in this situation made things even more dangerous, adding in more tent straps and anchors for the horse to get caught up in, as well as more traffic and objects in close proximity.

Luckily, in this case, I didn't see or hear about any big accidents, but the risk was so unnecessary and things could easily have gone either way.

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