Risk Assessments are our only weapon against the Health and Safety monster, but I actually found a use for them last week.
I was walking through the woods with one of my young clients on her pony. She’s quite nervy out of the school, and sees many monsters, so as we walked through the car park she piped up,
“There’s a balloon over there.”
“So?” I replied looking at her. It was a helium balloon about fifty yards away, now blocked from view by the parked trailers.
“Well, Pal might be scared of it.”
Then I had an idea.
“I don’t think so. Shall we put it in perspective? On a scale of one to five, with one being a lead on the ground and not scary, to five being a big frightening explosion, how scary do you think that balloon is? It’s not windy today so it’s not moving.”
“Two?” She suggests hesitantly.
I nod. “Now on a scale of one to five, can you tell me how close it is. One is the other end of a field and five is right by your feet.”
“One” she replies with a little giggle.
“Yep. Now we add these numbers together and the bigger the number the scarier the thing is. Ten is the maximum and two is the minimum.”
“That’s what I got too. Now, is that balloon scary?”
“Noooo!” She laughs and we moved across the car park quite happily.
As we went along the drive we played the game again with everything we saw, and my little rider soon got the idea and as she was assessing each hazard she stopped panicking and downgraded everything to “not scary” even though initially she thought they were going to be troublesome. The result was a more confident rider and her pony was more obedient and less inclined to look out for monsters.
She may never be the biggest fan of hacking, but if her little risk assessments make her feel safer and more confident then it’s worthwhile. I think most adult riders sub-consciously risk assess when around horses, taking note of the weather or the feed bag outside the stable and responding appropriately, without the need for a sliding scale.