We recently had a customer call to say they didn’t like the E-Z Ride Stirrups with Cage. The E-Z Ride Stirrups with Cage have been on the market for quite some time with lots of happy customers, and are designed so the rider’s foot cannot slide all the way through the stirrup, and it is considered a safety stirrup. So I asked, “Why don’t you like them?”
The rider had a very good reason. Her horse turned its head around and was biting at the stirrup – no idea why. While biting the stirrup, the horse actually got his teeth caught on the cage! After he ran sideways for a bit, he stopped and let his rider disengage his teeth from the cage. No one was hurt. Whew!
Safety has to be the number one priority with horses. It’s important to develop safe habits while riding and being around horses. We sometimes become a little careless, or I should say carefree, when we ride our horses. We know them, we trust them, and we know what they can handle. However, the Martians can still land – unpredictably. And when they do, train wrecks can happen.
I have ridden with trail riders who give their horses a long rein, and allow them to move their heads from side to side looking at the scenery. I’ve heard the term “wag” their heads for this behavior. While this is ok on a limited basis, basically, I feel a horse should keep its head straight and look in the direction of movement at all times. This might require continuing to correct the head position by returning it to straight ahead repetitively, but it is safer in my opinion. It results in less tripping, and the horse can see what’s ahead, and perhaps avoid a surprise. It’s also a better way to cover the ground. A horse that is made to travel straight will stay in forward motion with less energy, it’s just more efficient.
This horse that turned his head around to grab the stirrup had too much freedom and the reins were most likely too long. I’ve never heard of a horse getting his teeth caught on the stirrup, but I have heard of a horse catching the bit on the stirrup or other part of the saddle. This can also result in a serious train wreck. And it’s avoidable by not letting the head get turned that far around.
While we are discussing the head having too much freedom, a long length of rein also can allow the horse to grab bites of grass as you go down the trail. Then it can get out of hand as the horse is constantly reaching for the grass, stopping forward motion, and yanking the reins out of your hands at times. Too long of reins can also make it more difficult to stop a spook. When you have a proper rein length, you can often stop the spook just by re-establishing contact quickly, and preventing a 180-degree spin of a badly spooked horse.
In short, (pun intended) -keep the reins at a reasonable length. It’s a habit that can prevent an unpredictable mishap.