Horseback riding is a fun and relaxing activity for both adults and children. However, horses are large, powerful animals and are easily startled. Before you or your children go horseback riding, you should know how to behave around a horse.
One of the first things anyone interested in horses should know is that horses can't see everything easily. Their peripheral vision is not the best and someone walking up quietly behind them can really startle them. This is one reason that no one should ever approach a horse from behind. You should also be careful about walking up to your horse from the side to begin grooming or saddling him. Instead, walk up to your horse from the front and let him see any tack or grooming equipment you are carrying before you step to his side.
Of course, another reason you should never approach a horse from the back is that getting kicked by a horse can cause serious injury or even death. Horses often strike out at anything approaching from behind because of a reflexive instinct to protect themselves from predators.
Another thing to keep in mind when you are around horses is to move slowly and calmly. Sudden movements will startle high strung horses even if they can see you clearly. Spending your day hunting for a horse that has pulled his lead rope from his handler's hand and bolted off after you approached too quickly is really not much fun.
Once you reach the horse, you will want to keep an eye on his hooves, even if you are wearing the proper foot gear. If you are wearing sneakers or sandals, you shouldn't enter the stable. Horses can weigh a thousand pounds or more and that is an awful lot of weight to rest on a sneaker clad foot.
You should also avoid standing with your back to a horse, since horses have been known to bite. The only time you should stand this way is if you are using a pick on your horse's hooves and need to brace his foot while you are cleaning the hoof area. In this case, be sure you have your horse secured with cross ties, so he can't turn far enough to nip you.
In fact, even if you just want to give your horse an apple, you should keep an eye on his teeth, as more than one horse that was eager to snatch a treat has accidentally grabbed a finger, too. This is why you should never cup your hand around a treat when you are offering it to a horse. Instead, hold your palm flat with your fingers together. Press your thumb flat against your hand. Then, place the treat on your palm and offer it to the horse.
Finally, it goes without saying that no one should strike a horse. That riding crop or whip you've seen around the stable is not meant as a way to provide punishment. It is actually designed to tap the horse as a signal that it is time to turn, step back or break into a trot or canter.