RANCHO SANTA FE — “Whoa! Hold your horses!” is a familiar refrain urging a person to slow down and take control.
The Rancho Santa Fe Patrol knows all too well about holding horses because one of their duties is rounding up horses that have thrown their rider or escaped their stalls or corrals, especially if the horse is spooked and running blinding toward a major traffic artery.
“It’s a danger to everyone out there and to the horse,” Wellhouser said.
He can tell horror stories about what can happen when horses and vehicles collide.
Dealing with loose horses happens so often that patrol members are prepared by carrying halters and lead lines in their patrol vehicle, and a bit of what Wellhouser calls “horse bait,” which is a few alfalfa pellets that will attract reluctant horses.
Still they needed to brush up on their skills.
“It has been a while since our last training,” Wellhouser said.
They turned to Debbie Rocha, Western Riding expert at the Rancho Santa Fe Riding Club, who gave them tips on how to stop a horse, approach it and get a halter on its head during an hour-long session on Nov. 17.
“I just want to answer questions and point out something they might not be familiar with,” Rocha said.
She said when it comes to dealing with horses anything is possible.
“If you can imagine it, it can happen,” she said.
Rocha said that a few horses are escape artists no matter where they are confined.
“A lot are pretty good at opening latches,” she said.
She said she once knew a horse that had to be locked in and the key hidden from it.
Rocha said it is important not to try to hide the halter from the horse.
“Show him the halter. Walk up to him like he’s your best friend,” she said.
After a demonstration, she let each patrol officer try the procedure until they were comfortable with it.
Then she taught them how to get a horse going in the desired direction.
“Horses are herd animals, so if you chase them, they are going to run,” she said.
Instead, she taught the officers how to walk up to the horse and pull its lead line in the right direction for the right results.
She also taught them basic safety and how to avoid being kicked.
“We have a lot of horse ranches and a lot of people keep horses,“ Wellhouser said. ”If you if you did not grow up around horses you probably don’t know how to deal with them. It’s the same thing with dogs. If you didn’t grow up with a dog you probably don’t know how to work with a dog.”