Training Tip from Sally Cousins: Taking Risks

We are delighted to host Sally Cousins as an EN guest blogger, as she shares her wealth of knowledge with us in the form of training tips. We hope these nuggets of information can be integrated directly into your program at home and can influence the way you ride and train your horses. Be sure to check out both the Sally Cousins Eventing website and keep up with her on Facebook.

Sally Cousins and Ideal Contini. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Sally Cousins and Ideal Contini. Photo by Jenni Autry.

In 2006, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was injured in a motorcycle accident. There was some backlash from the Steelers organization and their fans because he was not wearing a helmet. Terry Bradshaw (the former Steelers quarterback) was openly critical of Ben riding the motorcycle at all and said he shouldn’t even be on a motorcycle until he retired. He was getting paid millions of dollars to play football and the risk of getting hurt on the bike was not worth it.

We are risk takers. Anyone who rides and works around horses assumes a certain level of risk. We cannot eliminate all the risk, but I believe it is important to ask yourself if the risk you are taking on makes sense.

Some of the riskiest behavior can be in the way we work with the horses on the ground. For instance, I don’t walk behind horses without them being aware of what I am doing. We are also extremely vulnerable loading horses, and there have been some horrific accidents related to that.

I try to pay attention to the way the horse reacts to me when I am near it. I don’t want to end my season by being kicked just because I was careless. If someone makes an arrangement for me to ride a horse I am happy to do it if I know the horse or the person. I no longer get on every horse that is brought into the ring. I rarely ride a horse that I haven’t seen ridden by someone else first.

I am also aware of the risks I take outside of my normal work day. Driving the dirt bike too fast around the field chasing my dog is probably not a good idea. I’m not that great of a driver (although I did provide everyone in the barn some amusement when I ran into the mulberry bush and got stuck!).

If I am riding a horse that is in my training program and I get hurt, that is my job. If I am riding a horse that is capable of doing what I’m asking and something goes wrong, that happens. If I am careless and in a hurry and I get hurt, that is avoidable. I ask myself if it is fair to my family, my owners, and my employees for me to get hurt doing something that was not necessary.

If I meet someone new and they ask me what I do for a living, sometimes I say that I evaluate risk. I love our sport and nothing is more thrilling than riding cross country. This risk is totally worth it.