The 99% Lucky rule is very simple - when you're around horses, and particularly in dangerous situations, you are lucky 99% of the time. That is a good rule - unless it happens to be the 1% of the time that you might be 'un'-lucky! Then, it's no fun at all. Let me explain...

When you are around horses, safety must come first before anything else - your safety first, then the horse's safety. Regardless of the horse-related activity you participate in, once the horse is involved, your safety 'barometer' has to be turned on and stay active the whole time.

How to be in the right place at the wrong time (stay in that 99% lucky zone):

- be aware of your positioning in relation to the horse (even if you are on the ground).

- be aware of the surroundings and the possible reactions of the horse.

- know when to stop an activity (whether you should stop insisting on something from the ground, or even to the point of getting off the horse when you know it is time to stop the ride).

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- control your external body language to exude calmness and confidence at all times (even if you and/or the horse are at high alert).

- verbally talk yourself and your horse out of a sticky situation - your voice calms the horse and reinforces to yourself what you want to do.

Most of the time, your luck will hold out in dangerous situations. Some of the craziest, most dangerous events go by unnoticed because just out of luck, your horse refrained from reacting as violently he could have, or the situation just didn't present in the worst-case scenario. People then go along as usual, completely unaware that the reason they were not injured was purely thanks to luck....

One example: wrapping a lead rope around your hand while you walk the horse into the barn. Now, we all know that you should never wrap a lead rope around a hand. And still we do it from time to time. And 'most' of the time, nothing happens at all.

The horse obliges nicely and walks beside us as we walk in. 99 times out of 100, the scene proceeds as planned. However, just once, there might be something that jumps out of the bush, or your horse sees something out of the corner of his eye, and he lunges forward/backward/sideways (take your pick) and very unfortunately, your hand must follow!

Work diligently to prevent that 1% unlucky! Make every effort to remain in the "safe zone" of whatever you do with the horse. You'll be glad you did.

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  1. Thank you – should be posted at every stable. Too many adults and most of the young riders are oblivious to the accident that could happen at any time. My motto ‘always be aware’ because it happens in a split second, only due to the fact that the horse is that many times more ‘aware’ of their surroundings, always on guard to set off the ‘flight’ mode. How many times have you been riding or walking your horse and they have a momentary spook and you’ve asked yourself ‘where did that come from’? In their world, humans are blind and deaf; at least in my gelding’s opinion. Then there is the flip side of the coin – I’m fearful of the howling wind that may bring down the indoor arena while we’re riding, he is nonchalant – go figure!

    1. I find many people want their horse experience to be fun and this seems to mean lack of concern and having everything carefree. Or the horse is not trained enough, by their standards, when it is really lack of training on the handlers part. It can be very frustrating and makes me wonder sometimes why I teach.

  2. I think that average may be *slightly* lower when you work with racehorses (haha!), but I agree with you completely. We often get too complacent and do things we know we shouldn’t do with horses

  3. I can relate to this topic, when I was younger I found my self in the 1%, and payed a heavy price. I was being careful

  4. Absolute FIRST RULE around horses: caution. The gentlest horse can decapitate you with a well placed kick. Horsemen and horsewomen know that horses are flight animals, their thinking processes are different from ours, they panic easily, they are tremendously powerful if they fight back. Caution, caution, caution. GIVE your horse confidence, but don’t have confidence in your horse. It only takes one time.

  5. Many many times I have lunged a horse with part of the line on the ground and continue to see people do the same all the time. ONE time about 18 in. Of the line caught around my ankle and as I quietly leaned down to pull it off something startled the horse, it jumped sideways tearing my knee apart. As a riding instructor I know people think I am overly cautious but I have seen way too many times how something can go wrong in an instant. Better safe than sorry!

  6. Very sound advice for all horse riders and owners. I “try” to err on the super careful side all the time…….and try to install this in all my riders too. 🙂 Thank you

  7. Yes; I have an OTTB who is honestly a bit more horse than I originally bargained for. I have often been criticized for being too careful, but I have come to recognize when he’s on overload and it’s time to change the lesson plan. Sadly, I over-rode my better instincts in a lesson not that long ago & did not listen to the hollowed back/switchy tail/giraffe neck. Bucked off & recovering from a fractured hip. SAFETY FIRST!!

  8. Funny that this was in my feed the very night my perch mare stepped n my foot at the start of a lesson. Timely, much! Keep writing this great blog! I point a lot of my students here!

  9. Great article, and so true!
    There was one time when a broke a rule, thinking my horse and I were so tired, I didn’t need to turn him around before letting him go at the paddock gate. He hit be double-barrelled, in the chest, with corked hind shoes and sent me onto the ground 12 feet away – he just had a little buck. If his feet had been just 8″ higher, that would have been my face.