11 August 2014

Poor Grammar, Tragic Lesson

"Boy, 3, Killed by Horse: Spilled Feed Spooks Horse and Kills Boy Unintentionally"

Grammatically, this headline's a mess, but in a way the misattribution--"feed spooks . . .  and kills"--is almost correct. Obviously, the grain was without intention, but tumbling grain triggered the event. Grain's inert, innocent, and both horse and boy were also innocent. They were simply acting naturally. The problem was with adults allowing a toddler to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I'm sure they realized this the second the grain spilled, but it was too late then.

As flight animals, frightened horses react first and think later.  Knowing this, experienced horsemen spend a great deal of time desensitizing horses so that they'll stand calmly and even ignore movements and actions that would normally send them running. However, even desensitized horses can spook and small children are even more unpredictable than horses.

As I gathered from another version of this story, when the grain spilled, the small boy helpfully dove in to pick it up. When the adults ordered him to stop, the boy threw his hands in the air, startling the already agitated horse into firing the lethal kick. Sometimes, trust, innocence, and enthusiasm end in tragedy.

Being too trusting of both horses and small children afflicts even horse professionals. A few years ago, a couple of professional trainers were grooming a horse in cross ties when their son toddled up behind the horse. Another potential horseman died that day.

A similar confluence of careless trust led to the death of this little boy. Horses and small children both require experienced care and handling, and horses and small children together require the utmost care and handling.