Working Around the Horse Using the 3 Key Elements Copy
While massaging a horse in the stall or cross-ties, it is especially important that you pay close attention to the horse— its attitude, where its attention is directed, what its body language is telling you (some discussion later in this text). Horses give fair warning before biting or kicking to those who pay attention, though some may be more subtle than others. The more you train yourself to see these problems coming before they happen, the safer you and the horse will be, and the more enjoyable the massage!
Any contact with a horse should be gentle, respectful and fully anticipated by the horse (as opposed to startling). Whenever possible, keep contact with two hands, which is more reassuring. (A hand on a lead rope counts!) Also, contact should always be a two-way interaction. You are sending signals to the horse (directions, requests, guidance, reassurance), but there is also information from the horse to be received if you listen with your touch.
Once you have the horse haltered, you still must consider the horse’s vision when positioning yourself. This does not mean you never go behind or in front of the horse, but it does mean you must be aware he/she won’t see you as well from some positions, and the situation may or may not make them worried. When walking behind a horse, a common mistake is to walk a few feet away to avoid being kicked. Unless you have room to walk well out of range (probably further than you think!) you are much safer walking right behind the horse with your hand on his rump, using your voice or intention to let him know your movements. This will make the horse feel more secure and less likely to kick. If he should kick, at least there won’t be as much momentum behind the kick! (Of course, if the horse is the type to kick or you have been advised as such, go around the front!)
Also, some horses simply have strong feelings about where it is OK for you to be and where it is not, for any number of reasons (lack of training, abuse, individual quirks, etc.). You must interpret their body language, and know when your position may be making them tense, fearful or resentful.
Finally, it is important that when you are working low such as on the legs, it is better to squat rather than kneel. This will allow you to move out of the way more quickly when necessary, when even a half-second could mean the difference between getting hurt or not.