My point isn't that I'm some hot shot amazing trainer. I'm really not. I'm no different from any one else with half a brain, a healthy body, and the will to do it. Horse training is NOT rocket science, it's just a very tenuous balance. You have to weigh the risks against the rewards. If your horse acts like it's going to buck, you have to decide if getting off NOW will mean that you'll have to deal with a bucking attempt every time there after, or will it keep your head in one piece. If the horse is going to just buck every time because it learned that threat works, then you really didn't save your head - you postponed the smashing in.
But that's the hard thing. In order to deal with a bad habit like that, you have to be able to ride through it. You have to be HONEST with yourself and your abilities, and most importantly your fears. I'm very open about my fears. I hate buckers! A horse takes off bucking, and I bail every time. If you're looking for a trainer to work out the bucks, hire some one else! But, rearing is not a big deal at all for me. Flippers I don't like, but I'm not scared of. I know flipping is way more dangerous then bucking in most cases, but sliding off a flipper is second nature to me. I'm even BETTER at throwing my (not so small) weight against the horse's forehand to prevent the height in most cases.
The hard thing though, is judging our abilities. Of course the show ring is a tolerable place for that, since you have, well, a judge to give his/her opinion. But, with all the fads, the various disciplines, and the politics it's not a perfect venue. In my opinion the best way to judge it, is your confidence level. If you THINK you can, then chances are, you really CAN do it. I often refer to this as "a good day to die".
As an example, the first time I ever jumped a horse was not my idea. I was cantering in a field on Ash, and there was the little trickle of water running across a low spot. Maybe an inch wide. Ash decided it was a steeple chase, and went FLYING over it (ok, so she made a very small stretch in her canter stride, but it felt huge!). I pulled up on the far side, thought about it, and realized that my riding instructors had put a decent seat on me, and I COULD stay on that. I had to do it again, and if I fell off, well, then it was a good day to die. I turned the mare and we made a proper canter back at it, and I 2 pointed the "jump". It was all of 6 inches, but I just knew in my gut that it would work out, and I'd stick it. A few days later, I put up my first cavaletti jump. 8 inches, and we trotted it under the eyes of my instructor. From there, I kept building up and up until I got to a point where I wasn't sure. Now, my mare could jump the moon, so she wasn't an issue, and I "topped out" around 3 feet. From there I worked with my instructor to improve my technique, and balance. It wasn't something I did in a day, but rather over 3 years to go from 8 inches to 3 feet. But I never jumped more then I THOUGHT I could.
I think that too often we're told to do things we aren't comfortable with, and because the "professional" should know best, we try them. And then we get hurt. On the flip side of that, some people just don't have the push to progress on their own, so it's the instructor's job to give a gentle nudge only when the student can definitely perform what is asked of him or her.
As you probably know if you follow here at all, I was recently injured in a very silly accident. I made a bad calculation, thought I had more control then I did, and the whole thing ended up in a trip to the ER for me. This is where that healthy body thing comes in. I have ONE advantage over most people when it comes to handling horses. I don't panic. No idea why, but it's just something I have never done. Even when I was between 2 horses kicking at me, I was completely rational. I managed to dodge a ton of shots, and when I hit the ground, I was still looking for a way out. There wasn't one, but I was thinking, not panicking. What this means though, is I get hurt less, and heal faster.
I could probably be out riding right now, if it wasn't for the narcotic pain meds. I refuse to ride "high". I mean, I don't drink and drive, so why pop and pony? It's just a safety thing for me. I'm even limiting myself to what daily chores I do. Stallion handling is Jae's job for now. Grooming I only do with some one helping me (yes, I'm that stupid on this stuff). But I can sling feed over a fence or catch up on my blog! (Although the rambling nature of this post does testify to the affects of my medication)
But this sort of limitation is what makes a good safety rule. It's easy to cheat, and say "just this once I'll ride the packer" or "Spot's always so good, I can take him out today", but why chance it?
Around here at Iron Ridge Sport Horses my rules are easy. Always have some one with "eyes on" if you are handling a horse. That could be some one cleaning a stall, mowing the yard, or what not, but they must be able to see you every 30 seconds. Always have a plan for the worst. I never leave the farm with out a vehicle left here. Every one has a cell phone, and keeps it on them (well, they SHOULD... Jae is bad about this one). And if you're going to do horse things, just tell some one.
In the end though, if you REALLY want to be safe around horses, then buy the stuffed or plastic kind. There's no way to prevent accidents 100% of the time. We take animals that weight from 700 to 2500 pounds, and want them to act like humans. Their brains are the size of a golf ball! There's just no way that they can grasp all the nuances we wish they could. My liability waiver spells this out in very great detail, and I've had many people tell me "I almost don't want to ride now!" after reading it. That's the whole point. We horse people have chosen one of the most dangerous sports there is, and some how we expect to come out the other side unscathed. It's not a realistic expectation. Instead, we should worry about limiting the injuries to minor ones (bruises and bumps not broken bones and lacerations!)
I still believe though, that at the end of the day, if we trust our instincts, do what we know we should be doing, and don't let peer pressure push us further then we should, then we end up with one of the most rewarding experiences that any human can have. There's nothing like the feel of the wind on your face from the back of a horse.