Tuesday, March 31, 2009

More on the Video

Of course, the comments on that video that Arabians have been bred to be crazy and the breed has been ruined by that type of breeding also pushed my buttons in a big way. While some breeders have bred for characteristics that are not desirable to everyone, there are plenty of responsible breeders in the Arabian industry. The breed has continued to improve over the years and the great disposition the Arabian horse is known for has not been compromised by current breeding practices. There are many breeders who consider producing a good minded horse to be an important part of their breeding decisions.

I got started in this industry fairly late in my life and sure wouldn't have wasted my time with a horse that wasn't worth that effort. I have NO TIME for stupid mistakes or crazy horses and I wasn't sucked in by either. I expect Arabian horses to be both beautiful and kind. I have rarely been disappointed.

I've come across a couple stallions in my journey that were real buggers, but it's people who turned them into those angry horses, not their breeding. Such things do happen to horses of any breed.

I've never met an Arabian horse that is downright crazy although I did met an older thoroughbred mare that was pretty darn close. Again, people made her that way. She was too old to fix at that point but still her behavior doesn't mean all thoroughbreds are crazy. It means there are reasons for this behavior....and it's usually people.

There were also,lots of comments on this video about how poorly the people in the ring handled the situation. However, when I looked at the video that's not what it looked like to me. Sure things were confusing. That's what happens when things get out of control.

As a show manager I can tell you when sh*t happens, you don't really have time to think about what you're going to do. Reactions are instantaneous and hopefully appropriate but that's not always the case. You try things and hope they work. If they don't you try something else.

The bigger the wreck, the more difficult it is to get things under control. The more horses, the more people involved the risk factors go up exponentially. All you can really do is give it your best shot and hope it works.

In this case there was a lot going on. Originally there were seven horses and carts in that arena, three judges, one announcer, one ring steward, probably only one scorer and a photographer probably with an assistant. When the timeout was called because the horse was out of control, other people slipped into the ring to assist. You can bet there was probably one additional person per horse and those were probably the trainers of those horses since this was an amateur driving class.

In all that's a lot of people trying to solve a problem no one has the time to discuss, thinking on your feet is the only way. Mostly you have people working individually trying to do what each thinks will work. While it may not be the most effective, it's still better than expecting someone else to fix the problem. It takes courage to step in to such a situation and try to help.

Some basic understanding of a horse's behavior under such circumstances would be important to know to determine the "right" thing to do. And, of course, there really is no "right" thing because each horse will respond differently to the stimuli. You might have a general idea of what might work but it's a guess at best.

In this case the horse was being "driven" forward by the cart or harness trailing behind. That's one of the things that makes driving classes so dangerous. When things go wrong, they go really wrong fast because the equipment used to help keep the driver and horse safe in the first place actually become part of the problem once things go wrong. The terrified horse can't see what's after him/her but can feel the drag adding to it's terror.

The horse's primal response is to escape pressure and that's exactly what it was trying to do. All other stimuli is secondary in such cases and may not even get noticed at all if the horse is "spooked enough." Attempts by the people to control this horse's movements were futile but the men were talking among themselves changing up things trying to find something that would work.

Since this horse couldn't immediately be stopped, obviously controlling the movement of the horse would be ideal. Accomplishing that goal is another matter. Wanting to keep the spooked horse against the rail was a great plan, but none of the spooking horses in this case really responded to attempts to accomplish that goal.

In the course of events the original spooking horse caused two other horses to break loose from handlers and spook. Someone managed to grab that second horse pretty quickly so it didn't cause even more mayhem. The third horse that took off dumped its handicapped rider out of the cart onto the ground. An onlooker drug the handicapped driver back towards the gazebo area getting her out of the open. However, she was later knocked off of her chair by her horse again because none of these loose horses respected the "barrier" that was that center ring gazebo., further testament to how out of control and unpredictable these horses were.

People were criticized for jumping out in front of the terrified horses. Yet, a horse wearing blinders only has that limited field of vision that is mostly to the front. How else did people expect anyone to affect a change in the horse's momentum without getting seen by the horse. All movement to the side of a horse wearing blinders is useless when it comes to controlling the movement of a loose horse. A change of direction, a break in stride, things like that are usually accomplished by breaking the horse's field of vision with some kind of barrier. Normally galloping horses can be turned or slowed when their path is intersected. That didn't happen here.

And yes, some people called the men trying to grab the spooked horse by the bridle crazy. Others would call them heroes. Many a spooked cart horse has been stopped by just such a man. And more importantly from what I know, that's usually the way those horses get stopped. Rarely does the horse get run down and quit on its own.

I know the horse that spooked at the show when I was manager was stopped by the ring steward who grabbed the horse thus saving the driver and the horse from a bad wreck. The ring steward injured his shoulder but he'll do it again, I can assure you.

Having the horse run itself down and get tired enough to quit would be good if the horse would stay in that outside area. But as you see on this video, these horses headed straight into the center ring gazebo, over carts, people and other horses. The unpredictability of these horses' behavior dictates some kind of intervention.

In this wreck the first horse was grabbed at unsuccessfully several times before someone was finally successful. The point is.........someone finally was successful thus removing this horse from the mix. Someone managed to catch that second horse very quickly before it even made an entire lap around the arena. I'm pretty sure that played a big role in this whole thing not ending much worse.

From the video there's no way to tell whose idea it was to rope that last horse but however it was, was brilliant in my book. I've looked over and over at that clip of the rope flying and bringing that horse down. All the time thinking there would never even been someone at one of my shows that good with a rope let alone in the right place at the right time. You can bet no one called the show office on the phone requesting the guy with the rope come show up and save the day. Talk about luck!

But then that's my point. You do what you have to do. Those who have the heart to try jump in there and give it all they've got. Those that don't sit back and criticize. In the end, no one was seriously hurt...........neither human nor horse. Considering the way this thing looks, it's a miracle but that miracle happened because those horses were finally stopped.........all three of them.


  1. I'm sure everyone was doing what they thought would work best. It was a very stressful situation, possibly life-threatening, which makes it hard to keep your wits about you. It could have turned out much worse and can happen with any breed.

    If you look close again and stop the video at the spot where the rope was thrown and then play it slowly beyond that point, you will see that the rope missed it's mark. Then the cart hit the rail, breaking loose, and the horse actually tripped and fell on the hanging harness pieces. But throwing a rope was a good idea. That horse didn't have blinkers on either, so maybe it responded better to the people urging it toward the rail.

    It just looked to me like the people in the carts would have been safer getting out and gathering in the center fenced area, and let the grooms calm the horses standing there and maybe unharness them so they could exit quickly. Some of them did that and got out safely. Others were not standing very close to the center so they got involved in more wrecks when the running horses cut through.

    A tough call all around for everyone involved. All they could do was try different things to stop the runaways. Everything had its risks, but something had to be done. You can't just stand there and do nothing! I feel bad for everyone that was involved.

  2. That video was scary to say the least, it's a miracle no one got hurt. Imagine having someone there with a rope that could actually throw it correctly and stop the horse. I know how hard it is to stop a charging horse because I did it once and got a good bite for my trouble, but you do what the situation calls for and you're right if you're a horse person you've got to be able to think on your feet.

  3. One thing it didn't take long to realize is that commentors on YouTube aren't the brightest. There's way too many people with such varying levels of knowledge (or complete lack-there-of) that you are always going to have stupid comments. People just always have to add their two cents, no matter how invalid or ignorant it is. That's why I just don't read them.

    I was amazed watching that video as the horses kept running into each other and causing the chain reaction. But I'm not surprised the horses were acting like this. I would guess a huge part of the problem were the blinders and the carts. The carts were going to eat them, and the blinders prevented them from seeing the carts and their surroundings. It makes me wonder if the horses would have reacted so badly without the blinders. If they had a chance to be able to see what was going on ... and where they were going ... they might have relaxed about the carts. Not to mention the people trying to help would have been able to keep them on the rail and the horses probably wouldn't have run into each other either. I guess my biggest question is, are the blinders necessary? I would think they cause more problems than they prevent, at least in a show ring.

    I am glad to hear all the horses and people were OK.

  4. I used to show saddle seat. We rode a lot of half arabs. I liked them. I have always told people, that Arabians act they way they do because they are so smart. They are very observant horses and are very smart. Not like the dead head quarter horses. :) I have a 20 year old half arab gelding, and I love him. He is in great shape, and can be ridden all day long. Wonderful horse.

    I might be a dork, but I got goose bumps reading the part about the man that roped that third horse. He really was great. I can tell you what, he sure got that horse on the first try. Talk about skill.

    And it's so true about the blinders and the horse not being able to see the men coming at him from the side. Plus with the cart behind the horse "chasing" him. Horses will use their flight instincts when they are scared. To the horse, that cart was probably chasing him.

    Also, horses are herd animals. The horse was scared, he wanted to be in the middle with the other horses. So, I can see why he would run into the middle.

    I am just glad that everyone was safe in the end. When you ride or work with horses, you just never know what can happen.

  5. DJ, I've looked closely at this video too. I don't think the rope missed its mark at all. I think the intention all along was to rope the shaft of the cart to get the cart free from the horse.

    When the rope hit its mark, the cart fell immediately. Then the horse stepped on a dangling piece of tack freed up by the absence of the cart and the horse stumbled. The end of the rope is pulled back right from the end of the shaft in the dirt.

    I would expect had the horse not fallen that then it would have been the next target directly. But roping it with the cart still hooked would have been very dangerous for the horse. Going for the cart first, removed that jeopardy for the horse. Someone knew what they were doing.

    Arlene, I've been there stopping a charging horse as well and I agree with you about the difficulty.I also know that I'm not one of those people who can watch and not do something.

    Jackie, you are right about the commentors. Many of them have just enough knowledge and/or experience to be dangerous and yet they think they have all the answers.

    I believe that blinders (or blinkers as they are sometimes called) are considered to be part of the required appointments. Since people have been driving horses with them as part of the apparatus for longer than I even know, I'm going to guess that there are more pros about their use than cons.

    Without the experience or knowledge of the people who instituted their use, I don't think I'm in a position to make an informed decision about them one way or the other. Blinders clearly added to the difficulty of catching the horses in this instance but my guess is they also prevent the horses from spooking at the sight of other horses coming up behind them during the class as well.

    While you can school your horse to deal with the cart he pulls, you can probably not cover all sizes, shapes, etc of those carts, horses and drivers that might pass. Horses being what they are it's probably better that they don't see behind them in these circumstance but that's just my guess.

    Andrea, I totally agree with you about the guy with the rope. He was definitely skillful. He hit that shaft on the first try. And the fact he even thought about the shaft sliding through the ties to target that part of the cart in the first place is impressive. Cool and calm under fire, that's for sure!

    I also think you're right that the frightened horses probably were trying to join the "herd" and that's why they were going in the middle where the other horses were. They were looking for some sort of safety.

  6. I thought the same thing about the person with the lariat; such luck to have that person there WITH a rope. Much of my family ropes, but the don't tend to have a rope with them at all times! ;)

    The horse that was roped sure appeared to be in extreme shock, I am amazed that the horse was not injured from the fall AND that the horse came through the shock OK.

  7. Breath-taking. I can't imagine doing anything except bailing over the rail until it all gets straightened out.

    That original runaway was mad about something, as we saw with the kicking.

  8. I just saw this video myself yesterday. My thoughts? Hindsight is a good shake better than what our actions are during a stressful situation.

    Coming from my wild background as I do, my first thought was "Stop chasing the horse", and "Get the other horses unhitched and out of the way". Easier said than done in the last instance, but I think with as long as this went on, there were a few that could easily have avoided injury.

    But as said...hind sight.

    And you're right, this has nothing to do with the breed. Just animal behavior, pure and simple.

    You know...I rode quarter horses for years and they're every bit as explosive as the next horse. How else could they work a cow or explode over a quarter mile track? If you're riding one that's a deadhead, then you're not truly riding a quarter horse.

    All horses have the ability to do exactly what we see in this video.

    BTW...wet, bone chilling snow this morning. I swear the humidity is 350% today. Wanna move to the high desert with me?

  9. I want to commend you for your responses to explaining hwo situations such as these are handled. If it had been a draft horse or my little QH cross that spooked, people would never have attacked the breed. I hate how Arabs always get these horrible reputations. I always said, "it isn't the horse, it's the people" -whether through training techniques or flat out ignorance of the breed and event.

    There are a lot of factors to consider in any wreck. You have done a great job covering this in an unopinionated manner.

  10. Lulu, I'm with you on the guy with the rope. I don't know how he got there but he sure was a big help. And his timing was impeccable. He roped that shaft, put enough pressure on it to make the cart drop and then released his pressure so the horse wasn't taken down by the "catch." I wish I could handle a rope like that.

    You're right about horses and shock. It can be the end for them but Arabians really respond to their humans. That trait is very helpful in times like these. The story I told about the mare savaging the stallion, both of those horses turned out fine too. And they both got pretty shocky.

    Molly, there were probably a few people in the center ring who wished they had the option of diving over the rail and escaping, I'll bet.

    It's hard telling what got the first horse started but he was an experienced driving horse with a awesome show record. Now he is done, as I would bet others in this class are as well. It would take a lot of rehab to fix a horse after something as traumatic as this.

    Tracey, it's hard to know what stopped some from unhitching. Although I believe the woman driving the third horse is a paraplegic. I'm sure that affected their decision to leave her in the cart.

    And it's hard to maneuver in that confined place, figuring out a "safe" place to unhitch had to be part of the problem. A half-hitched horse running free could have been an even bigger mess. There are just so many possibilities, it really is hard to know. It would be informative to get to talk to some to see why they made the decisions they did.

    Danielle, Thanks. There are always other sides to a story. If we're going to learn from such things it's important to have an idea what they might be.

  11. I still can't see the rope contacting the shaft causing the cart to break free from the horse, but it doesn't matter. Whatever happened worked. It's definitely a video that can be used for learning from.

    One thing I noticed with a lot of the people & horses stopped in the arena, was that they were not going to and staying in the center as instructed by the announcer. And I wouldn't have been sitting in a chair outside that center fenced area! I'm sure they all had their reasons. Must have been especially frightening for the paraplegic!

    P.S. Wasn't it a stallion savaging a mare in your story, not the other way around? :)

  12. DJ, Yes, you are right my fingers got ahead of my brain and typed other than I thought. Kind of typical at the moment. LOL

  13. OM Gosh MiKael I felt sick while I watched that video!!!!!

    I think everything has been said by you and the other (rational) commenters on your blog, how do we know how we would react until we find outselves in that position. A horse has a flight reaction no matter how well trained when it is scared. I have seen a less chaotic thing happen at a Welsh Pony show that I was photographing, fortunately it was under control quickly and there was only one other carriage in the ring at the time.

    I would never have thought that these horses have blinkers on so they dont have any vision to their side so ,my first reaction was why the heck were those guys running at the horse!!! After your explanation I realised that the horses probably didnt even see them running up beside themt so those guys were really brave for attempting to get a hold of them with the carriage whipping behind the one. I am so glad that there were no serious injuries and it was horrific to watch but horses are not the only things that react on instinct, heck I learned to drive on the right side of the road and the steering wheel and controls were on the right side of the vehicle. Even now after being here for 8 years and driving most days, I have to do a conscious check that I am on the right side of the road and a few times have had to react to an incident and my instinct from years of driving elsewhere tends to kick in when I take avoiding action. Not a good thing.

    If you notice this whole thing happened over a short time of only 5 minutes or so, not a long time although it seemed like forever while I was watching it and I am sure to the people in the ring.

    Whew that has got my adrenaline going. WOW Off to take a Valium!!

  14. I wanted to add that the first horse must have been absolutely terrified with all those pieces of leather, noise, jolting and everything else, not being able to see anywhere but directly in front of it and hearing all that commotion. The third horse didn't seem to have blinkers on and that was probably why they managed to keep it to the outside of the arena more easily.

  15. I'm torn. I'm at work and don't have access to the video, and I can't decide if I want to watch it or not. I saw a bad cart wreck in the warm-up ring at at show once - I didn't see the actual collision but I saw the aftermath. Two carts were working opposite directions and one horse spooked and ran nearly head-on into the other horse. There was a lot of commotion and I didn't get that clos but was later told that one of the shafts had broken and stabbed one of the horses in the chest. I think after stitches everyone was okay. So I've seen one cart wreck, and I don't know if I ever want to see another, live or on video.

    It's funny you should post this at a time when I am dealing with Fire, a horse who was handled poorly and now has immense fear issues. He's turning around, but if someone who didn't know Arabs had tried to work with him right now he would surely be labled as "crazy Arab". You have no idea how much I HATE that.

  16. It isn't just arabs - as you say, all horses have a flight instinct - they wouldn't be horses if they didn't. I love the ignorance of the youtube commenter that said 'if the horses were trained properly, they'd have trusted their handlers to keep them safe'. God I wish that was true! I know whole-heartedly that if that was Echo in that ring - she'd have been galloping round with the rest of them, and she's a "quiet cob" - shows that these labels like "crazy arabs" are just a bit ignorant really.

    Scary video - made me feel all short of breath - hope I never have to deal with a situation like that.

  17. The first time I watched that video it made me ill. I can't imagine being in the arena at that time. But I wonder, when you are in a car accident on the freeway, they tell you the safest place is to stay in your car, would this normally be true for driving horses? If everyone had unhitched and gotten out of their carts, wouldn't there be more carts and people for the horses to run into?

    At first, I would have expected the horse to be caught up quickly and not run into anyone. Then, realizing that it was becoming a total disaster, it might have been too late to do anything except try to stay out of the way. How fast can a horse get unhitched? Doesn't that depend on the capability of the groom?

    I've never driven a horse but my half Arabian mare was hit by a runaway horse and cart once. She was tied to a hitching rail at the time when this crazed horse, not Arabian, came flying past and hit her in the side with the cart. My mare stayed incredibly calm throughout the entire incident, the other horse, not so much. My mare got a hernia from the accident and I believe the other horse ended up with swollen legs.