Helping Horses With Separation Anxiety: 5 Key Steps to Create Mutual Trust and Confidence

Many horses have some level of separation anxiety. If the anxiety is mild, it may only be annoying or a minor inconvenience. But, if your horse is so herd bound that her behaviour makes you feel anxious, it may be endangering your and your horse’s safety.

It is only natural for your horse to feel safest when she is with her herd. After all, for prey animals there is safety in numbers. So, what can you do to change a reaction that is caused by your horse’s survival instinct?

You build a bond that is based on mutual trust and respect and also builds confidence. Your horse needs to believe that she is as safe with you as she is with her herd. That connection with your horse starts from ground.

Ground work is much more than pushing your horse around a round pen or on a lunge line. It is anything and everything you do with your horse when you are not riding her – grooming, hand walking, lunging, long lining, even just hanging out in the paddock with her.

How you behave, what you ask from her and how you ask it establish whether or not she feels safe with you. Trust and feeling safe cannot come when force or fear are used.

The following 5 steps are the foundation to earning your horse’s trust and respect so that she can feel as safe with you as she does with her herd.

Step 1: Work with her where she feels calm. At first, this will be close to her herd so that her stress level is as low as possible. You may be in the paddock (if it is safe) or just on the other side of the fence.

Step 2: Encourage her to come into a calm posture by having her poll level with or below her withers. With contact on the rope and using gentle downward pressure, gently rock her head downwards. Do not pull or jerk on the rope!

Step 3: Ask her to respect your space by bending around you and not pushing into you with any part of her body. She cannot respect you if she can move you out of her way. Obviously, your safety comes first – move if you are in danger of being kicked, stepped on or run over.

Step 4: Respect her need to move when she is stressed, but control where and how she goes. Asking a stressed horse to stand still increases her anxiety. Lead her or simply move her around you in a small circle.

Step 5: Gradually increase the distance from her herd. At the first sign of stress, apply the first 4 steps to help decrease her anxiety. If she gets so stress that you get anxious or cannot calm her then go back to where she feels most comfortable.

The more you apply the first 4 steps, the more natural they will become for you and your horse. You can use them in any stressful situation. Your sessions do not have to be lengthy, but they should always end with your horse feeling calm.

The Bottom Line – The absolute best way to develop a true partnership with your horse is by building your confidence and trust in each other.

You can get your Free Instant Access to my webinar “3 Actions You Can Take Now to Build Your Confidence Handling and Riding Horses” when you visit

Brought to you by Anne Gage of Confident Horsemanship ~ Putting you and your horse in good hands.

How To Shop For A New Horse Truck

For many equestriennes, shopping for a new horse truck, sometimes referred to as a horse box, is the realisation of a lifelong dream. Getting ready to look for that dream vehicle is a time of great excitement, although usually tinged with a slight edge of trepidation, especially for the first time buyer. Purchasing even a small horse truck can require a significant financial investment so it is important that the right vehicle is chosen based on each individual’s own wants and needs.

There are two options when looking at these vehicles, buying new or buying secondhand. Purchasing a brand new horse truck has a number of benefits. Firstly, there are usually warrantees and guarantees associated with the purchase, as the seller will tend to be a registered horse truck business. If anything turns out to be faulty with the truck after getting it home, the company is normally obliged to replace it or fix the problem. If the vehicle is being commissioned to be built from scratch, there is often the opportunity to add extra features. That way the vehicle will be fully personalised, designed specifically for the purchaser and will provide everything the owner may want from it. There is no doubt that there are fewer risks when buying a new model but do remember that the cost will be substantially higher than a used truck. Another thing to bear in mind is that many companies will offer used, ex lease or display vehicles, along with the new trucks that they have for sale. It is often possible to pick up a nice truck for a fraction of the price of a new one this way, with the peace of mind that can be gained from shopping with a reputable transport business.

Buyer beware is a sensible way to approach the purchase of a secondhand horse truck, if bought privately. The risks and pitfalls are far greater and there is not much protection at all for customers. If the buyer doesn’t have much experience with horse trucks or other vehicles, they should try to take a knowledgeable person along with them to viewings. Once a horse truck has been decided on, get it checked over by an organisation such as AA, who will give it the full once over and highlight any possible areas for concern. If it is not possible to take anyone along, take a long look at the brakes, lights, bodywork and wheels in particular. Keep an eye out for rust and any obvious holes and cracks. It is also very important that the floor is in good condition as horses can easily fall through a rotten wooden floor, with disastrous consequences.

Actually financing one of these vehicles can be quite a hurdle for many people. If buying new, most horse truck builders will be able to arrange finance for purchasers. Finance can also sometimes be organised through a bank or similar institution if buying a used one. It is always a good idea to save up a portion of the cost as a deposit though and make sure the monthly or weekly payments won’t be too much of a strain. There is no point splashing out on a lovely new model if there’s no money left over to enjoy it!

Owning a horse truck can bring a degree of freedom that has never been experienced before. Many horses prefer to travel in a truck and if there is adequate living inside, it can be comfortable place to stay in overnight at equestrian competitions. Following the few aforementioned guidelines will give the horse owner a greater chance of ending up with a reliable, well running horse truck that will provide them with hours of enjoyment for years to come.


Equine Trader was launched in 2007 and has quickly developed into a leading online equestrian resource. It appeals to New Zealanders who own, ride and are passionate about horses. However, the hugely popular website also attracts equine lovers from throughout the rest of the world.
Membership is free and allows registered users to buy and sell through classifieds and auctions at no charge, browse over 400 horses and ponies for sale and participate in a wide range of exciting competitions and games.


Starting at the Right Point

Over and over again I have seen people start at the wrong point in working with horses; I don’t know if that person feels that they know enough to start further on down the program or if they just don’t really understand how to approach the entire project correctly. Either way they have started at a point that allows for many little problems to show up and develop into larger problems. Starting at the right point allows for a progression that has to follow a given set of rules that are already set in the mind of the horse. The answer is quite simple, start at the beginning. Be able to allow yourself to invest the time that will give you the end results that you are looking for. Besides, this is not who is in charge, or even who knows what; but it is about learning and then beginning to work as a team.

Some of these problems that are created may seem very trivial to us, but what we are attempting to do here is to think like the horse, react like the horse and create a relationship with each horse that we come in contact with.

Most of these problems start out as simple acts that we give no thought to, like feeding from the hand or standing in the wrong place. What these problems do is to reinforce the fact that you are not really capable of handling the position within the herd that you are striving for. To be able to occupy a position of trust and being the one that the horse will turn to in time of need you have to be given the respect of the horse that you are dealing with. Simple and thoughtless actions lead to the horse being disrespectful of you, initially it will be little things that happen and over time, they will become much larger problems until you are having problems getting the horse to show any form of respect towards you and allow you to lead.

Horses are like most living creatures and respond well to praise and touch that shows that you care. Feeding from the hand instills that you are nothing more than a hay feeder or gain bucket and they will do what is ever necessary to satisfy their hunger, including walking over the top of you to satisfy that natural urge. It is never the item that you are feeding the horse; it is the fact that you have allowed them to progress past that invisible line that was created through respect. I have heard some people refer to this as invading your area, I do allow horses into my area, but they do so only when I say so, never when they want to come barging in and knock me over. So, knowing that it is never what you feed, it has to be the how of the feeding. The horse will enjoy what you have to give to them; you just need to do it in a manner that allows the trust and respect to be retained. Try taking the bucket that you are feeding them from and place it on the ground, let them eat from it this way, you have shown them that they will be rewarded for good behavior and at the same time retained your position within the relationship.

Many people are willing to accept the little problems, but when you stand back and take a good hard look, you will realize that the horse is able to accept that not following the rules will allow them to also start to do other things that they should not do. That is how little problems become bigger problems and most of the problems that are started on the ground will relate to even bigger problems once you get on their back. Remember, trust and respect are the main points that you are trying to get the horse to relate to you and if you are allowing little things to go unnoticed then the horse starts to lose trust and respect in the same amounts. What starts out as a drip becomes a trickle, then that becomes a steady flow until you have a massive surge and there is almost no way to stop the flow of disrespect.

This all comes down to the acceptance of responsibility. Since the position that you are seeking in the relationship demands certain actions from you, there has to be an ability to accept and enforce the guidelines that come with that position. Again, it is trust and respect, not force or demands.


My work with horses and owners is dedicated to the thousands of horses that I have had the distinct pleasure to meet, learn from and allowed into their lives. That acceptance has given me the insight that is necessary for the understanding of their world and how I had to alter my thoughts and actions to become the same as theirs. These horses started out as my clients, became my friends, then my teachers and finally my mentors. For that I am forever grateful. Learn more about Bob and subscribe to his blog at


Developing a Light Touch

A “light touch” is a communication tool that is one of the first things that you do need to develop into an automatic reaction whenever you are working with a horse. The horse will always use a light touch in their initial approach to you or any other human. Now that light touch may change after the horse has made an evaluation of the person that they are dealing with. So, what you have to be aware of is how you present yourself and the first impression that you make upon the horse at your introduction. Getting along with horses is no different from getting along in our own culture, there are rules to follow and if you follow them you are then accepted. Now in our world and culture we have the ability to accept the lesser standards of others and to go on, the horse culture does not look at things in that manner. If you are not willing to follow the rules, as they are put down in stone, then you may not be accepted within the horse culture. The main point here is to be accepted and be accepted fully you need to adapt to the rules of the horse so that they can understand what you are trying to convey.

There are two main points that are to be covered within this section and they are: A) Working the head of the horse from side-to-side, and B) Leading techniques that are safe for the horse and the handler.

In the last section I spoke of learning to allow the horse to place their head into the halter rather than forcing it onto the head of the horse. The main point of doing it this way is to start to allow the horse to trust that you are not going to force them into doing something that could be harmful to the horse. This is the first step in the trust issue that I do stress constantly, for trust mean equality and equality means friendship. Now once that you have gotten to the point that the horse is willing to place their head into the halter on their own you are building trust and the building of trust becomes the bond that will eventually become the foundation that a great relationship will be built upon.

As that trust becomes equality then to a friendship then the foundation is in its very early stages and you will then start to be treated as an equal. Once that you are being accepted as an equal you have to act as an equal, never a superior, for the trip that you both are about to have will only happen if you become shipmates and take on equal responsibilities. Look out for each other and you both will progress and survive. With this though in mind you have to be made aware that equality is just that and that there is no room for force of any kind. But, do not confuse force with guidance. It may be difficult at times to realize that guidance is necessary and that a point has to be covered time and time again until understood, but each time that you attempt to accomplish that specific task it has to be done the same way and with the same frame of mind. Relaxed and calm because retaining this frame of mind will allow the horse to keep coming back to you for guidance and understanding. Learning to correctly work within the horse social structure will teach you patience. Learning to deal with a horse in this manner will show the horse that you too can learn from them and will then allow you to be accepted into their life and an understanding that there is no room within a relationship between mankind and a horse for any force, but there is room for understanding.

If you have made the mistake of introducing force into a relationship with a horse you will have a very rough time getting the horse to fully trust you from that point on. For once that force is introduced into the relationship it will start to tear down any and all progress that has been made to that point in time. Force will drive a horse away from an individual faster than any other thing or action since what will happen is this will be a form of teaching that will reinforce the horse’s ability to work against you, in their mind, and will they will then resist any attempts at a solid working relationship. This is due to the impression that you have introduced into the overall teaching program.

A horse deals in details much more than we do, they look at things and they analyze them and look at them in a totally different way than we do. Take force, what we perceive as force is not what a horse perceives as force. It has been my experience that I have never seen a horse able to judge the different levels of force ~ all they see is force ~ it is never a slight amount or a huge amount of force. To a horse force is force.

The absence of force is trust and trust is complete with a horse ~ again a horse cannot judge different levels of trust. All they see is trust ~ never a slight or a huge amount ~ trust is trust. It is a good idea and one that I have always followed to completely trust a horse when you approach the horse and never expect any kind of problem or situation since you will not be projecting trust, you will be relating to the horse the thought of non-trust and the problem that you are expecting is the foremost in your mind and this will then most likely the problem will present itself.

It is the factor of trust that you present to the horse that will get you the trust that you are looking for from the horse. The complete trust that is initially felt between horse and human that will allow the two to work with and through any and all problems that will present themselves as they present themselves; be they slight or huge.

When there is trust there is equality and when you have equality you have a working relationship. This relationship does not happen overnight since it is a progression that starts slowly; since starting too quickly will create confusion and confusion will create mistrust and that could be perceived as force by the horse. Using a process of give and take will allow both of the participants to get the feel of each other. Just as you are now in the process of learning a light and soft touch to work with horses, they too have to learn the feel that you are creating and then adapt to that feel that you are creating. When the two parts of the whole (horse and human) start to learn the feel of each other, they then progress to the development of the team process and begin to act as one unit. When you are able to develop and refine this kind of relationship on the ground will continue and expand once that you progress into the saddle.

Once that you are starting to develop a relationship that will allow the two of you to act as a team, it will be possible to start to relate to the horse what you want and expect of them; this will then start to show the horse where you expect the team to end up at.

This process will allow the horse to realize what your intentions are ~ but, it has to be accomplished softly and allow them to trust you and this is done by trusting them first. You have to show the horse that you are willing to totally trust them and give them the guidance that is necessary for them to return the trust that you have earned. Once that you have gotten to this point in your own development and understanding you are at the initial point of developing a soft touch and a feel for the horse. A soft touch and a feel for the horse will feel good to the horse and this is the point of development that a good horse handler needs to perfect and become proficient at.

Many things that I have discussed before may appear strange and awkward and they may even be difficult for you to accept what I have said; but, it is these actions that I have explained that will develop trust and eliminate force and it is a give and take that will develop the solid relationship that you are looking for.

It all comes down to being in sync or connected with each other and it is done through a mutual feel. That mutual feel comes from you understanding what you have to do to be able to relay that same information to your horse so that the two of you can do it together and at the same time and the same speed. It is at this point that the two of you start to think and act as a single unit.

It has been my experience that most people do not give the time that is necessary this type of progression to come together. In the structured lifestyle that we follow as humans has no meaning to the horse, so to be able to do what you want you have to start to think as a horse and look at time as they do. Time to a horse does not really exist; they have no clocks or schedules, all they know if they are hungry they need to eat and so on. Looking at time as the horse does will allow the horse to start to understand you better. Adapting our actions and thought to this method of thought takes time; some will get it quickly, others will not, it is a personal thing. The same is true being able to adapt to change, be they horse or human, all have a unique learning curve and it needs to be respected.

As you become more and more aware of your actions you will become more confident and that confidence will initially be felt by the horse through the lead line and then it will progress until the horse feels it directly from you through your body language. This is the true light touch that develops on the ground and develops and evolves so that it can progress into the correct contact when you are in the saddle.

Over the years I have noticed that there are three basics to ground handling of horses and they need to be understood and mastered before even considering riding each and every horse that you come into contact with.

And here is what they are; A) Working a horse’s head from side-to-side which will lead to the lowering of the head and being able to get it into various positions, which is the basis for relating a person’s touch (or feel) to the horse, B) The ability of the horse to be lead freely will show an understanding of the person’s touch (or feel) and will define the basis of respect from both handler and horse to each other, and C) Thirdly, is to take the art of leading a horse to the working of a horse on the ground ~ such as backing or stopping ~ moving when told to do so and to stop and have the horse wait for your soft touch to move just as much as you are asking them for. This will reinforce both of the two previous points above and go past the respect factor to that of trust.

Until me meet again, learn to have fun with your horse.


My work with horses and owners is dedicated to the thousands of horses that I have had the distinct pleasure to meet, learn from and allowed into their lives. That acceptance has given me the insight that is necessary for the understanding of their world and how I had to alter my thoughts and actions to become the same as theirs. These horses started out as my clients, became my friends, then my teachers and finally my mentors. For that I am forever grateful. Learn more about Bob and subscribe to his blog at


Continuing With Developing a Light Touch

What you need to consider is that the time that you invest into working with your horse will give you far greater benefits than all of the training that you could pay for. You might have a great trainer that has a fabulous relationship with your horse, but it is a relationship that the trainer and the horse have. It does not include you anywhere in the picture. If you want that type of relationship you have to make the effort and invest the time, just as the trainer has. Believe me there are a great number of real good horse trainers available to the public, but they are good because they are dedicated enough to make the utmost investment in a horse, time. The trainer will most likely be able to do all the things that you want to do and cannot accomplish until you are ready to make the same commitment that they are willing to make, time. Trainers can get most horses to do just about anything that is asked of them, but the important point is you can too. You have to be willing to make the commitment and understand that if you make even a slight effort with your horse the results will be greater than any you ever imagined. All it takes is your willingness to give the time to your horse on a regular and consistent program.

Starting With the Right Horse

Starting with the horse that is right for you is one of the most important points that you can get right. There are great many people who have a lot of experience and knowledge from working with horses and if you are looking to get a horse for the first time it is in your best interest to take one along and be prepared to listen to their input, even if you have to pay for their time. Doing this could save you time, money and a lot of heartache. If you are in a profession and you see others trying to accomplish what you do on a daily basis, waste their time, waste their money and get second class results; all the while knowing that if they would just pay attention to a professional in your own field it would have been better for them in the long run. What makes the horse business any different? Experience and knowledge are the two factors in any field that allow for the greatest return on investment that endeavor has to offer. There are people who will help you choose a horse that is of the right frame of mind, physically sound and mentally prepared to help guide you through the initial learning process that will become your foundation of knowledge and experience that will allow you to build the type of relationship that you are looking for with a horse.

Most people decide they want a horse so they go out and get a horse. There is little concern for the horse other than it looks pretty, or that it moves nice. People that chose a horse on those or other similar reasons are the ones that usually end up with the horse that they should not have. There are a lot of horses out there looking for a home, due to many different reasons, make sure that you are not one of those reasons.

There are just as many horse owners that expect the horse to know what is expected of them and how to do it. Even if the horse has been schooled in the areas that you want to use the horse for, there are certain ground rules that have to be followed. These are all in the area of “ground control”, the building of trust and confidence in your ability, they know what they can do, what they need to know is what can you do? One of the greatest mistakes that horse owners can make when getting any horse is having the lack of a “good touch”, this shows the horse a lack of communication skills to the point that they will do what they want or nothing at all.

People that already have horses and are realizing that there are reasons that their horse is not reacting the way that they have seen other horses respond, are people who will greatly benefit from the concept of not riding their horse for a while and starting at the very basic level of communicating with their horse. In essence they need to start showing the horse that they are willing to start to work with them and are willing to get back to the understanding of relating to them at the ground level. If you lack communication at the ground level then you will never have communication while on their back.

Many Problems Come From You

Horses are herd animals and as that they require guidance from members of the herd that they have learned to trust. Horses need and want guidance since they do not do very well on their own. When a herd has no direct leader it has no rules or direction. The individual members of the herd start to go in their own separate ways and then the herd falls apart and wanders into other areas looking for a leader. The leaders that are chosen are selected since they have become the type of leaders that the other horses are willing to follow. Here you have to understand that you may be able to lead a horse anywhere, but it will not follow you unless it feels confident in doing so. Just as a horse has to suffer the consequences of their choices so must you. If you choose to not to lead correctly you will never be followed and the horse will be lost and show no form of compliance to your requests.

One of the main points as to why people get into situations in both handling and riding horses is that they are creating their own problems. It is as if they have never learned to relax or be able to slow down to a pace that will also allow the horse to relax. Not being able to relax creates an atmosphere of uncertainty and uneasiness; it also puts the horse on guard believing that there may be a reason for all of the uncertainty. This sense of unrest is felt throughout the herd when danger is near and the members of the herd have to be on guard against attack. Anything that happens at this point in their life is purely instinctual and reactions are fast and light in nature without thought. The best way to eliminate this problem is to relax yourself and allow the horse to do so as well. Just as you have the ability to create a problem, you also have the ability to make sure that most problems can be eliminated before they happen; the choice is yours. The horse is able to relate to your state of mind, be it very active or very relaxed. Watch some of the other people who you know to be hyperactive interact with their horses and see how the horse will take on the personality and temperament of the owner. The watch the same horse when the owner is not around, you will most likely see a horse that is very different horse, very relaxed and calm.

It is very important to analyze any problems that a horse might have and realize where they came from, people are all too willing to put the blame somewhere else and not accept the fact that they may have been responsible for a horse’s problem rather than what they have been blaming it on.

Understanding and mastering the first steps that lead to lightness cannot be accomplished by an individual unless they are prepared to slow down to the pace of the horse and allow the time that is necessary to accomplish the various tasks at the rate that the horse needs to take.

Learning To Observe the Horse

Once that you have taken the time necessary to get past the very first steps in creating a good touch you need to be able to start to understand that the horse is constantly giving you feedback. The next step that you have to start to understand is the feedback that is coming from the horse and how to translate it into something that you can understand.

The horse, when relaxed, will be able to relate to new and unfamiliar situations as long as you are willing to give them the guidance that they need and are looking for. The initial indicator that I teach people is that a horse will start to tense up throughout their entire body, then raise their head in the direction that they feel that is of concern, next they will raise their ears to try to hear if there is need for alarm and their nostrils will start to flair to see if they can smell any need to be concerned. By the first or even the second action you should be noticing that the horse is becoming uneasy and placing your hand upon their shoulder in a reassuring manner many be all that is needed to allow the horse to become more focused on you and that you are projecting calmness and they should start to pull confidence from your stability.

Another method that the horse might show is a very quick and complete tensing up of muscular tissue throughout their entire body, this horse is getting ready to bolt and is on extreme edge and needs to be calmed down and reassured that things are all right. Either walking the horse around or in a large circle or even the placing of your hand upon the shoulder area of the horse can accomplish this. Great care must be taken when a horse gets themselves work into either one of these states of awareness, make sure that you are in a position that will allow for your greatest safety but also close enough that you can relate to the horse. Moving away from and not being available for the horse to be able to pull confidence from will make the horse even more on edge, since you are not willing to reassure them that all is well.

Progressing to the understanding of body language is an art unto itself. It takes great horse people many years of study and daily interaction to get to a point that they can think as the horse does and know the reaction and what is causing it. Do not be discouraged if all does not go as planed at first, very seldom does it happen that way. There are many different and slight indicators that the horse will transmit and hope that you can pick-up on, but in the beginning it is best to be available, calming and allow them to pull confidence from you. This will be a great aid in your building of a relationship between you and the horse. With time and observation you will start to understand the other indicators that the horse will put forth and hope that you learn. All it takes is the will to learn and some input from someone who is willing to help you along with the translation part.


My work with horses and owners is dedicated to the thousands of horses that I have had the distinct pleasure to meet, learn from and allowed into their lives. That acceptance has given me the insight that is necessary for the understanding of their world and how I had to alter my thoughts and actions to become the same as theirs. These horses started out as my clients, became my friends, then my teachers and finally my mentors. For that I am forever grateful. Learn more about Bob and subscribe to his blog at


It All Begins on the Ground

Before we get started you need to understand that each horse is an individual, they have specific abilities and limitations. Those are the guidelines that we must work within. Keeping that single, important point at the forefront will allow you to start to become more attuned to the mind of the horse. This will show the horse that you are concerned for their welfare and are following the values that are important to them. What we are building is the foundation on which you be able to properly communicate with the horse and let them know what you are asking them to perform, it might even surprise you with the results that you will receive from just asking the right way. It is what I call “Ground Control”.

Many people who have watched me and listened to my explanation of “Ground Control” feel that it is nothing more than “Ground Work”; here I strongly disagree since “ground work” has become so clouded in its real meaning. “Ground Control” in its very basic form that starts extremely slow with just a halter and a lead rope and builds the foundation of “Control From The Ground”. It is this philosophy of “control from the ground” that builds the confidence and interaction that everyone wants between themselves and the horse.

When I first started to be taught about groundwork I was told that I needed to learn what “Feel” was. The only problem was that no one took the time to explain what “feel” was and how to find it, after much time and misunderstanding I started to develop a “Touch” for the horse. I determined that there was a “Good Touch” and that there was a “Bad Touch”. There was also a “Light Touch” and there was a Heavy Touch”. I found that horses responded to a “Light Touch” and a “Good Touch” better than a “Heavy Touch” or a “Bad Touch”, so I started to develop the use of a “Good Light Touch” and the horses responded quickly and readily. This later was shortened to “Being Light” since I discovered that was as close to natural as I could get.

Inside of each horse there are two natural and already developed abilities that are known as “Being Light” and “Collection”. The ability of “Being Light,” allows the horse to be responsive in a positive manner. “Collection” allows the horse to make maximum use of their body so that they can be as athletic as possible. I will take the time to cover each of these individually and give you the opportunity to understand how it affects your ability to relate to the horse.

Many people have said that they have heard of these terms, but the truth be known is that most people have little to no understanding of what these abilities are or how to have the horse accomplish them when working with a handler. I have also seen the same people start to explain these two subjects and relate that they can only be taught while on the back of a horse. But, the truth of the matter is, the problem does not lie in the horse it lays within the handler on the ground, therefore there will never be the interaction that is necessary when the handler becomes the rider. Your understanding of these two abilities must start on the ground before you even attempt to put them into practice while on the horse’s back. Failure to properly learn and understand the techniques of these two abilities of the horse will lead you down a path that will result in misunderstanding from the rider to the horse and the horse to the rider.


My work with horses and owners is dedicated to the thousands of horses that I have had the distinct pleasure to meet, learn from and allowed into their lives. That acceptance has given me the insight that is necessary for the understanding of their world and how I had to alter my thoughts and actions to become the same as theirs. These horses started out as my clients, became my friends, then my teachers and finally my mentors. For that I am forever grateful. Learn more about Bob and subscribe to his blog at


The Touch Has to Be Light for Good Ground Control

Understanding that in order to have the control factor you always have to start with letting go and have what appears to be less control than you actually have. You, as the handler, have to learn this; the horse already understands this and uses that ability every day, all day long. Once that you comprehend the method and allow yourself to start to learn and understand what the horse is telling you there will be a development of the team factor that you are looking for, and it will come about with little to no resistance from either the horse or the handler.

It is up to you to develop a very relaxed and light touch which it will make it difficult to measure the amount of pressure that you are applying in asking the horse to accomplish what you want it to do. The correct amount of the pressure needed will actually have the horse come to your hand and have them understand what you are asking of them. This understanding comes from you being able to let go of the rigid control and allow the horse and yourself the freedom to become members of a team that are able to comprehend what the other is looking for. If you are following correctly here you will also realize that as the horse understands what you are asking of them, you are the one that is actually moving to the next level that allows you to earn the leadership that you are looking for.

Learning to have a light touch requires that you start at the very basics of working with your horse. Most new horse owners go out; get a horse and all they want to do is go out and ride the horse, to be more precise they want to be a passenger. The new horse owner, whether they realize it or not, wants to be taken care of and does not understand the responsibility that they have taken on. In most cases this is not the fault of the new horse owner, it is what they see on a daily basis and are made to believe that this is the way that the relationship with a horse works. Becoming aware of developing and having a lighter touch takes time, in fact; a fair amount of time, but it is an investment that will pay off big in dividends since it will allow your horse to start to test you and then allow you to become their protector which will then create the bond of trust that will lead to friendship.

A fair amount of new horse owners are made to believe that they are unable to work with their horse in this manner. What they are told is that they need the services of a “professional” that then instructs the owner in the methods of “controlling” their horse and to eliminate the “attitude” that the horse has. The attitude that is being referred to is the one that has been created through some human’s inability to be able to relate to the abilities and personality of the horse. These are the same people who are under the impression that they need some sort of “gimmick” to get the horse to accomplish the end result required. The use of these so-called training aids do nothing more than put the horse on edge and in many cases; excessive pressure is also used, be it physical or mental which leads to the horse being unable to handle this situation. Once that the horse is placed in such a situation it will do all that it can to get out of it and will have a difficult time trusting people again. When there is no communication or even poor communication there are only two distinct things that will happen, the horse will either start to do what they want to do or they will do nothing at all.

This is what is referred to as “cutting corners” in working with a horse. This is not working with a horse; this is domination that does not allow for any input or feedback from the horse. The overall results that are received from this approach are either a horse that has been broken in spirit or one that has so many bad habits that it may be all but impossible to straighten them out.

The horse that has been pushed to the point of constantly fighting and has bad habits is the one for most new or inexperienced horse owners need to stay away from, they are very likely to get hurt and then have a bad taste in their mouth for working with horses for the rest of their life. Horses of this type are ones that have never been allowed to trust people and thus have never had the opportunity to relate to the proper interaction and training that will allow people to be able to work safely with the horse.

Realizing that developing a lighter touch starts even before the handler walks up to and places the halter on the horse, then attaching the lead line and starts to lead the horse away from the contact point. Horses are very intuitive and can relate to your body language, if it is stiff or relaxed they will take on the mood that you have at the time that you approach them. The key is to approach them totally relaxed, in a non-threatening manner and place your hand upon the shoulder that is closest to you. Take your time here let the horse get to know your touch, they may want to get a good smell of you as well, so allow them to reach around and do so. This is one of the fundamentals of herd acceptance. When you go to place the halter on their head do it in a fluid motion that projects confidence and ability to be the one in charge. With you having the right frame of mind the horse should be willing to drop their head and place it into the halter, thus allowing for a much better experience for all involved.

When a horse is approached incorrectly and made to feel threatened they will have a tendency to move constantly and make it difficult for you to place the halter on them. After all, if they are unsure about your approach why should they trust you enough to allow you to confine them in a situation that they feel could get worse? This is common sense and needs to be realized that it is your approach that is making the horse uneasy. The horse has a reason for acting that way and you are most likely creating it yourself. Step back, take a deep breath and carefully analyze the situation that is at hand, look for anything and everything that could be affecting the horse.

Remember to look at all things as the horse would, don’t forget the attitude that you are projecting to the horse and the effect that it is having on this particular situation. An important point is whenever you do something with a horse, ask yourself “Would I like that done to me?”, if you have to take more than two seconds to answer the question, don’t do it.This is where it all begins and the foundation is being laid, be it solid or weak, the initial approach is what will pre-determine the relationship that is being built.

Until next time “Ride for the Brand”.


My work with horses and owners is dedicated to the thousands of horses that I have had the distinct pleasure to meet, learn from and allowed into their lives. That acceptance has given me the insight that is necessary for the understanding of their world and how I had to alter my thoughts and actions to become the same as theirs. These horses started out as my clients, became my friends, then my teachers and finally my mentors. For that I am forever grateful. Learn more about Bob and subscribe to his blog at


History Shows a Need of the Farrier Trade to Return to the Basics

The trade was brought into existence back at the developmental stage that is referred to as the Iron Age. Before that time, about 1350 B.C. there was the first evidence of blacksmithing was accomplished and was credited to the ability of a Hittite craftsman. The Hittites are also credited with the creation of the ability to both temper and forge metals. This was such a significant development at the time that it was felt to be of great enough value to keep within a select few individuals. This was accomplished until the overthrow of their empire in about 1200 B.C. and then the few select craftsman that were capable of this process were scattered throughout the areas of what is now Europe and the Middle East. The knowledge was first transferred to Greece and then progressed into the area of the Balkans. The Early Iron Age was from 800 B.C. to 500 B.C. and it was during this time that the most notable progression did occur, for it was during this time that the knowledge was allowed to cover massive amounts of land that next included most of the area of western Europe and into the British Isles. By the completion of that developmental cycle mankind had advanced into the late Iron Age.

It was another step forward by civilization that showed the general population that by creating items that used both wood and iron that had been combined into one item it was easier for them to clear the land and make their life somewhat easier. This also paved the way for better and stronger items to be used in the hunting of food and allowing them to provide for their families in a more secure environment. It was at this point in time that the craftsman accomplishing these tasks for them became one of the more elevated members of the community.

The next progression was at the time that is referred to as Biblical Times, it was at this point in the development of the trade that the process of adding forced air into the fire which allowed it to become much more hotter and opened numerous additional doors to the craftsman of the trade. The introduction of this one additional factor has put the trade into the state that it is today. Little has been added to the forging and tempering of metals since that time in history. It has been discovered through the study of that particular time frame that both the metal working crafts and the wood working crafts were somewhat intertwined and that both trades had more than just a working knowledge of the other.

To most people there has been confusion as to the calling of all people who work metal as blacksmiths. There are many different type and categories within the trade of blacksmithing. Up to the time of the Middle Ages a smith was a person that worked iron in a fire, they were called smiths since most of the people doing this craft were named “Smith”. It was with the dawning of the Industrial Revolution that the craft started to be more of a specialized divisional trade, no longer was the smith required to know all aspects of the total trade.

This then brings us to the trade specialty of the farrier. The actual trade designation of farrier is an individual that puts shoes on horses’ feet. This is such a specialty trade that it makes the learning of the proper and correct methods and techniques necessary a life-long task in itself. Even this specialty area was at first broken down into sub-divisions at first, such as the “Nailsmith” whose only function was to make nails to be used to put the shoes on the horse’s feet with. The nailsmith was, in many cases, a woman since not a great deal of strength was required and there was a definite need of precision to be accomplished quickly.

To better expand upon the history of the farrier trade and how it developed I must say that it has been accomplished for many hundreds of years and there is no real documentation as to its origin. It is believed to have begun around the time of when Hannibal crossed the Alps in his conquest of his enemies. It is thought that before that time that in order to preserve the condition and soundness of horses’ feet that they were covered with cloths. It was during the time of Hannibal that the process of adding metal to the bottom of horse’s feet by nailing was first devised. If this is true the process was developed in a manner that has had little change since that point in time. There have been techniques and processes that have been developed and promoted over time that have had little to no effect on the trade and most of these items ended up being thrown away since they did more harm than good. The tools that are at the disposal of the modern-day farrier are being used to prove that most of the basic techniques that were developed in the early stages of the trade were the most correct for the horse’s well-being. Radiographs (X-Rays) are being used to look inside of the foot to verify that the methods of balancing a foot are correct for both motion and comfort. Physics is used to project and correct movement and contain momentum. Medical science is used to substantiate and verify that it is blood flow that aids in the growth patterns of foot growth.

This brings us to the present time and the fact that the trade is at a crossroads and the members of it must choose the road that they are to follow. The members of the trade that are compassionate and have the true interest of the horse as their main concern will chose the road that leads to a dedicated knowledgeable professional that has a quest and a burning desire to learn all they can that will aid in the comfort and correct working of the horse. Then there are others within the trade that will appear to put the interest of the horse foremost, but in actually have only themselves and their personal gratification as their goal. The information contained within this book will give you the knowledge to be able to evaluate the work that is being done on a horse, be you the owner having the work done or the farrier that is accomplishing the work.

The Education Process and its Development

The educational process that is presently followed within the trade has changed from a totally apprenticeship based program to one that is mostly academically based. When and how this happened started in the early 1970’s as it became more difficult to obtain persons that were willing to take on the responsibility of an apprenticeship program that would allow young people to learn the trade correctly.

As it became more difficult for these people to learn the necessary basics of the trade and then to be able to properly practice these same basics until they do become second nature for them to perform, a new format of a classroom structure was devised. The persons and institutions that were the first to develop and promote this style of instruction were agriculture type colleges that based the educational format on what they felt were the most notable topics and methods that were necessary to the young farrier so that they might be able to go out and then be more experienced and more employable within the trade itself. This type of program was devised to help the trade and give the newly entering members of the trade a basis that would make them a more sot after individual that would be less likely to make initial mistakes. It was not devised to take the place of the tried and true apprenticeship training that is so necessary to learn any complex trade. As the employability of these trained individuals became the norm within the industry more and more schools did appear to be established and many did not follow the standards that the university setting had initially set down. Consequently the quality of the individuals that were being sent out into the working work was not there.

Do not misunderstand what I am trying to get across here, not all of the individuals coming out of schools are bad farriers. They are not farriers ~ they are trainees, they are members of the trade that have had very basic training about the trade and what is necessary to accomplish the end product of being an accomplished farrier. What is not available to them is the structured learning environment that is necessary for their talent to start to bloom and then to come to full blossom once that they have been cared for and nurtured along to show them what is truly necessary to become an accomplished farrier. The schools are a building block, and that is what they do very well. They start or reinforce the structured educational process that is necessary to teach a more advanced method of helping the young “trainee” farrier to move along in their knowledge and to give a solid base for continued expansion through experience.

The established schools have accepted their responsibility of getting the necessary new persons interested in the trade to meet the demands it does create on the economy. The schools also understand that they are somewhat limited in their ability to instill the basics within these new entry-level persons. They are also conscience of the fact that they have these same people for only so long and have a great task to have their students learn a great amount of information in a short and limited time frame. The school has to teach basic structure of the lower leg and its operation, and then teach the mechanics of the operation of the lower leg and the foot. Then the task of trimming the foot correctly as to not take too much of the foot off and making the horse unable to walk. Next is the process of teaching the fine art of shoe fitting and adjustment to be able to match the shape of the foot that the student is working on. Another area that a lot of schools do add is the making of horseshoes from scratch, that is to take a straight piece of steel, shape it into a semi-circle so it resembles a horse’s foot, punch in the nail holes and finish the shoe by cutting off the excess to fit the specific foot that the shoe is designed to fit. All or part of this is accomplished in predetermined times ranging from four weeks to three months. Of course the shorter the course the less that the student is required to learn. At the end of the longer length courses there is also the task of getting the students ready for an exam that establishes them as apprentices and ready to leave the school.

The biggest problem that has been created is that most people who do go through the farrier school process leave them feeling that they are ready to start to work on their own. Even though the new graduate of such a program will attend many additional field based seminars to gain additional knowledge, they receive very little personal input from a highly experienced master of the trade allowing input so that they can make their own decisions and thus form their “trade personality”.

Most of this confusion was created when the expansion of structured educational system was developing. It was also at this time that trade organizations were established and then promoted to aid people within the trade. These same organizations started to create ways for the new farrier school graduates to sharpen and hone their farrier skills. This gave rise to the farrier competitions and in these competitions young farriers were given a set of guidelines to follow in order they would be able to win the competition. The guidelines called for certain methods and techniques to be established that were more “blacksmithing” in nature and less in the true light of the farrier trade. The winner of the competition were asked to make the finished product very aesthetic in nature and less functional, it became more of an artistic competition rather than a competition based on the basics and the functionality of the finished product. The next problem that occurred was that in order to be prepared for these competitions that did happen throughout the year the young farriers had to start to trim and shoe their client’s horses in the same manner that was required to be able to compete within those same competitions. What they were doing was the shoeing of horses without the proper guidance that would show them that their actions were setting the basis for many problems that would become evident on down the road as time passed.

As time passed the trade organizations were able to come to an agreement on the testing of their membership to create a standard for the organization to follow as well as set standards for future farriers to follow. The guidelines that were set down as the standards for the testing of the membership to be recognized as qualified were the same standards that were followed for the competitive world. Again it had to look pretty rather than be properly functional for the animal that was being worked on. These standards started to create members that were very adept at the working of steel in the forge and could put on a very entertaining show for the clients to see. It also made for more emphases to be placed on the aesthetics of the ironwork that was being done rather the comfort of the horse. All of this concentration of importance in the wrong area started the process that lead to the cutting of necessary corners to allow the farrier to be able to shoe more horses in a day and have a larger number of horses to be in their shoeing cycle. With the cutting of corners here and there, the horse and its well-being were starting to be over looked.

The Need to Return to Basics

As it has been shown the trade did take some twists and turns as it progressed and developed into what it is today, there have been a few individuals that have preserved and became the guardians of the necessary knowledge that was in the best interest of the horse. These people were few in number but have continued to grow over the years. In fact, as time as gone on there have been larger numbers of recent farrier school graduates that have come forward saying that they are looking for more than they had received out of their structured classroom teachings. They have understood the proper process of the standards of the education process and how it is to properly effect them and their chosen trade.

There is becoming more and more interest in what has come to be known as “balanced shoeing” Balanced shoeing is nothing more than correct shoeing. These are the tried and true methods that have been around and used by the farriers that have taken the time to learn the trade through the apprenticeship method rather than learning it on their own. These are the people who the new members of the trade are turning to in desperation to learn the finer points that are so necessary to the correct operation and movement of the total horse.

Just as in other industries and professions it is the knowledge of the basics that allows people within that chosen aspect of life to expand and grow in both their knowledge and ability. People look to highly trained tradesman in every aspect of life, such as contractors, mechanics, doctors and other such detailed oriented services that they come into contact on a very regular basis. Horse owners have not realized that there is so much involved in the care of their horse’s feet or in some cases have not been able to understand that they need to be aware of this information. The farrier trade is the same as any other trade, it has highly qualified trades people and then there are some that are not so qualified, the highly qualified ones are the ones that learned the basics and never felt the need to deviate from that direction.


My work with horses and owners is dedicated to the thousands of horses that I have had the distinct pleasure to meet, learn from and allowed into their lives. That acceptance has given me the insight that is necessary for the understanding of their world and how I had to alter my thoughts and actions to become the same as theirs. These horses started out as my clients, became my friends, then my teachers and finally my mentors. For that I am forever grateful. Learn more about Bob and subscribe to his blog at


Winter Horse Care

By: Nancy Griffiths

findaroutineWinter Horse Care
For most of us Winter and Summer mean totally different routines with our horses.

The change from 24 hour turnout to a mix of stabling and turnout can be as disruptive to you horse as it is to you, so keeping it interesting and workable for both is important.

Find a routine that is manageable for you; your horse will adapt, so don’t set yourself goals you cannot achieve.

Enlist the help of other riders, friends and family – dark nights and early mornings can get pretty tiring by the end of Winter and it’s nice to be able to take turns to have a night off or a lie in.

Try to do as much as possible when you have spare time, as leaving things until the last minute does not allow leeway for the unexpected.

I always make my feeds up in the morning, then if I get held up, someone can put a feed in for me, rather than end up with an agitated horse wondering where her tea is.

Fresh air and/or good ventilation are major requirements for horses. They can tolerate considerable cold if they can move around and are dry. Avoid drafts, but allow sufficient air exchange to move stale air, humidity, and ammonia out of the horse’s environment.

Keeping the stable clean will keep ammonia levels low and there are some very good products available that destroy ammonia without harming your horse, even if ingested. I use a fresh smelling product that can be sprinkled onto the rubber matting or mixed in with the bedding. It not only reduced the bacteria but smells nice too.

Try to turn your horse out as much as possible. The lucky ones will have an area for adequate exercise well drained or with a hard standing area and access to a shelter. Most of us however will probably make do with a muddy paddock, but that can be better than standing in for hours. Remember to still have your horses hooves checked regularly, and pick out mud and stones when they come in as they will be uncomfortable and potentially cause damage to your rubber matting if you have it.

You may need to clip your horse according to how much exercise it is getting but then you will need to rug up to compensate. My horse usually has a full clip at the end of Autumn then a blanket re-clip later in Winter, as she grows a very heavy coat and is a hot horse when exercising.

Don’t neglect your grooming just because your horse is rugged up. It’s a good idea to take rugs off daily and check for any rubs or damage. Dry mud will brush off easily with a stiff brush and I find that applying a bit of coat shire mud repellent lotion really helps. I find it very soothing to have a chat with my horse whilst grooming her – she’s a great listener and it makes up for the reduced time we spend riding.

The change of diet from grass to hay/haylage can cause colic or digestive upsets, so try to make the change gradually. As Autumn sets in the grass will probably be very sparse anyway so you could start to put out some hay/haylage in the field. Keep an eye on your horse’s condition through the Winter and adjust the quantity or type of feed, depending on whether your need to increase or decrease your horse’s weight. Better to keep it under control, than to have to suddenly make drastic adjustments. Be particularly careful if you have a horse that could be potentially laminitic.

Ensure that you horse has access to drinking water, particularly when temperatures drop and external water supplies may freeze. I have read that warming water to at least 60 degrees F will increase water consumption by 40 percent to 100 percent. Dehydration (lack of water) is apparently the chief cause of impaction colic in horses.

Try to maintain a programme of exercise for your horse that fits in with your lifestyle. You may be restricted to road work, but a good brisk walk will do wonders for your horse’s fitness, and avoids risking damage from too much trotting on hard ground. Do plenty of flexion exercises at the walk and trot using leg yield and shoulder in if you can find a safe quiet lane. If you have access to a schooling area, use the time to do some groundwork exercises, lunging, free schooling or long reining.

Remember to warm your horse up slowly and thoroughly before asking for serious work. You may need to use an exercise sheet to keep the hind-quarters warm, and they have the added benefit of providing protection from the rain and if you use one of the fluorescent ones, aid visibility to other road users.

Hot horses need to be cooled down thoroughly then brushed to stand the hair up again before turning them back out. Fluffy hair traps air and keeps the horse warm; hair plastered down flat or wet lets body heat escape.

Adapting your routine to take into account weather changes, work schedule, turnout schedule, and feeding programs mean that there is no reason not to enjoy your horse as much in Winter as in Summer.

Nancy Griffiths

About the Author


I have owned my horse for 4 years. My articles are based on experiences of my own and fellow riders. I operate a free listing directory of articles and information for everyone with or interested in horses


(ArticlesBase SC #106859)

Article Source: Horse Care


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Should You Shop For Equestrian Supplies At An Online Or A Physical Tack Shop?

fieldhorsesIt comes as no great surprise that the shopping behaviors of horse owners have changed rapidly over the years. This shift has mainly been brought about by the internet. Increasing numbers of online tack shops have popped up, in response to a rising demand from people who appreciate being able to purchase the items they want without even having to set foot outside of their front door. That is not to say the traditional tack shop is dead. There are still a large number of shoppers who prefer to see and feel products in person before handing their hard earned money over. Each purchasing option has its own unique pros and cons and these should be considered and understood before shopping.

As has been mentioned, one of the reasons people go to a tack shop is because they can see the items with their own eyes before buying. Most tack shops will also allow the customer to return an item if it does not fit the horse or rider, as long as it is returned in a clean, resalable condition. Online stores do offer this as well but it can often be more complicated to return something when postage costs and packaging and sending time is taken into consideration. Some physical tack shops also offer additional services such as ‘bit banks’ and saddle trials which allow people to try equipment out for a number of days, to ensure the fit and design works for their horse. These extra services can be a real boon, especially for customers that aren’t sure of which style of size will be most suitable for their equine.

Another benefit of visiting a local tack shop is the human contact, the personal touch. If a customer is unsure about which product would work best for them and their horse, the sales staff in a physical shop can often provide a useful input, often backed up by their own experiences. Regular customers often build up quite a friendly, close relationship with the employees at the tack shop in their area and visiting the store can become an enjoyable occasion. Bumping into other friends and horse lovers from the same area is also quite common which adds to the social aspect. Local tack shops are also usually a good source of regional information. There is often a notice board where people can post sales and wanted notices, competition schedules and other announcements. The same level of interaction and socialising simply isn’t possible when surfing the World Wide Web.

Much has been said about the benefits of physical tack shops but there are plenty of benefits to using online stores as well. As a rule, online tack shops have fewer overheads as they are not paying for rent and can usually survive with a smaller staff base. This means that they can afford to offer products at more competitive prices than a lot of physical outlets.

With online tack shops there is also the bonus of having a significantly broader choice. There is no need to restrict purchases to just what is offered at the store down the road. This means that customers can be a lot more discerning about their purchases and can be very selective when it comes to budget, style and quality. With many overseas companies offering international shipping it is now even possible to buy goods from online tack shops across the world- such as the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States and Australia.

There is also the time aspect with online shopping. Many people, especially if they are balancing work, a family and horses, are time poor and don’t have an awful lot of time to be running around tack shops. An online tack shop can provide the perfect solution, taking just a few minutes to complete a transaction, instead of the hours that can be eaten up by driving, parking and browsing.

Despite the positives and negatives of both buying online and in person, there are clear benefits to both options, depending on the shopper’s circumstances. There are times when it pays to visit the store in person, if you have no prior experience with the product in question for example. However, if you are sure of the size and type of item you want, online shopping can certainly offer excellent value and choice.


Equine Trader was launched in 2007 and has quickly developed into a leading online equestrian resource. It appeals to New Zealanders who own, ride and are passionate about horses. However, the hugely popular website also attracts equine lovers from throughout the rest of the world.
Membership is free and allows registered users to buy and sell through classifieds and auctions at no charge, browse over 400 horses and ponies for sale and participate in a wide range of exciting competitions and games.