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Horses/leg in a hole


Dear Dorothy,

I am writing a scene in a novel including horses and my question is about dealing with a hypothetical situation. As someone who has worked with horses in the past (years ago), I know that such a situation is very possible and realistic and is, therefore, a good exercise in emergency preparedness. Although it is fiction and my characters could do whatever I make up, I wanted to have them do something sound and wise with at least a reasonable probability of a good outcome with a real-world horse.

The problem:

There is an old school bus that has been re-purposed for storing tack and equipment. It also happens to have a barrel of sweet feed inside. The horse manges to get out of the pasture and enter the bus to eat the sweet feed. On leading her out of the bus, a hoof punches through a weak spot in the step and her leg becomes caught in a hole.

The horse has a flighty, spooky disposition and it is necessary to get the horses leg out of the hole without causing a potentially dangerous reaction that injures horse or handler. Naturally, preventing a horse from getting into a bus would be the best remedy! However, how might you respond if you found yourself needing to assist a horse in a situation like this?

Some things I thought about, are keeping a hand on the shoulder of the leg opposite to the one in the hole to keep weight on the sound footing to avoid panic, while having someone else try lifting carefully at the knee and raising the leg from the hole. I also imagined the possibility that the someone might cover the head to blind her, but it seems to me this could actually make things worse and cause the horse to jerk and cut its leg.

Thanks for your time and suggestions!

Hello Loren,

As a horsewoman AND an author, I would suggest that you might have written yourself into a "hole".

A hand on the shoulder of the free side would do absolutely nothing to prevent the horse from scrambling in panic. The pressure of one hand is nothing to 1000 lbs of panic and fear.

A horse of that temperament will already be attempting to loose itself. It will be thrashing around and will have lifted it's hind and may have already pulled the leg out by putting weight on the opposite side. Possibly, because it has four legs, it would have felt the floor give way and instantly have put all its weight on the other three legs, not falling at all. But if it does go in and  pull out or is gotten out, I see skin scraped off, either front or back of the leg, possible both. If a metal floor, possibly the tendons will be scraped or cut.

And I can't see a flighty horse just lying there waiting to be pulled out, with its hind end stuck up in the air, which it would be.

If I found myself dealing with this, it would be someone else's horse and I would be the person called to help, for I would never allow mine to have access to such a dangerous situation.  So I would not know the horse. You will have already established that the horse's owner or guardian is not a very wise person, or does not know horses well. You could never have a good horseperson let a horse do this. That would not be continuity; a clash of reason.

Do you have a cell phone on your person to call someone? Is someone close by? Are you alone?

What era is this?

So I see so many problems here that might make the scene unbelievable, that I would rewrite that part and do something different, Unless you are trying to show how dumb someone is to let a horse get into this situation.

Hope I have given some help.  Please feel free to contact me if you have more questions.  I love to help horsewomen/authors.  


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Dorothy K Morris


I now live in Tucson, AZ. My expertise is in training and rehabilitating horses, and training riders for combined training for over 40 years, in Virginia and California. This includes dressage, cross country obstacles and show jumping. In my many years of experience and endless study of Classical theory, and my hands-on retraining horses,I have accummulated much knowledge of the different personalities of horses and how to approach their rehabilitation. At my age, I do not ride as much as I used to, but I don't see why I have to waste the experience I have. I can answer certain questions about starting young horses in English riding: dressage, jumping, cross country obstacles and basic equitation. I can help with rehabilitation of spoiled or difficult horses; however, many problems require sustained riding instruction/training and I cannot do this online. Some issues need to be observed to come to a correct diagnosis. If your problem is of this type, please find a qualified instructor/trainer. I cannot give riding lessons via email.


Experience in the area: Over 40 years of English riding experience, including Fox Hunting in Virginia where I earned my colors with the Blue Ridge Hunt, training young horses for hunting and/or eventing. Coached a rider from her beginning at Training Level Combined tests through her competition at two Junior International competition Three Day Events. She rode my horse that I also started and trained her to ride. This combination competed in the World Championship Three Day in Lexington, KY in 1978. I trained another horse (TB) through 3rd Level Dressage and jumping. He eventually competed at Advanced level Three Day. I have reschooled several horses with difficulties ranging from running away to running backward, to not allowing a bridle to be put on, to kicking out at the farrier, being "too much on the muscle over jumps", barn sour, etc

National Society Daughters of the Revolution (DAR)

Six novels (I am also a novelist)

Some college. Endless study of Classical Theory and training methods.

Awards and Honors
Who's Who of American Women, Who'w Who in America, Past Board of Directors FDIC-NACM

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