(Alternate Title: SAFETY FIRST FOREVER AND EVER GODDAMNIT)
There is a hole in my lower lip that I can feel with my tongue. It got put there two days ago, when, in the morning hours before heading to town, I got slammed in the face with a hundred-pound cattle panel being pulled by a very alarmed horse. At least this is what I think happened – I myself was at the time also very alarmed.
I am nearing one month of adult horse ownership and at several junctures have been consumed by the raging feeling that I have no idea what I’m doing. “You really should have gotten back into this by taking lessons for one or maybe seven years first,” “Ohmygod why didn’t you just buy a pushbutton quarter horse instead of a mustang that was a wild stallion four months ago,” and “Oops, I wonder if I can sell this thing and be a person that will never own a horse again, again” are all thoughts that have entered into and spent some time residing in my mind. Some time ago, I would have listened to them, and probably followed through on the regret and distrust of/disgust with myself.
But that is not me, now. Now I respond with, “You can do this,” “Fake it til you make it,” and above all “For the love of all that is good and right just don’t fucking hurt anyone.” I added that last one after the face slamming. It’s my new mantra.
If there’s one thing that was drilled into my head as a Child Who Loved Horses it was safety. That above all else should be the underlying premise of everything that is done around a horse. Always wear a helmet. Never open toed shoes. No leaving him tied and unsupervised. Plan for the worst and be prepared. So it is without excuse or reason that I can tell you I got hurt because I did not think clearly, and was not safe. I tried to do something the fast and easy way, with a horse I did not know nearly well enough to trust with our lives. Knowing that he has a tendency to pull (“set back”) when tied, I tied him to an object that was not strong enough to hold his weight. He pulled. It moved. He pulled more. I screamed, “WHOA” wide-eyed and had the actual feeling of life passing before my eyes as hundreds of pounds of metal came flying at me, bending into joints where I could be crushed. I screamed “WHOA” several more times over the sound of moving steel.
This is one of the sanest, smartest horses I’ve met, and I got lucky. The panel hit me and knocked off my glasses and smooshed my face some and then he stopped before we could both be squeezed between the moving panel and the stationary ones behind us. I think it is safe to say we were both in a state of shock, but I untied him and got both of us out of there.
Let me say it again: I got lucky. I was stupid and I screwed up and I. GOT. LUCKY.
You don’t rely on luck with horses. They are thousand-pound animals capable of inflicting damage including death to themselves and others. You rely on smarts and preparedness and combine them into safety and a set of tenets you live by ALWAYS, not just when you have enough time and it’s convenient.
I may have missed many years of lessons while I was a person who will never own a horse again, but I am learning them now.