Be Nice to your Equine - it’s bigger than you.
In my adult life I have enjoyed four sports namely rowing, flying, scuba diving and horse riding. The hard exercise of rowing is very good for the physique but the sport itself is boring. One important consideration is that there is minimal risk of injury whilst rowing except perhaps from a heart attack. Flying a small plane is not that dangerous either and probably presents a lot lower level of risk than driving a fast car on a crowded motorway. Diving is fraught with dangers to the novice but all bar one hazard can be avoided by getting out of the cold, salt, sea water as soon as possible. On the other hand the risk from The Bends is getting out too quickly. Incidentally the risk from Great White sharks is minimal, especially as man is usually to be found in relatively warm shallow water less than 40 metres deep. Nevertheless I used to think it was a very dangerous sport until one day in 1975 I discovered horse riding.
Playing with horses is a whole different deal. One does not need to be even on a horse to be hurt by it. When mounted the horse rider sits upon 500 kilos plus of an amazingly powerful spook mobile fitted with an accelerator and brakes, neither of which can be guaranteed to work even when the rider presses the correct buttons. The steering wheel doesn’t always work either. Surprisingly the rider is not glued, screwed, clipped, tied, slotted, wedged or in any other way firmly attached to the hunk of flesh and muscle writhing between the rider’s legs. Safety belts are not supplied. The genius Newton foresaw centuries ago that if the horse was really motoring and it stopped or turned with or without giving the right signals, the rider, a separate entity, would proceed at the same speed in the original direction. In which case Newton pointed out that the rider would hit the ground with force relative to the speed at which the horse had previously been galloping. The faster the horse was going, the greater the force of impact. The result would be very much of a lottery Everything in the human body when subjected to overwhelming force will break, it is just that some bits break more readily than others. A rearing horse can choose to discard its rider merely by standing on two hind legs.
The human body is a magnificent feat of biological engineering although in fact it is nothing more than a walking, talking container topped off by a brain set in a boney cage. The carcass has a pump to make the blood flow round the brain; lungs to pump air to the brain and a built in waste disposal system. The functionality of the Brain is controlled by the Mind, itself an amazing computer which doesn’t need Intel chips or Microsoft software nor even mains electricity. Luckily for many of us the Brain is not controlled from the heart. If the Brain doesn’t like the sport of horse riding then, unless the rider is Arnold Schwarzeneger, it generates fear in the Mind of the rider. We humans usually take heed and stop doing what the brain doesn’t like us to do. But this all singing, all dancing, all moving, marvel of a human body has a few weaknesses The rules are that if the Brain doesn’t work properly then various bits and pieces of the body don’t work at all. That doesn’t mean the body will die. It could mean that the Brain lives on but that it shuts down certain activities of the body. The result can be both inconvenient and unpleasant for the Mind. So be advised, the Brain doesn’t like its cage rattled and it gets very spiteful if you do not protect the head in which it dwells The nervous system, arguably the tentacles of the brain, is also very touchy about being interfered with. It too can act mean. Now of course you can say : ‘so what?’ Well, if that demon Brain wants its revenge then it will shut off some key functions which most humans seem to enjoy such as: walking, talking, seeing, hearing, touching, feeling, eating, and sex. The Motto must be: don’t bang your head.
The Brain will with time inevitably switch itself off but with careful management it can be made to work for 85 years, maybe even longer. If it really wants to be nasty to its tenant (the Mind) the Brain will keep ticking and lock the Mind up in a prison of flesh blood and bone. So if you don’t ever want to wind up laying flat on your back, wearing smelly wet knickers, dribbling and unable to feel anything, even the nurse taking your pants down, then please think more cautiously about the serious risks you take whenever you get within six feet of a horse.
Horse riding is all about enjoying the close company of a 500 kilo plus, four legged, hairy beast which happens to be strong enough not only to carry its playmate but also to run and even fly through the air whilst bearing the load. The horse has the mouth of a crocodile with the grip of a vice. Many horses are fitted with shoes of steel which can strike out and with ease break any bone in a human’s body. The horse can react instinctively in a microsecond to any threat and will take off at 20 mph in any open direction at the twinkling of an eye. It hears its rider from hundreds of yards away and might well have been previously warned of the human’s proximity by vibrations through the ground from footfalls It can smell and identify the odours each human emits however faint. This creature has lived amidst mankind for thousands of years and knows its predator inside out. If it wants to harm the human, it knows exactly how to do it and it will remember for decades everything, good or bad, you or your kind have done to it. What’s more for nutrition it doesn’t need a can opener, a cooker or a fridge because it eats grass and therefore doesn’t compete with its major foe for food. That was a clever move by the species. Feel sure that in a ring, the bare knuckle boxer would lose any fight with a horse.
We puny human weaklings are no match for the horse in strength or power. And we should take care to protect the vulnerable parts of our body. Riders should use to the maximum benefit the large brain we were born with, as it is our only defence against this magnificent creature. Protect it at all times. We should also be thankful that the horse was given a hoof instead of a hand and that whilst it can “whinny” it cannot spell the word in any language.
The riding hat won’t save every head; the protective jacket won’t protect every bone; the gloves won’t save the hands, the knee pads won’t save the knee joints and the boots won’t save the feet. When riding we have to leave the neck completely unprotected together with the wrists, fingers and the ankles. We need those fingers to write even on a computer. Let us hope the horse doesn‘t turn nasty or we humans are doomed. Take away our fingers and make us walk on four legs and we are dog’s meat.
To summarize: the equine has humans well and truly sussed. Once it had emotionally blackmailed us carnivores into not developing a taste for horse meat then it knew it had won the battle for long term survival on a World where mankind reigns supreme. When horses chose to become the servants of humans, they were and they remain smart cookies. Horses for their own survival tolerate humans.
So, riders when next you mount your steed, I suggest you be nice to it. The horse has the innate capability to seriously hurt you, if it wanted so to do. Personally, even when dressed like a riot policeman, before I mount up I always allow my horse to give me a muzzle nudge. If she uses her teeth rather than her tongue I am a little more careful as to how I handle her. She might be feeling miffed.