Unfortunately Renae & I witnessed a pretty bad wreck last night... It's preying on my mind a bit & I got to thinking...
Can a horse ever REALLY be brought back after a bad wreck? If so, what would be the best approach??
I was the driver in a wreck like that many decades ago. I know ever since then, whenever I see something like this, MY nerves get shot to pieces for days/weeks afterwards - I start seriously questioning my choice of hobby - and I thank God I have steadfast old HRH Avery to be my "first drive" after that.
I've certainly seen first-hand horses that could never be trusted again after a major wreck. Have heard of very few coming back from one. What is the consensus here??
"The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief
Good topic, and timely in my universe as well. I live on Kate Shields' farm, and some of you may have heard that she was in a bad driving accident with one of her youngsters. Kate sustained a lumbar vertebrae compression fracture; the Batmobile is toast; but the pony miraculously escaped with a few scrapes and scratches (gruesome accident and shoulda, coulda been worse).
Kate is as good a driver as there is. She's unable to work any of her horses herself, but her opinion was that this pony would best be put as soon as possible in the hands of a pro trainer for evaluation of post-wreck driving soundness. She really has no great hope that rehabilitation is likely, though, and will probably end up selling the pony as a riding horse.
It depends on the horse. I have seen some that had no reason to ever drive safe again get hooked the next day and be fine. I have also seen some that the wreck was very minor and the pony took years to get over it. I have noticed that the hotter the less forgiving.
As to how to rehabilitate, I like to put the horse in a team situation with a stout calm horse and start driving again. Steady Eddy is the anchor and the calming influence. Having another along tends to give confidence to the wrecked horse.
I have often seen where a new driver, one that was not in the wreck can work a horse and not transmit scared vibes up the lines.
My husband is in the Air Force, our last move was North Dakota to Northern VA in February.... so we loaded up and were on the road, the first day was good roads good conditions... the second day not so much... my gut was telling me not to go, but we were planning a short vacation at DH's family in Illiniois due to the fact that his cousin, whom he is close to was due to give birth to her second child, but it was known that due to a birth defect, this sweet boy would not live long after birth.. so he wanted to push on and get there... so we went and loaded my mare into the trailer, she didn't want to go and she's a mare you point at a trailer and shes in it... those two things should have told me everything... that said...we left Omaha NE and were about 13 miles into Missouri on I-29, DH driving truck and trailer and me and our 2 kids in the van behind, when it appeared that DH was going from the right lane to the left lane, I of course followed and got over... the next thing I know, the trailer swings around to the right and truck, trailer, horse and Dh are all flying down the interstate on black ice sideways at around 45 miles per hour... then the trailer flips onto it's left side... side my mare is on... comes off the hitch, spins around on it's side and goes into the ditch... and with the help of God stands upright and backs into a fence.... DH is able to back the truck down into the ditch and put the hitch over the ball and pull forward... Ms. Thang comes off the trailer and looks at us like we are nuts for putting her through this roller coaster ride and then looks for a green blade of grass.... I of course blanketed her, checked resp rate, capillary refill and so on, no signs of shock... but she had 3 cuts around her left eye... thankfully we were close to where a friend lives (military people stay close) and she was able to help find a trailer to come pick up the horse and take her back to a stable in Nebraska City... I wasn't sure she'd even go near the next trailer after that... but she and I have a strong one on one relationship and when the next trailer, a stock, drove up... I looked her in the eye and told her she had to get in this trailer... she seemed to understand and loaded right up... we drove back slowly with our totaled trailer to where she was and the guy whose barn we were at took wonderful care of us... I just can't say enough good about the people God brought into our lives during that time...
That said.... we were in the middle of a move, we were a one horse family... and didn't have a lot of options to help rehab her back into the trailer... we did ask the vet for some bute, ace and rompan (sp?) incase we did have problems... but she continues to load really well... she does get nervous when she is alone, but there is no place I have to be to so fast that I cannot take the time to get her there safely... and I have learned my lesson...my gut and the horses thoughts over rule what dh has to say...
It can be done... bringing one back from a bad wreck... I suppose if she'd had more serious injuries than the cuts around her eyes and a very sore back, then it might be harder... but I believe it is in the relationship you have with the horse... if they trust you then it will be much easier... just my experience....
Shoot, I had a long reply typed out and the server ate it.
I guess the issues I'm trying to separate out in my mind are: horse nerves and driver nerves.
Horse nerves: Thanks, GTD, I see your point as to the circs of the accident sometimes dictating what the horse is going to think about driving afterwards. But I've heard many people say that once a horse has wrecked badly with a cart you can't ever really trust it again. OTOH I keep thinking, we expect and requirejumpers and eventers to *jump* again if they crash into the middle of an oxer or flip XC and hurt themselves, and we don't really think anything of it, other than to make sure the horse will jump that particular *type* of jump safely and happily again afterwards.
I know it's always dodgy making comparisons between riding & driving but... How much do y'all think driver nerves come into play??
As to driver nerves... More of a personal thang... I'm sort of grappling with that one this morning. It really doesn't matter the circumstances of a wreck - EVERY time I see one my nerves are shot for weeks afterward. Murphy's Horse Law being what it is, this usually tends to happen right about the time I'm thinking it's time for me to grow up, get a spine, and find myself a stronger bolder "move up" horse to drive.
Usually what I would do to combat my own fear is get up behind HRH Avery as soon as possible after seeing the wreck. But sadly the time is rapidly approaching (may even Be Here Now, in fact, verdict is still out after his injury) when I'm not going to *have* Saint Avery to take care of my sorry meager incompetent assets for that "first drive back".
So I find myself wondering what's going to happen if and when, with the next horse... And what kind of plan I should have in mind to help the horse AND me.
Ahhhhhhhh, I dunno. I really do wonder why I do this sometimes.
EDIT: Special to Renae... Reports on TOB that the horse was euthanized. Now I'm sitting here sobbing at work!
"The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief
WA... this is a great topic and I'm glad you posted the question.
Having a daughter who is an aggressive driver in upper level CDEs, I am constantly worried about wrecks. I have accepted that they are part of the game. I have been told by a couple people who are in a position to know that there are 2 types of winning CDE drivers.... those that have wrecked and those that are going to. I think if you are going to perform on the edge in any sport risk is part of the game.
As far as "Can a horse ever REALLY be brought back after a bad wreck? "... I think the answer is yes, definitely, it can be done. There are many factors involved. The severity of the wreck, the age and/or experience level of the horse or pony, level of injuries to the pony, how the pony was treated by the people at the wreck site, how soon the pony was rehitched and driven, and the post wreck attitude of the driver.
Now, as to severity.... at Bromont this year there was a pair of horses that hooked a post between the wheel and the carriage and when they lunged to pull it free the harness came apart at the seams. People in the gallery were saying it was a "bad" wreck. At Black Prong this year a carriage ran up on a post in the lightning bolt hazard and tipped the carriage on its side. Driver and gator tipped it back on its wheels and away they went.... Once again folks in the gallery were saying what a terrible thing that wreck was. Last year at the Georgia International a single horse and carriage went over entering the water hazard. The carriage turned over on the driver, pinning her under water until her gator pulled her free. The horse had to be cut out of the harness and sustained leg injuries. The carriage was damaged and the shafts were destroyed. Again, a "bad" wreck.
I am sure the horse in the last example was more affected than the others.
I think the drivers attitude has a lot to do with a horses recovery from a wreck. I believe a horse or pony draws security from the driver. If the driver is bold, brave, and forward in the way he reacts with the horse the horse will be the same. If the driver has become frightened and backs off every hazard he/she comes to the horse/pony is surely going to lose confidence and do the same thing.
Age of the animal is also, IMHO, a factor in recovery from a wreck. A pony or horse in middle age (say 8 to 14 years old) that is experienced in marathons and hazards is going to accept and get over more trauma much easier than a 5 year old who has only been driving a year or so.
I think age of the driver also has a large bearing on the whole picture. Young drivers have less fear than older ones. They are more easily able to cope with and recover from bangs, bruises, aches and pains than an older driver.
As an example, let me use Sam's wreck at the Southern Pines CDE this year. The carriage completely overturned, throwing Sam clear of the hazard. AJ continued to pull, taking down part of hazard #5. When he pulled free of the hazard the carriage righted irself and AJ kept going. The carriage hooked into the steeplechase fence (4" no climb wire with a top board) and AJ pulled down about 10 feet or so of fence. Then AJ simply stopped and waited for a human to fix the problem. The carriage was damaged as the shafts were bent.
Sam caught up to him, unhitched, and walked him back to the barn while someone else pulled the carriage back with an ATV. Within 20 minutes Sam had AJ rehitched to a borrowed carriage (thanks Cartfall) and was driving him like nothing happened.
Sam never lost her nerve as far as any hazards since. The pony was treated calmly as if nothing out of the ordinary happened. He was rehitched and driven in the same atmosphere and surroundings just like business as usual.
Here was a pony that has apparently been brought back to driving with no residual problems. Granted he is a middleage, bomb proof, upper level, CDE pony. The driver has the normal teenage no fear attitude. There were no injuries. No one panicked around the pony. By most standards this could be considered a bad wreck resulting in damage and trauma.
Would it have made a difference if the pony was instead of a Haflinger, an arab or a warmblood? I don't know... There are always what ifs. All I know is that the pony in question shows no effects of a wreck at all.
It is going to be interesting to hear the opinions of others on this thread....
*Charter Member-Blue Tarp State Driving Clique* "You can't always get what you want, but if you try, you just might find you get what you need" Mick Jagger
Whether a horse can be brought back to serviceable use is one of those "it depends" answers. Now I'm presuming there's no remaining long term physical health problem arising from the accident or wreck. But even so...
Depends on the horse's disposition
Depends on the root cause of the accident
Depends on the ability of the person who's going to retrain and rehabilitate the horse
Depends on how much time and effort someone wants to put into bringing the horse back.
Depends on the belief and ability and attitude of its owner/driver
And to me this is absolutely no different to such as if an eventing horse has a major accident on the cross country phase with a solid jump on unforgiving terrain. Some will make it back and some won't ever be so bold and brave again.
I have never yet found a horse that can't be recovered at all as in can't be driven ever providing you're willing to take a pragmatic approach to its retraining and have time and an implicit belief in your own ability and the horse's ability to come back to serviceable work. So, recovering the horse to some extent is, I believe always possible. Will the horse ever be the same again though? Much more likely its not, in having a major accident with a horse, you lose the right to be trusted and unless the horse is a brain dead numpty, its going to be slightly more cautious or hesitant and its likely going to be reluctant to give its all and die for you. But again that depends on what happened and whether the horse was calmly managed or terrified by the whole experience at the time.
I "lost" one of my own best singles HDT competition horses following a road traffic accident. My wife was driving her out on a pleasant Sunday afternoon. My daughters (12 & 13 then) were accompanying her riding their horses when a car came round and tried to overtake them all on a blind bend and when at the last minute the driver realised there was a truck coming the other way, he tried to slot in between the horse and the gig. Hit the mare and knocked her to the ground and the vehicle tipped over. After the physical injuries healed I set about bringing the mare back to work and got her back into the carriage and working well but from that day she flatly refused to work more than 3 hours. As soon as she'd done 3 hours in harness she just stopped and totally refused to go on. I persisted for a long time to get her through this barrier but it was clearly too much for her and eventually I sold her to a knowledgeable pleasure driving home and she's still there now - aged 31. She never got over this barrier though.
However I've totally recovered ones that had been in worse wrecks and more seriously injured than Molly was. But Molly was always opinionated and had a tendency to let you know what she wanted and didn't want.
When it comes to a driver then that's a totally different kettle of fish. If a driver (or rider) is going to waste time and brain power thinking about what could happen or might go wrong then personally I think they haven't got a cat in he ll's chance. You have to have a huge amount of self belief and think you are invincible to be any good at all at any risk sport. To be confident and competent and bold at any risk sport or activity you HAVE to focus on the immediate and what you're actually doing in the present and in the here and now. Of course you manage the risks and take proper action to ensure you take precautions, but you can't drive (or ride) thinking "I might fall off" "I might be hurt" "I might have an accident".
If you do then this will affect your whole body language and demeanour and will transmit straight down the reins to the horse. And that is so NOT what you want to do with a flight and fright animal at the other end..... ever! Not even with a steady eddie of a horse.
I like the check list done by Gothedistance and I'd add:
- Never let your confidence exceed your competence
- Always concentrate on the job in hand and what you're doing
- Never get complacent about matters to do with safety
- If something does go wrong, think critically and carefully about why it happened and take remedial action. Never press on regardless just hoping that it will go right or not happen again
- Never drive out alone (I know, I know, some of you do - but I think its a "NEVER". Its a great way of turning a minor mishap or event into an unmitigating disaster!
GTD--With embarassment, I'll cop to being the driver of the pony on Willisville Road. A cow moved out of the shadows just as a piece of gravel banged loudly against my Puddle Jumper. My normally implacable pony startled and bolted forward--something that is just not her style at all.
I guess if it was going to happen at all, it's best that it happened on a straight, quiet road going uphill. My passenger on the backstep hung on, I got Zella back in hand fairly quickly, and we continued on our drive without incident. It sure did surprise the ladies with their Meadowbrook and Fjord, who we met at the top of the hill after just having gotten back under control.
A few days later, upon driving down the same stretch of road, Zella tensed up a bit at the point where the bolt had occurred, but I gave her a good look at the cattle and we walked quietly without making a big deal of it. A herd of Black Angus inside a fence is apparently much more terrifying than 20 deer springing across our path!
I'm sorry I missed the Llangollen drive; hope we can get together soon for a drive.
Liz, I spoke with someone that was on the rail at the show last night and heard that he was put down after they brought him out of the ring They also said the driver had been having some trouble with him throughout the class, I'm sure for the rest of the week we will see the judges excusing entries for acting up or being unmageable more quickly, but unfortunatly it always takes an incident at that show to get the judges to be proactive about excusing unruly entries
If that horse had lived, as far as driving it in a show ring again after that wreck- I would never do it. I wouldn't put my fellow exhibitors at risk, there seemed to be no solid concrete reason for the horse bolting and you simply can not in good conscience show a bolter in a driving class and put everyone else at risk. Maybe the horse would have eventually been okay to jog at home, but I would have gone back to using a side walker with a longe line through the bit, over the head and snapped to the other side for a long time in case the horse got any ideas about bolting again. And probably lots and lots of long lining dragging sand bags before a cart ever went up on the horse again too.
WA - So... this accident took place at a show, and the horse was misbehaving throughout? Could it have gotten it's tongue over the bit?
I've seen that at other driving shows, and the reaction of the horse is usually rather dramatic in regards to the pain. Usually, the direction is up and back, but I have seen them bolt as well.
Doubtful the tongue got over the bit, you can show Saddlebreds with tongue ties and probably 90% are shown with tongue ties. The only thing I throught of is possibly some equipment failure, although it did't look like it, but it all went by so fast. I've also seen horses wig out when they get a brain aneurism (bolting blindly through everything in their path), but when my friend told me the horse was being difficult the whole class that again sounds doubtful. Someone else also told me this poor horse had an incident at a show a few weeks ago were it got kicked pretty badly by another horse in an under saddle class, so maybe the poor beast was trying to say I don't want to be here and no one was listening, who knows
I'm kinda hesitant to speculate on this particular accident unless/until more info comes to light. It's already sad enough. The short version: he bolted toward the gate for reasons yet unknown, vehicle flipped, driver got tossed out, and he hit the rail hard w/ his head and neck and went down.
He was a lovely horse and I went to bed hoping he would survive it, but unfortunately you could pretty much tell when he wasn't able to get up that this wasn't going to end well.
Godspeed to a brave horse.
"The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief
Kate has gone over it MANY times in her mind. The mare is still fairly green and can be a bit of a sparkplug, but she had been very well-behaved as Kate took her through Wendy's field and into the back gate of her own cones course. Duchess had a nice schooling session with dressage and cones, and they were on the way back in the general direction of the barn. At one point Kate turned the pony right down a lane when she usually goes left, and that was when Duchess exploded. There was no other stimulus that Kate can recall.
For that reason, more than anything else, Kate is having reservations about sending her to rehab harness training--it's easy to question at this point if the pony has enough mental stability to ever have been a solid driving prospect. And, as you say, GTD, it's a very pretty pony and could be a nice riding animal.
I can't decide if it is worth trying to bring back
I am currently dealing with a horse that has clearly had some terrible thing happen. I bought her at auction, a nice 7 year old, broodmare that hadn't been driven for three years. She is totally headshy. We were told she and the old BM had "issues." This is a 190+ draft horse operation, with world CH hitches and halter animals that we got her from.
She clearly would have been a "wheel" mare for them , if they had used her. She is big. She is nervous. When we first hitched (ground drove first), a couple of months ago, she would sit and "dance" back and forth before she would go. Usually me or my husband (the header) would have to start her with a lead rope to get her going. Really nervous driving but well trained. I and Robert (husband) have really good hands, steady composure, don't use the whip hardly ever. Slowly, she relaxed, began to trust us and she knew voice commands, drove wonderfully -once she was going. Learned so fast. I had her doing beautiful 180 degree fans with voice alone. She just is so smart. So much so, that we entered her in driving classes (draft). the head shyness disappears. She nows mostly acts like a normal horse. She is very alpha and opinionated in the pasture.
Come a week before the show. A experienced friend came over wanting to drive. We let her drive her as she needs more stamina. She gave her a really good work out and said that a couple of times she spooked but it was no big deal. All seemed ok.
I drove her the next day or I started to. First thing, I started to ground drive and she slammed herself against the barn as soon as I picked up the reins (I thought she spooked at the stud yearling nearby at first). Robert grabs the bridle, puts a lead rope on and we hitch her. She stands quietly. I get in and as soon as I did, she starts acting wild and dancing, like she used to. Robert (on ground) grabbed her and started walking her. She seemed to settle, I walk her out. She seemed ok. She's moving forward, life seems ok. Robert went into the barn -I drove. It was sunset and a neighbor started target practice -boom, boom, boom in the distance. She totally spooked. Circling everytime I touched the reins and dancing without moving anywhere. If I tried to move her forward, she started running backward! Yikes! I baby talk her and managed to get her turned to the barn but I can't get her to move forward. We sit there. I, talking in calming voices. She, hyperventilating, sweating and standing. If she starts forward, she is now acting like she is going to either come up or bolt. I just let her stand, knowing that someone will come and I prey it is before she totally loses it.
My kids on horses come by. I quietly (I am afraid she is going to go nuclear) explain that she is going to explode, and they are to go get Robert. They, not even realizing that I am being serious, go by her and head on their way to the barn. Robert comes out after a good while. He had asked them if it was an emergency and they (being kids and not realizing mom was doing her best to not make it an emergency -I was not joking -duh) said no. He takes the horse and I dismount, I am totally shaken.
I explain what happend. He doesn't believe it was that bad. At that point, she was standing quietly. Remember, last time we drove her she was perfect! So, he climbs in. She immediately begins circling, backing into a barn at high speed, and starts acting like she will rear. I manage to get close enough (she is dangerous) to grab her her bridle. He gets off. As soon as he is off, she is totally quiet. NOW HE BELIEVES ME (Grin). We are stunned. What the &*&*&* happened!
Next day. Harness her. Same thing. Can't ground drive and we don't even bother with the cart. Hurt mouth?
Vet comes out. Nope. Floats teeth. Gives butte but nothing there.
After a few days, try again. Puppy dog while leading. Nearly flipping over at the touch of someone gathering up the reins to GROUND drive.
What is going on! We think maybe a wreck that we weren't aware of before we got her! But then, we are asking lots of people's advice on what it could be. Someone says they have seen this behavior before (dancing in place, hyperventilating, etc).
Here is what they say. Wheel horses will often get trained on a stone boat or breaking sled with weights, just like a pulling horse. This gets them to really stomp and saves time for the trainers. Now, here is the gross part. It is explained to me that just as in training pulling horses, it has become very common to stun the horses to get them going. For some animals, this sends them over the top and unless they are being used in a hitch, they become unmanagable. He has seen that same dancing in place and hyperventilating in another wheel mare from a big hitch. My friend thinks this is probably her history somewhere in her life (rather than a wreck). I don't know.
Luckily, I bought her as a brood mare first, not a driving mare (although she was so fun to drive).
Once things settle here. I am not going to give up completely. I am going to try ground driving her with an open bridle. If I can get her going like that, I will then try to team her. But I can't even describe how truly scary she was. It was as a switch came on, she had some terrible memory and it was as if she lost her mind! In all my years driving and riding, I have never had a horse flip out like this. Wreck or stun gun, clearly this animal has issues.
I have never just had a horse flip out on me without cause. I am still struggling on how to proceed or if it is even worth proceeding. It is not like we "need" to drive her, I just hate giving up on a training project or a training issue or an animal like that (especially one as nice as her). I think slow and steady and one step at a time -starting in the winter.
I hope that I might also get a chance to try to glean more info from the old owners. Maybe someone will come clean on her story!
Jill, the thing that grabs me in your report is that your friend drove the horse between the calm day and the crazy day. In no way do I suggest that your friend did anything wrong or harsh. But horses I have rehabbed have taught me that much of the healing comes from a slowly-gained trust in one or two people and those people alone. It takes quite a while to transfer that trust to a broader range of people. It could be that the new pair of hands on the reins, the new voice, the different way of sitting in the cart all returned a half-healed mare to a position of terrified distrust. It sounds as though you handled the situation well and I congratulate you on your calm (I'd love to know what you said to your kids later!).
I, too, have wondered why we don't even hesitate to put a horse back over a jump after a wreck there but worry about returning a driving horse to his job after a wreck. Why do we get back on a horse that has reared, plunged, bucked, gone postal in response to some circumstance, but hesitate to return a horse to driving after an accident? I've lawndarted so many times in one day with a couple of ridden rehabs that only a crazy person would have kept going, but I always got back on. Of course, I know this means I'm a crazy person, but you get my point.
I've had three driving mishaps in all the off-and-on years of not very serious driving, two of them since I returned seriously to the sport. In all three cases it did not occur to me not to return the horse to driving (after I got the equipment out of the tree and patched back up, that is). Never a question, and never a problem. We've already established that I'm a crazy person. Could that be part of it -- that I was too stupid to be scared?
Or is there something in the equipment itself that makes a horse more emotionally vulnerable than it might be under saddle? The noise, the unyielding quality of the shafts, the leveraged bouncing of the two-wheeled cart, the fishtailing of the four-wheel? Does a driven horse under duress forget that there is a driver and think that s/e is alone in the horror? What does a driven horse think is going on when we get in the cart? It seems obvious to us -- we're having fun, or getting a job done, and it's all good. But to the horse, have we been somehow captured by the cart?
Physics usurps the circumstances a lot more completely in a driving accident than it does in a ridden incident. We can get tossed around pretty well in the saddle, but it's as nothing compared to the multiplication of forces through the rigid shafts, the whiplashing traces, the transmission of power through axles, body and wheels. The horse must be aware of all that non-euclidian chaos unfolding on the blind side of the blinkers. Is that perhaps what makes it so much more emotionally disabling?
What is the best book out there on building confidence and courage in a driving horse?
Too many questions, too few answers, never enough time...
Well for one thing, MySparrow, there is the direct physical contact between person and ridden horse that is missing with the driving horse. You are disembodied at the end of the traces and lines so the horse can (and sometimes does) think its on its own.
Also there is understanding on our part of the greater amount of equipment attached to the driven horse that can cause much more external damage if the horse gets away from the person in control
Though this can be a sad (sorry) topic - it can also be very enlightening to know that it is not necessarily a hopeless cause if a driven horse gets into a mess. Many can be rehabilitated and enjoy a full career. But like Thomas said. It depends on a lot of things and you really do have to trust your instincts to either push forward or back off.
When we set out to find our current horses we experienced many partially broke horses with "nervous or anxious" dispositions that my gut said were just not worth MY effort to try to make into a driving horse.
Despite his stubbirn sy=treak that came out durung training, our Alex has turned into a really fun horse to go out and play with. Cooper is also a good boy but its taking us much more effort to build his confidence than we thought it would - to be an independant driving horse. What my gut is still telling me is if we giv him the time ands take things slow, we will have the horse we want.
So all in all, this topic says to me to be alert and dont ignore your gut!
[QUOTE=Drive NJ;2638166]Well for one thing, MySparrow, there is the direct physical contact between person and ridden horse that is missing with the driving horse. You are disembodied at the end of the traces and lines so the horse can (and sometimes does) think its on its own. [QUOTE]
Yeah, I thought the direct contact was kind of a given, but I shouldn't have taken that for granted. Thank you for making it clear that when in the saddle one has a direct physical contact that does not exist when one is driving.
I agree that a lot of our own mental energy has an impact, but I don't think we can discount the sensations returning to the horse from the vehicle, and think that it's all our perception and not his. I suspect, given the greater sensory acuity of the horse, that our equine driving partner is aware of a good deal more than we are. More even, perhaps than we are aware there is to be aware of.
While I think it is not always impossible to bring back a horse after a wreck, I have seen it done, I think there are a lot of factors that come into play as to weather it can happen or not. Taking into acount the individual horse and the circomstances of the wreck, I also believe the the timing of it has a lot to do with it also. A seasoned driving horse that has been there done that and has a wreck is going to be a lot easier to convince to return back to driving, then one who has had very little experience. The less experience on a horse that has a wreck, in some cases would be more difficult to bring back.
Could be ... or else we could consider it as lessons learnt from others without actually having to make the mistake
But its important to appreciate that there does need to be detailed review and investigation in order to consider what might be done to mitigate the cause or to reduce the consequences of the effect.
At the end of the day horse riding and carriage driving IS a risk sport. And those who are competent and do it well accept the risk and ensure they manage it to the best of their ability. There's intrinsic risk and there's un-necessary risk. To me you don't take un-necessary risks that are entirely within your grasp to manage:
And see the lists previously for all those ones.
IME its only a tiny percentage of wrecks that end up being genuinely of unknown root cause and where nothing could have been done to prevent the incident or lessen the subsequent consequences.
I also think its important for all riders and drivers to appreciate and to constantly remind themselves that no matter how well trained a horse is, its a flight and fright animal.
Then you have to understand what a "true" bolt or runaway actually is and also to understand that its REALLY REALLY rare.
There's a HUGE difference between a horse that's momentarily fearful and has taken off for a bit and a horse who's LOST ITS BRAIN. The first isn't bolting, but rather a spook and scoot. Bolting is another ballgame.
I've had no more than a couple of "bolters" in decades of training horses. I've had a quite a few though that all too often employed the spook and scoot or runaway tactic.
There is a difference between a horse spooking and scooting away under the rider for a few strides across or down to the other end of the arena, or a racehorse or eventer who takes hold of the reins and goes for a bit of a run because he got excited or tired of the rider holding the bit, and a horse who bolts. The latter IMO isn't even bolting.
Then there are two kinds of bolting:
The kind where the horse completely loses its mental capabilities to 'think' AND DOES NOT REGAIN THEM FOR SOME TIME. The horse is literally in a panic and running for it's life and sometimes this horse will run itself right into obstacles immediately in its path because it does not 'see' them in the panic. No rider nor driver is ever not going to stop this horse until he runs out of steam or comes to his senses.
The second kind is the 'clever' horse that does it because he's expressing opinion that he's not content with what's going on. This is a horse that's used bolting to get rid of riders or drivers and its fully aware of what's going on.
This horse often likes to include bucking as they're hauling you with all their might. You can stop this kind if you can stay calm and aboard long enough.
I, too, have wondered why we don't even hesitate to put a horse back over a jump after a wreck there but worry about returning a driving horse to his job after a wreck. Why do we get back on a horse that has reared, plunged, bucked, gone postal in response to some circumstance, but hesitate to return a horse to driving after an accident?
So an accident happens with a riding horse or maybe its a spook and scoot .... you fall off and it tanks off having "lost its brain" - the worst that will happen to the horse is it might get its leg through its rein and the rein might snap or its saddle might twist round and under it. the horse might if it gets a leg caught and the reins don't snap .... fall down or it might be in a total blind panic and run into something. But 99 times out of 100 the horse just does a short gallop and then regains its mind and just stops and no real long lasting harm done.
I've lawndarted so many times in one day with a couple of ridden rehabs that only a crazy person would have kept going, but I always got back on. Of course, I know this means I'm a crazy person, but you get my point.
Accidents with a driving horse by their nature just aren't like that and intrinsically are potentially always much more serious - lets say a bit of harness fails and the carriage tips or the carriage gets caught on something and then a bit of harness fails - the very event in itself puts on a "command" to the horse that you don't want: all of a sudden something breaks and slackens and puts pressure elsewhere so there's a command and then the spook and scoot occurs ... but as the horse begins its run away lets say the carriage tips the driver falls out - When a rider falls off he merely risks being hit by a hoof and an awkward fall on the hard ground. The driver in addition to that also has the vehicle to contend with. He hits the deck and then gets smacked with or run over by a great heavy carriage. And trust me, they hurt and do SERIOUS damage!
So the driver has intrinsic higher risk of more serious injury.
So the horse is now off on its flight and fright response and because the carriage is being dragged with a failed harness slapping and flapping and staying with the horse, then the horse's mind stays switched into its flight and fright mode and what would be a spook and scoot or short burst with a riding horse continues on as the horse gallops. The carriage continues often smashing into things - all of which further terrifies the horse and it cannot switch its mind back to "nothing to fear" mode.
In all three cases it did not occur to me not to return the horse to driving (after I got the equipment out of the tree and patched back up, that is). Never a question, and never a problem. We've already established that I'm a crazy person. Could that be part of it -- that I was too stupid to be scared?
There's bad luck and there's bad management. Undoubtedly though some folks have a prevelance of accidents though and never learn lessons and continue to do what they're always done. Only critical review will lead to understanding if the driver is deserving or unlucky. It depends on the circumstances.
Or is there something in the equipment itself that makes a horse more emotionally vulnerable than it might be under saddle?
The onus is on every driver to understand and appreciate that of course there is more intrinsic risk with a driving horse. And I think I've explained why in the aforementioned.
Does a driven horse under duress forget that there is a driver and think that s/e is alone in the horror?
A horse is a fright and flight animal when its GENUINELY in that mode its not thinking or listening at all to any rider or driver but its more likely to "switch back" quicker and recover its composure when its being ridden. When its bolting its looking after itself - its not at all concerned about anything else. As a rider all you have to do is sit on. As a driver you have to hope to hell that the horse isn't going to go somewhere or do something in its panic to escape and flight that's going to smack or tip the carriage.
What does a driven horse think is going on when we get in the cart? It seems obvious to us -- we're having fun, or getting a job done, and it's all good. But to the horse, have we been somehow captured by the cart?
I doubt it thinks that at all but then I don't indulge in anthropomorphic interpretation.
What is the best book out there on building confidence and courage in a driving horse?
Its not about building it in the horse - the horse develops it from having confidence in the driver and knowing that the driver isn't going to ask anything of him that puts him in pain or danger. No driver has the right to be trusted and no driver should expect his horse to be confident. You earn it be being competent and consistent and managing risks. I passionately believe no book in the world can teach the driver those practical kinesthetic skills.
Its about building skill, putting skills into practice and so gaining experience and in gaining experience, learning from it and developing aptitude and competence and confidence which in turn means the horse will trust you.
A lot of folks talk about clever folks learning from mistakes. I personally think clever folks learn from the mistakes of others and work hard so they reduce the possibility of making them.
Last edited by Thomas_1; Aug. 22, 2007 at 10:53 AM.
Wow, Thomas, that's the post of the year. Thank you so much!
Just as an aside, pertaining to the wreck that initiated this thread - it does now appear that an equipment failure set the whole thing off.
Friendly reminder - this is why you need to do a safety check EVERY time you hitch up. (And if you're me, old, tired, and spacey, you need to do TWO - a second check to make sure you didn't miss anything in the first! ).
"The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief
Thanks for that thoughtful and powerful post, Thomas. And thanks also to WA, who initiated the thread, and to all who have posted.
I guess when I said it was depressing I was speaking from a fairly depressed state anyway, as my two daughters and almost-son have now headed off to life and university away from home. What I really meant was "sobering," and there's absolutely nothing wrong with taking a sober look at things, is there?