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However wonderful our relationship with horses is, it comes with a price, our safety. On the surface we see beauty, power, ballet and a free spirit. Scratch the veneer and we find an evolutionary successful story; prey specie that with speed, strength, it’s violent and instantaneous reactions effectively eluded its predators. At best a relationship with these biological marvels is a mixed blessing. Its size (the mass of a really small car) with its speed and instant reactions has disastrous potential. A loving but startled horse moving sideways can generate the force of an automobile collision. A horse defending its food from another horse can move its hooves with both blinding speed and the accuracy of a sniper. An understanding of these mechanisms is an important for safe handling of horses. Horses have safe and unsafe zones which are determined by the function of a horse’s defense mechanisms.
Horse Safe Zones: The space to the side of the horse between the front leg and the stifle. (Marked green in the illustration)
Un-safe Zones and Blind Spots: (Marked red in the illustration) A problem with a horse having it's eyes set out on the side of the head is that there is a blind spot created directly in front of and behind the horse. The area in front of the horse may be a true blind spot, or an area of indistinct vision, depending on how far out each eye is set. This area is triangular in shape, wide at the eyes and comes to a point about 3-4 feet in front of the horse. The area behind the horse is just slightly wider than the width of the horse’s body and goes on indefinitely if the horse stands with it head straight in front of it. It is important to understand the existence and location of these blind spots so as to avoid standing in them. The horse can lose track of us when we cross behind it and may startle when we reappear in the other eye. These are also areas where we may be injured due to the horse’s lack of vision. At the front end, the horse could strike out with a front hoof or could knock over the handler if scared from behind as it jumps or runs forward. At the hind end we need to be more concerned with the horse’s ability to kick with one or both hind legs, having potential to do great harm. We should always make sure to approach the horse in areas of clear vision; one such area is the shoulder. Here the horse can see us and also we are not in the path of the front or hind hooves. (Click Here For More Vision Information)