When my friend and mentor, the late Addie Funk, first started helping me with my horses, he suggested that we get rid of my halter ropes with snaps and braid lead ropes on to all the halters permanently. Actually as I think about it, it was more than a suggestion. Knowing him, he probably just braided the new ropes on, confident that anyone with any sense would be pleased with the improvement. In any case, when the task was completed I clearly remember him saying to me, “Now nobody will turn a horse loose around here with a halter on.”
I always chain or otherwise secure slip-on type neckyokes to the tongue so they don’t come off and cause an accident. Neckyokes unexpectedly coming off the tongue have caused countless problems, the likes of which have caused injuries, psychological damage, and even death to horses, and to people as well. Making sure the neckyoke is chained or otherwise secured to the tongue every time you hitch a team is a quick and easy way of eliminating a number of dangerous situations.
One of the things I’ve learned over time is that the truly great teamsters rarely – if ever – have upset horses, close calls, mishaps or wrecks, while the less meticulous horsemen often do. Even though it may take a few minutes longer, the master teamsters constantly follow a series of seemingly minute, endlessly detailed, but always wise safety tips. Here are 10 of them:
In the Fall 2013 issue Journal reader W.D. Cooper of Fayetteville, Pennsylvania respectfully took me to task for plowing with the lines tied behind my back while using the walking plow. Mr. Cooper put it this way, “Any one whose ever plowed knows that you never put the check lines around your waist. I don’t care how quiet your team is. If they plow up a nest of yellow jackets they’re fixin’ to blow up and run. Needless to say, trapped.” That got me to thinking about all the different aspects of safety while farming with horses.
In North America, horn knobs have been fixed to cattle for over 150 years. It is likely in foreign countries that horn knobs adorned the horns of oxen for several hundred years. In some regions they are called horn buttons or horn balls. I have seen the knobs made of steel and aluminum, but most commonly are made of brass. The styles and shapes run from simple hex shaped like those used in New England to multi-layered shapes and quite ornate like those used in Nova Scotia, Europe, and South America.
Most accidents happen when people handling cattle don’t understand basic cow psychology, being in the wrong place at the wrong time or trying to force an animal to do something it doesn’t understand. Cattle can be dangerous when handled in a confined area if they panic and become defensive. Their reaction to a perceived threat to their safety is to flee or fight, and if they don’t have room to run away they will attack. Wild, nervous cattle are more dangerous in close quarters such as a small corral or barn stall because they panic quicker and need a lot more room (bigger flight zone). They may become defensive and charge at you, even if you are some distance away. Accidents at calving time may occur if a cow considers you a threat to her calf.