There was no malice when this Percheron kicked up his heels and seriously injured the handler.
I have a friend who says that of all animals she likes dogs and horses the most. Why, because they have such beautiful eyes. Now I know that most people fall for the large, soft moist eyes of horses. They immediately fall in love with any horse they see. But these beautiful eyes are large so they can scan the horizon and see danger from a long distance.
For those who don’t know the Percheron breed, it is a very large horse. They often stand nearly two metres tall. Therefore usually very calm and don’t really rock the boat much.
I am fusspot when it comes to safety on the ground. And one of the things I am most particular about is turning out a horse in the paddock. There is only one safe way to do this. Open the gate, take the horse through the gate, turn the horse back to the gate, close the gate and then let the horse go. If the horse turns on his haunches and kicks up his heels with pleasure when he is released he is far enough away not to hurt the handler.
Never, never just open the gate and release the horse. When the horse then kicks up his heels with pleasure we are in the firing line. Of course horses don’t always kick up their heels and this can give us a false sense of security. But when they do it is most of the time unexpected.
In the case of the Percheron, this friend just opened the gate and released the horse. However, the horse saw something at the far, far horizon which was different from yesterday’s picture. Nothing special for us, just a backhoe digging a trench. We humans probably note this and think nothing more of it. But horses’ big eyes are designed to scan for danger. So, the Percheron did what came natural, he took off through the gate and kicked out. Taking off and kicking out is part of the defence strategy of any horse. After all he needs to be free to be able to run away and the handler a moment ago was restricting this by holding onto a rope.
Every horse can explode at any time and change from a docile lovable lump to a serious danger to people. It is our coach’s duty of care to teach all our riders these very basic but also very important safety methods.