By Brittnie Burton
MSU Ag Communications
CLEVELAND, Miss. — Horse lovers may think of horses as family, but they should always handle the large animals with caution.
Laura Giaccaglia, Bolivar County coordinator with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said safety comes first in horse handling.
“Horses are massive animals, and when you are around them, you have to keep your guard up at all times,” Giaccaglia said. “We teach our 4-H members that respect is the foundation for safety for the animal and the people around it.”
Sandy Tidmore has worked with Bolivar County 4-H’ers for six years. She has coached the horse judging team, taught riding lessons, hosted horse clinics at her home and helped children groom their horses for shows.
“As long as you respect your horse and pay attention to the basic safety guidelines, they can provide many years of wonderful memories for you and your family,” Tidmore said.
Even the perfect children’s horse should be handled with care, Tidmore said.
“I always remind students that their horse is an animal, and it can wake up in different moods just like we can,” Tidmore said. “Anyone who comes in contact with a horse should speak to it and rub it, so the horse is aware of them and does not get startled.”
Tidmore makes sure her 4-H members take their horses into the show arena before a competition to let the horses look around and become accustomed to their surroundings. A horse can be startled by something as small as a new sign or banner hanging in the arena.
“I reinforce these safety measures by repetition,” Tidmore said. “If you remind kids when they are young to be safe every time they are in contact with a horse, it will become second nature to them.”
Ryann Campbell, Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station facilities supervisor, said those handling horses should always wear proper protective attire.
“When horseback riding, you should wear a helmet, closed-toe shoes and long pants,” Campbell said. “A rider should always use caution when walking behind a horse, because the horse can become easily frightened.”
Giaccaglia said 4-H gives young Mississippians an opportunity to learn more about horses even if they do not own one.
“We have young people who participate in both riding and non-riding events. They show in halter, showmanship and various performance classes,” Giaccaglia said. “In non-riding events, our 4-H’ers participate in horse judging, horse art, horse photography and public speaking on horse-related topics.”
No matter what type of competition the kids are involved in, Giaccaglia teaches them that safety comes first.
For more information about 4-H, contact the county Extension office.