You’re reaching out to pet a horse when it tries to chomp on your arm. Startled, you step back and the horse rears up. If it comes down on you, you could be severely hurt. What did you do to spook it?

There are over 100,000 horse-riding accidents in the U.S. every year. More than half of those accidents involve riders being thrown from the horses. But almost a quarter of them are horse kicks. And a small number are bite related. How can you avoid becoming a statistic? What is the proper way to approach a horse? And why would a horse lash out at you?

1. Stay out of blind spots

Horses are vigilant animals, always on the lookout for threats. That means they can lash out or take flight at any moment, so how you approach them is very important. Unlike you, horses cannot see directly in front of them. So, if you approach from directly in front of them, they may not see you until you’re close. That could startle them.

If startled, a horse could lash out or rear up. The same goes for approaching an equine from behind. A horse can’t see you when you’re approaching from behind it. In this case, it’ll likely kick out a back leg. And if it hits you, it can do major damage.

2. Say Its Name

Approach a horse slowly from the side, so you’re within its line of sight. Don’t make any sudden movements. Talk quietly to the horse, and say its name. Making audible footsteps will also let the horse know that you’re approaching and are not a threat. Then stay close to the horse’s shoulder, so it can’t kick you with its hind legs. Never stand behind its hind legs and keep eye contact with the animal if you can.

3. Don’t feed by hand

Use a bucket or feed bag when feeding a horse. Feeding by hand could lead to you getting bitten. The horse may think your hand is food too.

4. Watch its Lips

If a horse lowers its head, pulls back its lips or pins its ears back, step away. It could be about to bite or kick. Other signs it is about to be aggressive include stamping its feet, rapidly moving its tail or pawing at the ground with its front legs. If you see any of these signs, back away slowly.

5. Get immediate medical help

Whether you’ve been thrown, bitten or kicked, you will need immediate medical help. Being thrown from a horse could cause contusions, broken bones or a concussion. You could also have internal injuries that you’re not aware of. A horse’s bite is about 3,447 kPa (500 lb/in2). That’s more than double the power of a pitbull’s bite. It can cause bruising, puncture wounds and broken bones.

But what if you get kicked by a horse? A horse’s kick can deliver a force of over 10,000 newtons. If it hits you in your torso, it could severely damage your internal organs. It could even rupture some organs and kill you.
If you get kicked in your face, it could sprain your neck, break your jaw or damage your skull. You could also have a severe concussion.

Most kicks hit people in the abdomen, upper body or face. Horses were domesticated thousands of years ago, but they can still be dangerous when spooked or mistreated. So being careful is always a good idea around equines.
You’ve survived being attacked by a horse, but they’re not the only domesticated animal that can attack you. Cats can also be skittish, and they won’t hesitate to lash out if they feel threatened.

What do you need to do if you get bitten by a cat?

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