In 1949 my father gave me a Christmas present; a pair of kangaroo cowboy boots. They were handsome but a size too large. No matter! I only used them for riding.
One day I was practicing calf roping. I threw a bad loop, began to dismount prematurely, lost my balance, and fell over backwards. My foot hung up in the stirrup, the horse veered, and I found myself dragged down the arena at top speed.
It was a frightening few seconds. Then my over-sized boot came off.
Many years later, I made a video called Safer Horsemanship (Video Velocity, 1999). It teaches methods of avoiding injury to both horses and humans who work with horses.
Because of my 1949 experience I included footwear. One of the recommendations in the video is to wear riding boots a size too large.
I am on the equine and veterinary lecture circuit, so I attend many expos, clinics, schools, and other equine events. Since Safer Horsemanship was produced I have had three identical experiences; all of them separate unrelated events. At each event an older gentleman came up to me and said, “You saved my life.”
I asked how that was possible. Each told me the same story. They had ridden all their life but, obviously, no longer had the agility and coordination they had when they were younger.
Riding a trusted and well-trained horse, it spooked on the trail. They went off, hung up in the stirrup and got dragged. But, because they had seen my video, and promptly bought new boots a size too large, the boot came off preventing serious injury.
Safer Horsemanship is based upon my experience. I started working professionally with horses at 15 years of age. In my twenties I became a wrangler, a cattle ranch hand, a packer for the U.S. Forest Service, a rodeo contestant, and, most important, a “bronc buster”, starting “colts” mostly four or five or six years of age that had never before been handled. Then, as a vet, I mostly did horse practice. I still ride.
In seventy-five years of working with horses only once did an injury caused by a horse put me in the hospital, and that was when a 90-day old foal ran into me at top speed and knocked me flat, injuring my knee.
However, I learned how to minimize the chance of injury, knowing that the equine, a flighty, fearful prey species is also very swift and strong, and highly reactive.
So that’s what inspired me to do a video on Safer Horsemanship.
Thank you for all the wisdom you share! I just finished reading your book "Natural Horsemanship Explained." Several weeks ago I shared your DVD "Understanding Horses" with a veteran who participates in Take the Reins St. Louis, an equine-assisted therapy program. I hope you're safe in California despite the fires. Take care! Joan in Wildwood, Mo.
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