Hunting with Horses
If you ever use an outfitter, whether for a guided hunt of to be taken to a drop camp, the chances are that you will be riding a horse. I love horses and have worked with them often, so I am going to be writing some posts about horses for the novice in case you are ever lucky enough to take a horse back trip into the wilderness. If you look at the About page on my site, at the bottom there are a bunch of pictures, many of them of me with horses.
My first piece of advice regarding horses is to not be afraid of them, they can sense that. You need to at least appear confident in what you are doing around horses. Horses are incredibly intelligent animals, but they are also prey animals, meaning that throughout their evolution they have been the pursuit of predators, so they are naturally nervous, especially around new things, of which you would be one. In order to do this, there are some basic things to understand about horses to build your confidence. When I work for Sable Mountain Outfitters, one of my favorite things to do when I’m about to help a client onto his horse is I say “You’re gonna be ridin’ Tornado today,” just to see the look on his face.
To understand horses, you should understand a little bit about their physical capabilities. First of all, horses can see with both monocular vision and binocular vision, meaning with one eye individually, or two eyes combined. Their area of sight from monocular vision is about 260 – 280 degrees, meaning they can see almost everything around them to some degree. However they cannot see directly behind them, directly above their back, directly in front of their face, or directly below their neck. This is important to understand because horses don’t like to be surprised.
A lot of people are afraid to walk behind a horse, but as long as the horse knows you are there, it is fine to walk behind him. Whenever you get near a horse, in a calm voice let him know you are there by saying his name or calling him “hey horse” or something like that. You want the horse to know you are there and where you are as you move around him. If you are walking behind him, put your hand softly on his hind quarters as you approach, and keep it there as you walk behind it. It’s a good idea to always be talking to the horse, even when you are riding him.
Horses don’t like to be touched in certain places or in certain ways. Most horses prefer to be rubbed, not patted. The upper half of their head is very sensitive, including their ears. Some horses like to be rubbed on their forehead above their eyes. Not many horses like to be rubbed directly on their nose, so avoid that. If you are approaching a horse to rub its forehead, use slow hand motions, don’t jerk your hand at the horse’s face. As you are riding the horse, rub its neck and flanks often and say his name, like “Good boy Tornado.”
There is so much more to write about this topic, but this is a start. If you have an outfitted hunt planned for the coming fall, stay tuned for more articles about horses, I have some knowledge to share that could make your trip a lot more pleasant.