I teach a lovely lady we’ll call “Bonnie” that owns a small riding facility at her home several miles from the barn in which I board my horses. With a show a couple of weeks away it’s time to trailer the horses over to ride some tests while also getting them used to traveling off of the property. Horses arrive, check out the place, walk into washracks, everything is fine. Here’s where things take a turn.
The horse Bonnie is going to ride tacks up without incident. My process does not go quite as smoothly. My ride, we’ll call “Bernie” has a girthing issue, that I should have remembered, as I have tacked him up at his own house many times. This is where I erred, as Bernie is one of several horses I have known over the years that if girthed too quickly will buckle at the knees. This is exactly what happened. I didn’t ratchet it up, however, there are certain horses that must be girthed very slowly to prevent such a reaction and care must be given every time.
I confidently put on the saddle, buckled the girth and walked out of the washrack to grab the bridle. When I turned around with bridle in hand Bernie’s legs buckled and he collapsed on to the mats of the washrack. The fall frightened him, causing him to flip and thrash around in the crossties. Luckily the crossties have quick release connections and one of them gave way. After a couple of seconds that felt like hours, Bernie settled down and laid (lay, laid) down in the washrack, confused. He was still enough that I approached his head and unclipped the crossties on each side of his halter and backed up so he could get back up on his feet.
I got two steps back when he launched himself up off the ground with his hoof pointed like a ballerina’s toe slamming straight down on top of my foot! Wham!!! My entire body got hot with adrenaline, followed by a cold, clammy sweat! Yes, Yes, Bernie was fine! However, my foot felt shattered. I was lucky to be wearing my riding boots at the time. I know this incident is not uncommon. We have all had hundreds of foot smashing, toe stepping incidents but it brings up a conversation I have every summer with students concerning barn footwear.
Invariably , every summer I will have a conversation with at least two or three different students who will show up at the barn for the day with flip-flops or sandals on. I always say “you probably need to wear something more substantial, you might get your toes cut off”. The reply that follows usually sounds something like “I’m not going to get my horse out of the stall, I’m not even going to lead a horse”.
This sounds fine, in theory. However, you never know what might happen that you may have to become involved in. If a horse gets loose and you have to help catch him, you are suddenly leading a horse. If a horse gets tangled in a wire and needs immediate help, or falls in a crosstie, or a hundred other emergency scenarios and you are needed to jump in and help out, it is not practical to be wearing footwear that will compromise your feet.
Even here in the hot and humid South, and even as cute as your sandals are, and even if you are wearing shorts, sturdy boots or shoes are your best choice if you are at the barn for any period of time. Dont fret, your Facebook pictures will look cuter with you with boots on than with you on crutches anyday!