Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lesson #1 From What Not To Do With Horses

There are many things that I do right with horses now, but I think it's only because I did so many things wrong previously. I am an authority on "What Not To Do". And, it seems, I add more wisdom to that list every day.

I thought about it yesterday, and I think, I have an infinite amount of these hard- learned lessons, so I've decided to test that theory by trying to come up with one every day. It's kind of like the "Small Stones" exercise, but a different theme. When I'm done, I'll organize them in one great collection--The Annals of What Not To do With Horses.

Here is #1: Never tie a horse to a rail that isn't secure.

I remember the day I learned this rule very well--almost like it was yesterday, though it was probably 23 years ago. I was boarding my two horses on a half acre piece of land near my parent's home in Idaho. I had an Appy and a Quarter horse.

One day, I was grooming my Appy, and as he was calm and relaxed and, as I figured it wouldn't take very long and I'd be there the whole time, I decided to tie him to the closest, easiest rail--a long, somewhat aged and rotten rail between two old posts.

Well, sometime during that short grooming session there was a loud bang from somewhere in the neighborhood. It's been so long ago, I can't remember what it was--but what I do remember is my Appy's head coming up like a cork out of a champagne bottle. I also remember how utterly POWERFUL he was and how utterly helpless I was in that second. He yanked that rail out of those two posts easier than he'd tear a piece of grass out of the ground with his teeth! It was effortless--just a yank and go--and there went my horse running all around the 1/2 acre with an 8 foot old rail post flying to his side and behind him.

Unluckily for me, I'd tied my knot real well and it didn't come loose of the rail no matter how much he ran. But luckily for me, though I envisioned it the whole time as I heard his feet knocking the wood rail as he ran, he did not break any of his legs.

At some point he stopped, stood--looked--and snorted, and snorted and snorted. The thing had stopped chasing him and was laying over to the side. I believe I'd been yelling for him to stop, but by then I was just saying, whoa boy, whoa boy, as I walked to his side, unbuckled his halter, and let it drop to the ground.

Since that day, I can't bear to watch anyone tie a horse to an insecure anything--not even for a second. Besides the obvious thing I learned, I also learned how amazingly strong and powerful these animals are, and how simple it is for them to do a great deal of damage so fast.

So, there's lesson #1 of What Never To Do--lesson #2 will follow shortly, as will another installment with TJ about Documenting Mustangs--a job I'd personally love to have, as would my daughter!

And Small Stones #7 (Haiku) and #8 (#8 comes with a movie)

Beautiful Girl runs
Rides wind, rain, mud, snort and steam
Looks toward the Butte.

Small Stone #8 goes with this little movie clip--Hanging with BG--

I will follow you.
You will rub my withers.
I will reach around
To itch yours with my teeth
But you don’t have withers,
And I’ve learned
Not to bite your face
So, we’ll stand together
And stare towards Beatty’s Butte.


  1. Dear Linda,
    I've been reading your blog for over two years now and I can not begin to thank you for all of the life lessons you have shared with your readers.

    I started reading your blog because I too had a BLM mustang and I kept reading because I learned so much from your experiences.

    As a small token of my appreciation for your willingness to share your knowledge and your honesty, I listed you as recipient of the “Stylish Blogger” award on my page.

    Thank you again!

  2. Linda, I've made SO MANY STUPID MISTAKES with my horses, I should illustrate and write a book! Oh, gosh...I don't even know WHERE to begin. I've walked between them (tied) and the post, putting myself in danger, I've picked up their feet incorrectly, I've walked BEHIND them...oh, the list is ENDLESS!!!

  3. I've never seen footage of Beautiful before, only photographs. She is truly breathtaking. It's fascinating the way she keeps you in her sights always, and the gentleness between you two is almost tangible. Thanks for sharing her with us.

  4. Amber--thank you so much for the award and the kind words that came with it. I so appreciate kindness!! :)

  5. Cheryl--I guess we've all been there--learning the hard way. At least we're all in one piece. ;)

  6. Joanne--I loved that footage because you could see her ear following me as I moved around her body. First, her left ear--then, her right ear as I passed to the right side. She's very sensitive to my movement and I'm always real quiet with her--very little correction needed.

  7. I wouldn't even know where to begin with stupid mistakes I've make in the past. Just lucky enough not to have gotten myself hurt I guess. We could all probably write a book on this subject.

    I liked your videos. All of your horses are gorgeous but my heart belongs to Beautiful. She's very special. So glad she found a home with you and your family.

  8. GHM--I'm very interested to ride Beautiful and test out that poem on your blog. I need to find out where you got that! It will be my mantra this spring.

  9. Oh my! I did that once when I was a kid...except my mistake was tying my horse to a wooden sawhorse (not attached to the ground at all), just for a second, while I went in the shed to open the big door. It was the one time I'd done this because usually the big door was already open. Well, it worried her, she took a step back, the sawhorse tipped over, and she spooked, taking off down the driveway (we lived in the country). By the time she got to the bottom, she'd kicked the sawhorse to shreds, so only one little board remained attached to her lead rope. She slipped and fell on her side when she got to the bottom and tried to make the sharp right turn onto the deadend road we lived on. When she got up, she realized the danger was gone and just started to graze, and I was able to catch up to her. She was totally unhurt, emotionally and physically (THANK GOD!). I learned a big lesson then!

  10. Oh, Kara, I feel for you! You described that so well. And now that I've read it and all was's kind of funny, too. So, hope you don't mind if I laugh with you a little in hindsight.

  11. Very good advice!

    We used to tie horses that setback to trees to save our fences and hitching posts. :]

  12. Excellent advice. Where were you when this same thing happened to me 2 years ago? Only difference is that I tied to a steel pipe railing thinking, "sure that's a secure place".


    My mare realized I was walking from the barn with her dewormer tube and just as I reached her, she pulled back hard and the steel rail slammed into my shoulder and rammed me into the ground.

    My mare was wise enough to stand still and not run around with the 6 foot pipe rail still attached to her. Good thing, too, because I wasn't able to do a darn thing, but yell "help"! Because the impact caused my tibial plateau (side of my knee) to fracture like a spiderweb or windshield.

    We have much in common. Seems I have to keep learning the hard way what not to do, too.


  13. Thanks, D Ward.

    Lisa--That's horrible! Generally, you would think steel is stronger than that, but horses are so amazingly powerful. Your story reminded me of another time, when I tied a horse I was checking out to a portable steel stall.


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.