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Horse Sense

Horse Sense


316th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)
U.S. Army Reserve
Coraopolis, Pennsylvania

It was late summer and I, along with the rest of the guys in my platoon, was preparing for my first deployment. We had met a few months earlier during our pre-mobilization training and were already beginning to function as a cohesive team. With about a month left before mobilization, going-away parties were in full swing. It was a nervous time for many of us, but we were determined to make the most of our final days at home.

We took road trips, hiked mountains and even found an old abandoned railroad trestle to climb across that spanned a gap about 80 feet above a river. On this particular day, the activity was horseback riding. A buddy of mine was hosting his going-away party and asked if any of us would like to try a little riding. Having never ridden a horse, and secure in the knowledge of my own invincibility, I decided to give it a go.

At first, I did pretty well. As I gained confidence in my newly discovered riding skills, I decided I wanted to go faster. The horse was all too happy to oblige my request for more speed and, like me, ignored the concerns of my buddy, who was saying something about being careful.

It was about this time that I realized two things. The first was horses don't have much in the way of natural “holds.” Without a saddle, I found myself beginning to slowly slide to one side of the horse. This brought me to my second realization. While a well-trained horse will slow down with a gentle tug on the reins, this one had a mind of his own. Just about then, my train of thought was interrupted by a disorienting weightless feeling, followed by an unceremonious landing a few inches from the horse’s hooves. Fortunately for me, no real damage was done, aside from some minor scrapes and bruises.

My first experience with horseback riding — or horseback falling, as we later dubbed it — made for some funny stories. But the tendency of Soldiers to engage in risk-taking behavior immediately before and after a deployment is no laughing matter. I was lucky. My reminder that I'm not invincible came in the form of a minor, although painful, fall. Many aren't so lucky.

Far too many Soldiers are seriously injured, or even killed, when they engage in risk-taking behavior immediately before or after a deployment. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to knows someone who had been hurt or had a near miss in the months during their deployment preparation or their recovery period following redeployment. Whether it’s the result of feeling invincible or wanting to experience one more thrill before heading overseas, these risky behaviors are a real threat to the safety and mission-effectiveness of our troops.

As safety professionals and leaders, it’s our responsibility to stay engaged with our Soldiers during the entire deployment process. This includes preparation and recovery. By being alert for signs of high-risk behavior, we not only show our Soldiers we care, we could save a life.

  • 17 September 2017
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 1343
  • Comments: 0