Day 27 – Phil’s Courage’s Journal

Morning feeding: uneventful.

Releasing your horse: This is a lesson I learned quite well when I was younger. First let me tackle the basics and then I’ll tell the story. Using the correct haltering and leading techniques I led Phil to his new pasture to meet his new friends. They have been nose to nose for 2 weeks now, so I have been able to get a good idea of personality matches. When Phil and I walked through the gate my horses stood far back; they have been taught not to crowd me. I asked Phil to turn on his forehand to face the gate, asked for head down and took off his halter. He has been taught to stay with me (ground tie) until I give him the signal he can leave. I build this into all my horses so I can always exit safely. When I am a safe distance I wave him off. Phil runs to join his new friends. It is a good match. I have chosen to keep Phil in a smaller pasture near the barn, so I can continue to interact with him throughout the day. Also, I can correct unwanted behavior more efficiently in a smaller area. He can still run from me in a 2 acre pasture, but it is easier than the 5-6 acre pastures. He can always catch me (notice he is going to catch me; I’m not going to catch him) and I can put him in the round pen for some thought provoking foot work.

My story. On Christmas Eve 1988, in Chicago, I let my horse, Ptarmigan (Phil looks a lot like him only think Appendix QH not TB), out on a crisp, snowy eve. He was excited to play in the snow. I opened the gate, took off the lead, and just let him take off. Of course he let out a huge rodeo broncing buck and he kicked me in the arm with a shod hind foot. I was wearing several heavy layers of clothing, thank goodness. I stood there watching him play and felt warmness down my right arm. I went back to the barn and peeled off the layers of clothing to see blood soaking everything. I felt ok, so I thought maybe he just broke the skin. I ended up putting Ptarmigan away and driving home. I had no idea I was in shock. When I got home I felt sick and had to confess to my Mother what had happened. I was rushed to the ER and had fractured my humorous and required a cast and many, many stitches. If I had known how to properly release Ptarmigan and have his respect I would not have been injured. The ER physicians said it was my heavy clothing that prevented me from going to surgery. Can you imagine if his kick was just 1 foot higher?

Releasing Summary: Face your horse towards the gate. In this position he has to turn around to run or let out a kick. This will give you a window to go to safe distance. Keep other horses away from you. It is dangerous to have your horse’s buddies on top of you wanting to initiate play with your horse. Don’t be afraid to carry a whip to shoo his anxious buddies off. Use head down cue for proper de-haltering technique and to relax your horse. If your horse is rude take him back out of his pasture and ask him to work for you….that means move his feet like he has a purpose. Try again. Repeat until he is polite and you feel safe.

It is our responsibility to teach our horses to be safe around us.

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