Law 2 – The horse that will hurt or kill you is your own.
This law is about complacency. As we become comfortable around our horses, we start taking shortcuts. Another aspect of this is that with experience, people tend to become overconfident with other people’s horses. In other words, each day a horse doesn’t hurt us, we start to think that they will never hurt us.
As we become more comfortable driving, many push the car’s limits in speed, braking and cornering. Add some invisible ice or a distraction that decreases our reaction time, and an accident occurs.
Nothing changed in the mechanics of the car or the horse. But something occurs in the car or the horse’s awareness of its environment that causes it to react differently. Ice or a tire blowout are examples of the environment surrounding the vehicle. Sudden noises outside the stall or a bee sting are examples with the horse.
I finished working on a horse, and we were both relaxed. Then, suddenly and without warning, a bird flew into the stall’s window. The horse jumped and spread out his front feet sideways, placing his full weight plus the velocity of movement onto my left foot. The crush almost broke my foot, and it became too swollen to pull my boot back on for days.
There is another aspect that may be hard to consider for some people. Sometimes, the horse has had enough and takes any opportunity to hurt you. Not caring that you are in the way, a hoof shoots at something with your leg in the path of hoof travel. The result is a horrible bone fracture with embedded horse filth deep in your tissue. It might even be a death shot. We have all heard these stories directly from people who have survived.
My original veterinary mentor worked around tens of thousands of horses, and in 1973 I rode with him in his truck to farm visits in New York. He moved to Kentucky to become a very successful horse breeding veterinarian. In 2008 he returned to NY to live and consult in horse reproduction. The month before we were to reconnect, he worked alone with a stallion that kicked him in the head. He died a few days later. He is, to me, a constant reminder of Law 2 of the Irrefutable Laws Of Horsemanship – the horse that will kill you is your own. The analogy is that if you are around horses long enough and take shortcuts or lose awareness, you will become a statistic. Prevention is key. Never lose your attention on the horse while working on them.