By Steve Komadina
From The Horse’s Mouth Column.
Steve Komadina is a recovering state senator (’01-’08) from Corrales and occasionally writes on things from his farm in north Corrales. Contact Steve.
As we work our way through September and the State Fair, the Harvest Festival and Balloon Fiesta will be fast upon us. Horses may be affected. Are you prepared?
Horses as prey animals are aware they taste good and are always on the lookout for predators. They feel safer in a herd. Many eyes are better than two!
They are very perceptive to changes in their environment. Light, sound, feel. When a hot-air balloon shadow passes over a pasture, they notice. When a burner sound fills the air, they notice.
We have all heard the saying that the fear of the unknown is worse than the fear of the known and that is part of the problem. Horses look to leadership to know how to act. Are you your horse’s leader? Does your horse look to you for assurance that all is well when confronted by a new change in its environment? Do you telescope fear or safety to your horse when those changes occur?
Especially if you have a solo horse in your backyard, they are looking to you for safety. Do you tense up when you see or hear a balloon? What is your body language? What is your vocal pitch and volume and tone? Are you switching your tail? Are your ears back? What are you sending in unspoken messages to your equine friend?
There is a wide variety of equine reactions to Hot Air Balloons. I have seen horses racing around a pasture and also standing on the Alameda pedestrian bridge with balloons all around YAWNING! What a contrast.
So, what do you do to “balloon proof” your horse? Safe exposure is a key, but easier said than done. How can you introduce your horse to a balloon? CHAMP holds de-spooking clinics from time to time and often there will be a balloon basket and burner to introduce your horse to. In the meantime, improve your time with your horse and establish that leader role. Be quiet and soothing and confident and firm in your interactions. Remember your horse is wanting you to be their leader and keep them safe.
Here is hoping that there will be horse safety in your paddock and things will be very tranquil while the balloons float to the West Mesa for landings in Rio Rancho.
See you on the trail!!