Monday, March 1, 2010

Risking the lives of children...

...is something that most of us parents would never knowingly or willingly do. Right? 

I beg to differ. There is something about a horse that for most parents, safety and common sense goes right out the window. I don't understand it, and it makes me want to scream at these parents for their inability to reason that putting their small child on a 1000 pound plus animal without proper safety gear... (I'm talking helmets now)... is completely beyond me.

I have two examples for you that were posted on 2/28/10. They are from different parts of the US, yet show similar pictures. 

The first is from Austin, TX, near Cedar Creek. Never been there, I'm sure its a very nice area with very nice, friendly people.
 

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Ad Text:

APHA Mare. Candy has done it all. Trail Riding, Team Penning, Barrel Racing, Pole Bending, Play Days, and working with cows. She is 12 yrs, but has a lot of get up and go. UTD on shots, never been sick or injured. If you want a horse for barrel Racing, she is fast!
She is best suited for an experienced rider. I will consider a lease or sale for $5,000.00 OBO. Price has been reduced for quick sale. 

Sounds like a wonderful horse, and a fun one at that. So, the issues come into play when you scroll down to the pictures. "Best suited for an experienced rider." Keep that in the back of your mind...

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In the lower left hand picture we have a small boy riding bareback with mom leading with a halter. He's got a western hat on, but that is NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR A HELMET. This mare also has a small foal at her side. 

I decided to start this blog highlighting these ads to give the ad writers a heads up on how their target audience sees them. However, I'm starting to see a way to help educate as well. 

Here's the problem. Foals like to run and play. A Lot. They don't always follow instructions from the human to walk alongside us nicely, no matter how much we'd like them to... and thats when they are on a halter and lead. Little foals like this, even when ON a halter/lead tend to do silly things like pull back, buck, jump, run us over, crow hop, attempt to bolt, and even flip over on their furry little heads. This becomes even worse when they are running loose next to Mom. 

Most horse owners have a limited horse education. Some get smart and realize that they just don't know as much as they'd like to know, and start doing things like reading books, watching DVD's, asking questions, take lessons, and generally begin stuffing themselves with as much horse info as they can hold. Horse Behavior, while fascinating to nearly all self proclaimed "horse lovers", is a highly complex and complicated subject of study. What I've found happens most often is the person might read one or two very popular books that are currently available at most major book retailers that delve into the general aspects of horse behavior, yet don't get into it very deeply, or cover things like how a mare acts around her foal. 

The behavior of a mare with foal is an interesting dynamic. The common misconception is that when you have Mom on a halter and lead rope, and baby is running free, (like what we have in this little scenario), baby will always follow Mom. This is unfortunately, not the case. See, foals are curious, impulsive little creatures, and if they suddenly get the urge to run willy-nilly around the pasture, well, there's not much you can do to stop them if they're free. They will be gone, tail straight up, faster than you can say "Where did she go?" But MOM is still on a halter and lead. She can't go running willy-nilly around the pasture with her foal. MOM then starts to get agitated and nervous, and well, no matter how well behaved she might be otherwise, will still most likely do everything she can to run after her offspring. 

It doesn't matter to her if there is a small child on her back. This is especially true of Quarter Horse and Paint mares. They are tough, stubborn, single minded, and contrary to popular belief, are not the most easy going sorts when it comes to their foals. Some of the nicest stock mares you'll ever find turn into raging horses of evil and hate when you DARE get within 50 feet. They were bred to be independent and take care of their foals out on the open range where a foal is dinner for a hungry coyote pack. There's no getting around it. We created them that way.

The moment I laid eyes on this seemingly innocent picture, I saw that cute little fuzzy foal suddenly bolting off in a frenzy of joy, Mom seeing baby run off, Mom running over the handler to get free, and bolting off after offspring, thereby DUMPING THE CHILD OFF OF HER BACK. I'm not making this up folks. I've seen otherwise calm, sane, respectful mares suddenly go berserk when their foals take off and they decide to follow more times than I'd care to count. Matter of fact, the middle finger of my right hand nearly got shattered when a mare decided to run after her foal and *Your's Truly* was walking her to turn out. 

If thats not enough my best friend in high school got double barrel kicked square on the chest when the Arabian mare she was leading to turn out decided to run after her foal who was nearly 100 feet ahead of her. The mare didn't even think twice, she lunged forward, pulled the rope out of my friends highly experienced hands, and within a second let those hind feet fly. My friend woke up 20 minutes later on a gurney, staring at the ceiling of an ambulance without a clue how she got there.

The cute little miniature cowpoke on her back doesn't stand a chance if that were to happen. He's got NOTHING to hold on to, and NOTHING to protect his head if she dumps him into that tree in the background.

The simple solution to this is two fold: 1) Put a damn helmet on the kid. No if's, and's, or but's. In my book, this is non-negotiable. The child's safety is way too important not to. 2) Put a foal sized halter and lead on the foal, and lead the foal. Thats right, because if you lead the foal, there's no way in HELL that Mom is going anywhere her foal isn't. She'll follow baby to the ends of the earth should baby wish to go (or actually, where ever the handler wishes to go). Heck, all you have to do is have a third person lead baby just out side of the camera and you can still have a halter on Mom - really, or the child's sake, its a darn good idea to still be able to control Mom. 

OH, and irritatingly enough, this family obviously OWNS a helmet, look at the picture to the bottom right! Its OK for the adult to wear it, but not the child? 

For the record, judging by the other pictures, this mare really does give off a vibe to be rather decent minded. This situation is still a disaster waiting to happen.

Unfortunately, this isn't an isolated occurrence. 

Example Ad #2. Slightly different situation, yet nauseatingly similar. 

(Though, the title to the ad is catchy...)

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We have from my own 'back yard' Wickenburg, Az, another ad that shows how absolutely any parent can simply forget that their child is riding 1000 pounds plus of explosion waiting to happen.

The part of this ad that put it at the top of my options today is the description of the second of the two "long, tall, and ugly horses for sale". 

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Ad Text: 

16.2H, 7 yr old, TB mare, chestnut. I put kids on her mostly because she's great in the arena and seems to really like children. Fastest learner EVER. Goes english, western, bareback, and barefoot. Nice girl but kind of dingy. A lot of people throw this around, but this horse has MAJOR potential. Vet checks out sound. She's very broke, but just needs more time put into her. I suggest an experienced rider if you'll be doing a lot of trail riding. If you and your kids are experienced riders, by all means, call me - however, if you want a bombproof horse for the grandkids, this is NOT your mare! CONS: She can be a headtosser and I often use a loose tiedown on her. She needs to be taught how to just be a horse, she's come a long way but it still not a horse you can pasture for a month and then ride. Really, she's a great mare but needs time. $500 

Ok. Is the horse ok for kids or is she not ok for kids? I'm confused. Honestly if the OWNER doesn't know, how is a potential buyer going to figure that out in a 30 minute try out? Also, listing your horses Bad points on a sale ad isn't real smart either... The idea is to talk up the horse? Not scare everyone away. Not to mention: Nice but dingy. Broke but needs time. Puts kids on her because she likes kids but not suitable for a bomb proof horse for the grandkids???

Sheesh make your mind up already, would ya?

Thats not why its on todays blog post though, (Though its not helping matters, mind you)...

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Here we go again! Another absolutely adorable little girl, looks to be around four. LOVE LOVE LOVE the pig tails! 

NO FREAKIN HELMET. 

And she's on a horse that (Ok, I'm going to assume its the little girls' mom thats posting the ads, though can't really be sure) well, we'll say an otherwise knowing adult said "however, if you want a bombproof horse for the grandkids, this is NOT your mare!"  

And and and ... the mare is a head tosser? That means she randomly flips her head around in all directions. Most of the time its backwards. Towards YOUR head. Or in this case, the little girls head. To my one day tens of readers, have any of you ever been hit really hard in the face with a base ball, or even by a horse's head? It hurts! Really bad! She's got a tie down on the mare for the pictures, but a tie down is not a quick fix. If this mare was determined enough, all she'd have to do is toss her head high enough and hard enough, and she'd end up rearing part way. Some head tossers fight tie downs so hard they flip completely over. I wouldn't call this safe behavior for a four year old girl.

She's also bareback. If this ADMITTEDLY!!! non bombproof, kid not safe horse decides to spook at... say a small bird in the tree in the background... she's done for. There is NO way this little girl has the ability, skills, or physical strength to stay on this giant 16 hand horse. That adorable little pig-tailed blond could get seriously hurt, if not outright killed. 

I mean just LOOK at how TINY she is on that big red horse! Thankfully,from the looks of the mare, she really doesn't seem to be that bothered about much of anything. However why take that chance? Why run the chance of your child getting KILLED because you were too lazy to stick a helmet on her head? 

Here. That one's less than $50.00 with tax/shipping. Comes in lots of pretty colors too. 

Not putting your child in a helmet while on a horse for any reason should be at least a small fine if you get caught. I personally think it should be under the 'child endangerment' laws, but thats just me.

I don't care how much people love tossing around the term 'bomb proof', there is no such thing as a 'bomb  proof' horse. There are only horses that haven't found or come across anything scary enough to blow up at yet. 

/rant. 




1 comment:

  1. Muse Graphics Design and PhotographyApril 2, 2010 at 5:27 PM

    The only possible bomb proof horse I could think up would be blind and deaf and have no feelings in it's legs so when a piece of grass scraps it's cannon it wouldn't have a spasm and fall down in fear. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) we don't breed horses to be deaf, blind and half dead, therefore no bomb-proof horse exists.

    What people don't seem to understand is that horses are flight animals. It doesn't matter how calm it can seem, it doesn't matter that it's been in situations where other horses freaked out and your horsey just batted an eye, that doesn't matter. All it takes it one unexpected thing, ANYTHING, image your riding this horse, he's like what 16 lets say and he's 'bombproof'' well suddenly the barn owner's car backfires and goes off like a gunshot and suddenly good old "bombproof" proves he's still a flight animal and goes running, bucking, crop-hopes or worse, rears. And what happens, you land your ass on the ground.

    Flight animals are FLIGHT animals. I'm gunna sound like a broken record here but, All it takes is something, ANYTHING unexpected to happen and that horse goes from the thinking side of it's brain to the reaction side (and yes, there are two sides to a horses brain and YES he does think on one side at a time, thats why when breaking a horse you have to mount from both sides, get off on both sides and tack up from both sides.) So the second that horse goes into reaction mode, and as a flight animal that reaction is RUN. It's going to do just that and it doesn't give a whoot that your kid, who has no helmet on because the horse is 'bombproof', is plopping along on his back. And if your kids unfortunate enough, all it's gunna take is for old Bombproof to kick out in fear, trip or stumble, or for your kid to get caught up in the reins or tack and your kid IS DEAD. Children have soft little skulls that do BREAK under the impact of a 1000 pound animal.

    So for god's sake, PUT A HELMET ON YOUR KIDS!

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