Tips On Buying A Horse

Expert Author Tamara L Svencer

Buying The Right Horse

Nothing you do will be more important than purchasing the right horse if you are truly interested in developing your horsemanship skills. It is the single most important decision you will be making and probably one of the most expensive. So take some educated considerations before you start out on this fundamental task.

And it will be a task. You need to look at a lot of horses before settling on one so get ready for some serious leg work, lots of driving, and unfortunately lots of disappointment.

But before you grab the paper and start making the phone calls lets talk about what you need versus what you want.

We can start out by finding a breed that suits us best, and then refine our wishes amongst the breed. Lets look at what a breed means. The horse was a basic animal of survival. He needed to survive, and thus he was equipped with a body and markings that allowed him to survive more easily. His coat blended into his environment, his nostrils were shaped to allow him to breath most efficiently in his environment, and so forth. He was built solely for survival.

Then man entered his world and we started fooling with the genetics a bit. We started refining the breeding to produce animals for aesthetic and pleasure purposes. We started breeding for mass and muscle like in the drafts we now see. We bred for entertainment purposes and that is how we have brought forth all the variations in the species of the equine.

We now have spotted ones, red ones, black ones, tall ones, little ones, shaggy ones, sleek ones and aside from the physical appearance of the animal, we have also bred them for temperament and use. And our breeding programs have been so successful you can pick out an entire breed that best suits your needs.

That is not to say every Arabian is a certain way, or every Quarter Horse is a certain way, but they do have a certain quality that makes them more apt to act, look, and behave a certain way. We did that. We have engineered each breed to meet a certain use. Now within that breed each horse may have a different personality and temperament based on its own individuality and experiences.

Do a lot of research and find a couple breeds that interest you most and would fit your level of experience and own needs. Lets say you have aspirations of becoming a barrel racer, you would look more to the Quarter Horse than to the Clydesdale. You are going to need a horse with a certain physical size, shape, and ability to perform the task at hand.

If you are looking for a riding horse for pleasure riding alone, then maybe a Tennessee Walking Horse would make a good partner. Learn the breeds and find the breed that best suits your needs.

It is funny how people will research the purchase of a dog longer than they do the purchase of a horse sometimes. Research those breeds, buy and read books, see what horses tend to be popular in the areas you are interested in most.

After you pick a breed stick to it. I am such a sucker when it comes to animals. I may have my mind set on one thing until I look into the big brown eyes of the exact opposite thing. Or worse I feel an animal is being neglected or abused and that I need to somehow rescue it. For me reason used to fly straight out the window. But unfortunately I have learned the hard way and it has often ended up costing me lots of money. With horses mistakes always cost you lots of money.

So shop with your head first and then use your heart. Make rational not emotional decisions even though this may be hard, in the end you will be happy you did.

After you look at the breeds and make up your mind, buy the paper or go online. Start making some prospect picks based on the price. If you only have 1000.00 to spend, rule out the 5000.00 horses. If maybe you are fortunate and find some 500.00 prospects well then maybe you will get lucky and come out with a little spending cash for hay.

You at this point really need to have an honest evaluation of your own skills. Be honest because if you are not honest with yourself here, you are going to really regret it later. Pride may keep you from admitting that you are not the greatest rider in the world as of yet. It may be tempting to outclass your abilities and this will only end in a disaster or even worse a pasture ornament you have no fun at all with but still have to feed. Be completely honest about what level of rider you are. Beginner, intermediate, or advanced.

In the age of the Internet there are sites that show ads for horses in your area that you can filter out by distance, price, etc. You can even see full color photos of the animals so you can get a rough idea of what you are interested in. Many of these sites also have a sliding scale to depict the horses temperament. The more gentle the horse the better for the beginner, only an advanced rider should even ponder owning a horse that scores poorly in temperament. This can be a deadly mistake for a novice.

This would be a good time to talk about age in horses because lots of great horses are overlooked because of their ages. The recent research that has helped us all be more aware of the nutritional needs of horses has helped them to live longer, healthier lives. Just like people horses are living longer due to better nutrition and health care. It is not uncommon to see a horse that is in their late twenties even thirties still competing and doing well despite their age.

But the greatest benefit these older horses have for the beginner is that most of the things that would spook a young horse have been totally desensitized out of the older horse. She has usually been around the block a time or two and will be a quiet calm horse for someone who needs that to build up their riding confidence.

Thats not to say that you have to buy an older horse. There are exceptional 8 year olds and even younger, but it is usually much safer for the beginner to stick with horses that are up in their teens and twenties even. There are exceptions to this rule as well. Sometimes a horse won’t be broken until they are 12 or even later. I find this absolutely absurd to wait that long, but it still happens, and this is the same situation as buying a green broke 3 year old. This horse would be best left to an advanced rider.

Look through the ads, read them and start picking out some horses that sound compatible with your needs, are in line with your price range, and are suitable for your experience level. And please if this is for a beginner don’t pass up a horse just because it says he/she is 18. As long as they are sound it really doesn’t matter the age.

Then start making some phone calls. Do this in a relaxed manner the same way you would call about something else for sale in the paper. Even though you may be rather excited about it, stay calm and don’t sound so eager. There are many reputable people selling horses. Sometimes it is individuals that need to find a new home for a horse they no longer can afford or are looking to replace the horse they have with a more advanced horse. But unfortunately horse trading still is very active and you never know who is on the other end of the line.

Here are some good questions to ask on the phone before driving out to a farm to look at the horse.

1. How old is the horse?

We just talked about this, and you need to make a wise decision on the ability of the horse versus the ability of your rider.

2. Who currently is riding the horse and how often do they ride?

This is important because if a horse has been sitting in a pasture for a year or too and no one is handling it, there will be a lot of refresher training going on.

3. Has the horse ever received professional training?

This will let you know what the people actually know about the history of a horse. History is important, and if a certain trainer has worked with the horse ask who it was and give that person a call. If they remember working with the horse they can provide some really valuable insight on the animals behavior

4. Is the horse current on its vaccinations?

If it doesn’t have its tetanus and rabies shots at least, it is going to cost you money off the bat with the vet. These little added expenses can soon add up. Keep track of anything you will have to spend when you get the horse home and tack that onto the asking price.

5. Does it do well with the farrier and are its feet currently trimmed?

If a horse is a nightmare for a farrier it can be hard to find one that will deal with it on a regular basis. And again if the shoes are not current, there will be additional money to consider when the horse comes home. If a person cares for their horses feet on a regular schedule it also lessens the risk that the hooves develop issues from not being trimmed (broken edges, cracks, etc all come from unshod feet)

6. Has the horse ever had an injury to its legs or any other part of its body that the owner knows of?

Old injuries can lead to a lifetime of treatment and they can also throw off the horses confirmation so severely they lead to future problems.

7. Has the horse ever offered to bite or kick at a human?

This is a really important question and you can only hope to get an honest answer. A horse that bites or kicks should never be considered for a beginner or a child. Biting and kicking are all signs that the horse feels superior to humans. Now it could be the current owner is just really submissive to this particular horse, but still, biting and kicking are something I would pass on. There are so many wonderful horses that need homes, try to pick one with the least problems to start off with.

8. Where in the pecking order does the horse exist?

If a horse is a very dominant horse you could have problems controlling it. If it is really low on the totem pole you may have to deal with self confidence and fear issues. Both can be as dangerous as the other. For instance a horse that is the lowest member of a herd is often hard to catch because she is so used to running away from more dominant animals, she will instinctively flee instead of deal with a possible conflict. It is annoying to have a horse running away from you all the time.

9. Does the horse have any vices like cribbing? Cribbing and other vices can not only cost you a lot of money in the long run due to damaged property they can be detrimental to the physical well being of the horse.

10. What do they currently feed the horse?

This is a HUGE question and listen closely to the answer. Proper nutrition is the basis of good health. A horse that is not fed correctly can have issues with it’s eyes, kidneys, stomachs, and hooves. Just like a human, health is determined by getting the proper nutrition to feed our bodies. Horses that have been underfed or are sustained on a low grade food can have a multitude of ill effects that will in the long run cost you a lot of money to correct. The horse should be getting grain twice a day and as much hay as it can eat, or the equivalent of nice pasture that it can graze as much as it wishes. If you get a skinny horse trust me it takes a lot of time to put the weight back on. Skinny horses often have really dry, brittle hooves with cracks, that can take a while to correct. The eyes may have suffered from malnutrition too. I do not tolerate anyone’s excuse for having a skinny horse. There is only one explanation in most cases and that is it is underfed. If you can’t feed your horse you shouldn’t own one.

11. How many hands is the horse?

This is just to allow you to understand if this particular horse is the right size in proportion to the rider. You don’t want a horse that is too big or too small. You want it to be just right.

12. Has the horse been shown or competed in events that you are interested in?

If you have any desire to compete with the horse you want one that has already been exposed to the show/rodeo atmosphere. There are lots of things going on there that a horse who hasn’t experienced it could consider frightening. If you are an experienced showman then you could consider show training a prospect. If not than try to find a horse with experience already.

13. Has the horse had regular vet care?

This is also important. Without health a horse just like a human has nothing. Having seen a vet on a regular basis will help to catch any health issue the horse may have, like heart murmurs or kidney stones. You will also want to have the animal checked by your vet, so make sure they feel comfortable with that idea before purchase. If the object to that, then that is a good sign something is wrong that they are not telling you about.

14. Does the horse trailer load easily?

Trailering injuries are quite common in horses that find this task difficult. But one of the reasons you need to ask this is because you will need to move the animal from their farm to yours in the chance that you buy it. If it is a bear to load, maybe arrangements can be made to have them move it to your farm where you can start working with it loading. Trailer loading a horse can be difficult for some people, it is great when a horse has no issues with it all.

15. What is the horses temperament like?

Hopefully you get an honest answer. People have gone through great lengths in the past to push off a high spirited horse as a gentle horse. They will even go so far as starving a horse down so that it is too weak to act up, which is one of the reasons to stay clear of underweight animals. (once the weight gets back on you may have a firecracker instead of a dud) Sometimes they have even drugged the animal with tranquilizers in order to quickly unload it on unsuspecting buyers. A little trick here is that in the case of a male you can tell because his penis will hang loose and low and will not retract back into his sheath if he has been drugged.

16. How long have they owned the horse and what do they know about its past?

A horse that has belonged to the same person for a long period of time should come with some history. This horse will have not only a behavioral history the owner can tell you about, but a medical and training history as well. If they haven’t had the horse for long, try to probe them for past owner information, and anything else they can tell you about where the horse has come from. A good owner will know these things. A horse trader will have no clue about where the animal has been.

17. Why are they getting rid of the horse?

This is an important question. If they have just told you they recently got the horse then why would they be unloading it so soon? I understand things happen in life. Perhaps the man has lost his job and can no longer afford it. Maybe they are needing to move and won’t have the land they need to keep horses. Medical issues can also dictate the sale of horses. Maybe an injury to the back or something else like a terminal illness makes the sale necessary. Maybe a beginner has decided to move up to an intermediate horse but can only afford to keep one horse so the beginner horse must be sold to make room for the new intermediate one. But if they tell you something like it just isn’t working out, then a red flag pops up. Don’t get stuck with another persons problem. This horse could have behavioral issues or even worse health issues. It is not unheard of for a horse that is near death to be sold dirt cheap and pushed off the farm in order to not have to deal with it’s impending burial. In the horse buying business it is truly “buyer beware”.

Feel free to make up as many questions as you would like and ask away. Hopefully you will be dealing with good honest people, sometimes you won’t. You will have to trust your own judgments in cases where you feel people are being less than honest.

One of the questions you didn’t see me ask was what does the horse look like. Some people ask this first. The appearance of the animal is less important than the temperament of the animal and the soundness of its body. That goes back to the human way of thinking about things. If you get lucky and you get a horse that is perfect looking and is on your skill level and has no health concerns then you will indeed be just that “lucky”. This is not the norm. I would rather deal with a less than perfect looking horse who has a great attitude and temperament than one that looks great but is dangerously dominant.

The only time you should consider buying a horse based on looks would be for show competitions such as halter classes. But even then a good looking horse has to behave itself in the arena or it will find itself and its handler disqualified quickly.

After you have a list of horses you feel meet your criteria, then it is time to start visiting them. This can be an exciting time, when you love horses it is always fun to go and be around new ones. But please do not let your emotions get the best of you. Keep in mind that a sensible decision will pay off in the long run.

Buying a horse that is well suited to you and your needs will enable horse ownership to be a joy. Trust me you will know if you make a mistake shortly after you get the animal home. Then you will be the one in search of a new home for the horse because of trying to get what you want instead of what you need.

When meeting new horses you will be meeting new people. Keep your eyes and your ears open. Any discrepancies in stories should signal that you can’t trust everything they are telling you. And going with the old saying “believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see” can prove priceless when horse shopping.

Make them ride the horse for you. If they are afraid to do so, make sure you bring someone along who is advanced in riding that will ride the horse. With someone else in the saddle you will be able to observe the horse from the ground. This will let you see if he is lame or has any other physical issues. If you are in search of a riding horse then make sure you see it ridden. After someone else rides it, then you need to ride it yourself.

Do not buy a riding horse you personally have not ridden. If you are afraid to ride the horse in it’s current environment where it feels comfortable, you will not grow any braver when you get home. In fact the horses behavior will probably head south for about two weeks until it settles in to its new home.

The other big mistake people make is buying a horse because they feel sorry for it after seeing where it lives. Horses sometimes do end up in deplorable situations and this is a sad fact. If you venture out to a farm and feel that the horse is being neglected you sometimes feel like you need to “save” it. Do not buy a horse solely because you feel bad for it. If by chance that particular horse is one you would buy regardless of it’s current situation then buying it may be an option. But do not buy it on the grounds that you need to rescue it if it falls short of your expectations. What you can do is turn the owners into the authorities if you feel the animals life is being threatened due to neglect. That is the only way you can “help” that horse.

I hope I have been able to help you in providing you with a starting ground on buying a horse. There are so many dishonest people selling horses. It is like buying a car. If you don’t know anything about the mechanics of a car you need to take along a buddy who does. Some people are more motivated by money than ethics. You need to educate yourself as much as possible and never be afraid to ask more experienced friends to ride along.

I recently purchased a horse from a friend who was thankfully honest enough to show me she had a slight inward curve to her hoof heels in the front. He didn’t know how to correct it and didn’t even know if it could be corrected. I called a very reputable farrier to come and take a look at the hooves before I bought the horse. I had to pay for his services of course. The $40.00 I spent on his consultation was worth the piece of mind it gave me when I wrote a larger more substantial check for the animal later.

The same goes for the vet, if you want to have the animal checked out by the vet, pay the farm call and examination fee before buying the animal. It is worth the piece of mind that it gives and it can also protect you from making a very costly mistake. Horses have ailments you can’t see so easily like a limp, sometimes it is inside, like a heart murmur.

Always get a bill of sale. It doesn’t matter if it is a friend or a stranger. Get a bill of sale. You will need this when registering the ownership with some breed registries. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Put that paperwork with all your other important papers.

The “Kid Safe” Horse

Sellers will often advertise a horse as being kid safe. This term is widely overused. I wanted to include some information about this, because as a mother, I know the concern people have for the temperament of the horse their child is riding.

It is important to keep in mind that the word child can be a relative term. There are children who have no riding experience and then there are children who can out ride even seasoned adults. So when someone tells you that their child rides the horse without problems, you need to ask the skill level of the child.

Also keep in mind that no horse is “child safe”. A horse can act out, or become uncontrollable in an instant. I have been told that the most dangerous horse is the gentle one, because you become so relaxed around it you often forget that it can be very dangerous.

Trust the phrase “child safe” loosely. You need to be the judge of the horses character yourself. It is best to use the rule that your child needs to be “horse safe” before ever trusting him/her to control a horse by themselves. If they are truly “horse safe” they will be able to handle most any situation that could occur, on an old gentle horse, or even on a younger more spirited horse. Teach your children proper safety skills when dealing with any horse and they will be better prepared for all horses. Not just ones people label as “child safe”.

This is an excerpt from the book H.E.R.D Human Equine Relationship Development by Author Tamara Svencer

Learn the secrets of equine communication through body language. End problem behavior and have more of a natural balanced relationship with your horse today! Tamara Svencer is the author of H.E.R.D Human Equine Relationship Development visit to learn more! FREE E-Book for visiting!

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Originally posted 2012-07-25 17:00:53.

Horses In My Back Yard

HORSE LOVERS: During my thirty years of selling rural land, I have frequently found that folks want some acreage so that they can own and ride horses. They LOVE horses in their own mind but have little if any of the real knowledge or experience necessary to raise one or more horses. Far too often, they have knowledge based on little more than an idyllic dream and that dream based for the most part on romantic novels and movies. This article will give you some basic information which may save you and a horse some bad or even terrible experiences.

HOW MANY ACRES?: If you do want horses; a good rule of thumb in good pasture areas is 3 to 5 acres of pasture per horse, and ideally another acre or two of paddock per horse. The wise Equestrian will thus plan about 6 to 10 acres per horse they want to keep in the purchase of land. The paddocks are smaller fenced pasture areas close to the barn used for training, saddling up your horse or getting a new horse acclimated to his new home.

The risk of injury to animals increases where horses are overcrowded, and competition for food, water and space may lead to fighting. You must provide an adequate number of paddocks or yards to permit incompatible animals to be segregated. The number of horses and their grouping in each paddock or yard must be appropriate for their compatibility and for the ground conditions, taking into account the climatic conditions pertaining at the time.

You also need room for the house, barn, hay storage, tack building and a loafing shed for them to get under when the weather is not quite acceptable to them. In any yard or shelter, each horse must have adequate room to lie down, stand up and turn around. There should be a clean, dry area for the horse to lie down, the surface of which protects the horse from abrasions and capped elbows and hocks. Paddocks which expose horses to items of machinery, equipment or rubbish (especially wire) likely to cause serious injury must not be used.

FENCING: There are numerous types of fencing that are designed for horses. Board fences are deadly dangerous if not constantly maintained. The horses can break a board and end up impaled on it. Wire, especially barbed wire can entangle your horse’s leg or neck and seriously injure him or worse. There are several kinds of fences made for horse pasture. Barbed wire and narrow gauge (2.5 mm) high-tensile steel wire, because of their cutting, non-stretching and nonbreaking properties, can cause severe injury to horses. They should be avoided when constructing fences for horses, as should internal fence-stays or posts, which are a common cause of injury.

Fences should be readily visible to horses and properly maintained. The ideal fence for premises designed mainly for horses is the synthetic, strong, flexible, post-and-rail type, with rails treated or painted with nontoxic preparations. A popular alternative, which also provides a good visual barrier, is a single top rail attached to a conventional post-and-wire fence. I like the Australian Sheep Wire fence as it has a grid that is very small at the bottom and larger at the top. The small grid size at the bottom prevents the horse from stepping through the fence and getting tangled. I also like a charged electric wire just above the highly visible top rail to “convince” the horse to not lean over that top rail to get grass on the other side. Such leaning by such a strong and heavy animal is a major cause of fence breakage. There must be no sharp objects projecting inwards.

Your large animal Veterinarian or Horse feed and tack store can help you find the right fencing and an installer that knows what he’s doing. Ideally your pasture will have fence corners rounded on a large radius to prevent your horse from injury if he is cornered by another horse or is just running with exuberance and misjudges the distance to the corner. I have occasionally seen a horse on a tether chain or rope, as some people do a dog. Tethering is a practice which has a high risk of injury to horses. It is not recommended and should be used only when other forms of grazing or containment are unavailable and when close supervision of the horse can be maintained. Only placid horses and those adequately trained to accept the practice should be tethered.

FORGET WHAT YOU LEARNED FROM NOVELS OR HOLLYWOOD: Contrary to all the horse stories and films, your horse will not respond to you the same way a dog or cat will. He will respond and perform best when his owner is consistent and has a routine. Forget all those stories about Flicka and Black Beauty; it only happens in the movies.

Horses do have personality but you must remember that they are very big and strong and you cannot make them do anything unless you have convinced them and then they choose to do it. Proper ground manners are a must and the rider must know how to ride. Take some lessons if you are a first time owner. Horses do not like you to hang onto the reins for balance. Learn how to balance yourself in the saddle and to gently guide the horse with the reins. There is no faster way to make a horse “sour” than to pull on his mouth roughly. Learn the horse language; the way to communicate to your horse is through the balance of your body, your seated position, the position of your feet and legs and lastly the position of your hands.

STABLING: He does not enjoy being locked in a stall every night. He would much prefer the open fields and the starry nights! A three sided shed (preferably with the open side to the southwest) will due just fine. Horses do need protection from the sun and rain. Horse blankets/rugs make us feel better; nature however, has equipped him just dandy with a real fur coat. Those horses that are unlucky enough to be put in a stall every night could probably use a rug unless the barn is REALLY COZY. But, when it is 30 degrees or lower and it is blowing and wet, he does appreciate a stall to eat his grain and hay. And it will save you a lot of cleanup in your paddocks.

PASTURE: Plant a pasture with a mixture of proper grass seeds. Check with the local Agricultural Substation or horse feed supply store for the seed mix. Build several paddocks to keep your horses in for short times, so that you can rotate the pastures and periodically give each one a rest to replenish the height of it’s grasses.

Horses are poor utilizers of pasture, compared to cattle or sheep. Most horse pastures contain a large proportion of weeds and “roughs” where horses are the only grazers. Horses will not eat pasture that is contaminated with horse dung. This usually causes the contaminated area to become larger and the grazing area smaller. The pasture growing round the dung patches is usually lush and looks to be the best feed, while the patches in between will look overgrazed.

Where possible, horses should be grazed in conjunction with cattle or sheep. In addition to helping calm the horses; the other species will clean up the “roughs” while also reducing the worm contamination on pasture. Although harrowing can also be useful to spread the dung around, in moist conditions and when the grass is long it may spread worm eggs, making a larger area of the paddock infected. Where no cattle or other grazers are available, it is essential to remove the manure or spread it around regularly during dry periods, when the sun and ultraviolet rays will tend to destroy eggs and larvae.

Your horses will leave some big manure piles around the pasture and especially in the corners. Spread the horse manure out on the pasture with a drag harrow and rake out the pasture corners to break it up in smaller pieces; it helps to keep the fly larvae in the manure from hatching out and bothering your horses.

You will need a manure spreader to spread the manure you shovel out of your loafing sheds and stalls. Your horses will eat a lot of the grass in your pasture — but you will still have to mow the pastures periodically and you will need to use a weed-eater under and along all the fences. You will need to keep a check out for any plants of the nightshade family as they are poisonous to your steeds.

Grazing animals deplete soil nutrients progressively, which in turn leads to poor pasture quality and growth rate. This should be regularly monitored by soil and pasture analysis. Pasture should be top dressed with fertilizers to replace identified nutrient deficiencies. Check with your State Agricultural Agent (each state has an Agricultural College and Agents attached) to learn to identify soil nutrient needs and to show you how to destroy noxious plants properly. Make certain that there is always plenty of clean fresh water in the pasture and that the water trough is kept dutifully clean!

VACCINATIONS: Your horses require annual booster shots for Rabies, Tetanus, Flu Rhino and Encephalitis, and Potomac Horse Fever. Check with your local Large Animal Veterinarian and maintain a proper schedule of immunizations and regular checkups. Horses also require quarterly worming to keep the intestinal parasites below the danger level.

FARRIER SERVICES: Horses in the wild got along just fine without a Farrier. They ran and romped over vast expanses, were chased by predators and often ran long distances as a herd. But now that they are kept and ridden mostly on soft sandy soil or grasslands — the hooves need trimming every six to eight weeks. AND, yes some horses do need horseshoes of steel, rubber or some other material. You will be able to tell if your horse need shoeing; if he does he will walk very “tender-footed” and may have cracks and breakage in his hooves. The way he walks, stands and carries himself in general will tip you off to his Farrier needs.

INTENTION: Your intention is of great importance! Horses can feel a fly on their back and they can feel your intent; when you really mean business. They learn in a hurry who they have to respect and who they can play around with — DON’T be fooled! Set yourself up to win his respect and keep it. Don’t ask him to do anything that you suspect will be an argument unless you have the time to make certain that he does it. Be firm. Being firm does not mean beating your horse; it does mean that sometimes you might have to put a chain a little too snugly across his nose to lead him if he walks too fast and gets ahead of you at lead.

TRUST: It is so important that your horse trust you. Please don’t abuse him by hitting or kicking him. Trust is necessary for him when you want him to cross a ditch or a fence or take him to water or take him to ride with other horses. Trust is built by day to day consistent care and treatment of your horse; and by not putting him into situations that hurt him or scare him badly.

EQUINE DENTIST: Horses need dentists too! At least once a year, some horses require to have the equine dentist “float” his teeth. This removes sharp edges so that he can chew his food properly and be comfortable with the bit.

GROOMING: Horses love to be brushed and bathed. Spend lots of quality time with your horse when you first get him and each time before and after you ride him with gentle loving hands and lots of brush grooming. Pick the stones and dirt from his feet before and after a ride to keep him from getting bruised feet. Check him for ticks after any ride in the woods or tall grass — especially in warm weather. Keep all your tack clean and the leather saddle-soaped and lightly oiled. Wash your saddle blanket after each use and rinse his bit well too. He doesn’t like a hard, dirty blanket on his back or a crusty bit in his mouth. Keep your brushes clean too, rinse, wash and pull the hair out of them periodically.

NUTRITION: Nutrition is a powerful factor in the life of a horse, just as it is our own. Often a problem horse can just be suffering from some nutritional deficiency. Often a horse that is “cribbing” that is chewing on his stall or on the fence has a nutritional deficiency. This should be handled quickly as the swallowed wood splinters have obvious danger to your horse. Horses need vitamins, roughage of course, minerals, protein, oils, carbohydrates, enzymes and trace elements in their diets to be at their best in health, behavior and attitude… and sometimes even if they are getting the correct food they may not be digesting it to get the proper use of the nutrients… just like us.

Horse Hair Analysis is a very useful tool to find the realistic needs of your horse. The hair is a long term record of the horse’s nutritional health and the analysis will tell the most accurate story as to what your particular horse needs… or what he is getting too much of — especially if he is ingesting some sort of toxic substance.

TRAILERS and TRAILERING: For most people learning to trailer your horse is mandatory. If you are fortunate to purchase a place far out in the rural un-populated areas, especially if you purchase property on a long dirt road or network of such roads — you may be able to do a lot of riding without trailering. You will still likely want to have a trailer eventually, so that you can take your horse to a trainer, pick up another horse, or take your horse to join a friend for a ride.

There are several types of trailers; they are of many sizes from small to huge. Some of them even have owners quarters or a groomsman’s room adjacent to the horse section. There are the horse carrying motor home style vehicles too. For highway speeds and to go any distance, it is best to use a large towing pickup truck specialized for such use. The best are the dual tired big pickup trucks called Duelies. You then get a big sturdy support hitch mounted in the pickup bed and the trailer has a long hitch stalk that projects into the truck bed. This type, called a goose neck trailer with a 5th wheel hitch, will give you excellent stability and a shortened turn radius. It is also virtually impossible to have a trailer disconnect from the truck — which is a worry with pull-behind trailers.

Before you take your horse for a first trailer ride; you should ride in the back of the trailer, while someone else drives the truck, so that you can experience the cornering and braking calamities that the horse will experience. Some folks put leg wraps on their horses when trailering to help protect the horse more from accidental braking, cornering, or bumping. After you have ridden in the moving trailer yourself, take a few practice runs with you and the horse — so you can see what the horse is experiencing as a driver drives, turns and brakes. And it would be a good idea to next have someone else ride with your horse while you drive. One of my friends had a good technique; she put a long stem wine glass on the dash of her truck and filled it with water. She then learned to drive without spilling the water or turning over the glass. Personally I think it is a great technique to practice.

You also need to keep the trailer clean, especially keeping it free of hay dust and dirt. Remember when the trailer is underway and if the vent windows are open, whatever hay and dirt there is inside will start whirling around in the trailer. Keep everything well tied down inside too; falling, and swinging articles in the trailer can spook your horse and cause him to jump and hurt himself.

Service the trailer at least once a year. Check the brakes, tires, tire pressure and all hitch welds and bolts carefully. Make certain that the floor is solid. Practice driving, backing and turning. Practice using the mirrors. Mirror use is difficult to learn and of utmost importance. With proper mirror use however, you can easily back your trailer into a space only a few inches larger than it is.

WHO IS THE BOSS?: If you don’t watch out — your horse will TRAIN YOU, for instance… I knew this lady who trailered her horse to various lessons and rides… but he knew he did not have to get into the trailer until the third attempt each time. First she would lead him to the trailer, he would stop and she would pet and coo to him. The second time she would coax him a little more with carrots and baby talk. When that, of course, didn’t work either (he liked that sweet talk and especially the carrots) she would try the third method. By now she was a little tired and frustrated with him, she wanted to go home or get on with the lessons; so she spoke firmly, put the chain across his nose, tightened it a bit, and… he’d get right on. But he always knew that he didn’t have to get on until the third technique — besides he would miss his carrots and sweet talk if he got on the first time!

Here’s another one. Some horses raise their head and clamp their teeth and will not accept the bit. I have seen people strike the horse about the face or swing the bridle and hit him — this only teaches him that the bridle is a mean, scary piece of equipment and that he’d better raise his head up out of your reach for his own protection. The solution to bit shyness takes a while; it will take a little patience, some sweet talk and some sweet syrup on your fingers. Play around with his mouth with your fingers and let him wear the bit awhile when he is in his stall to eat and drink. Put it on him sometimes while you are grooming him too. Make sure that the bit is adjusted correctly for tightness in his mouth and that it is the right size and style. And especially be certain that when you ride him that you are not always holding tension on the reins, using them when you should be only giving body language directions, sawing them back and forth from left to right or in any way being rough on his mouth.

MOUNTING YOUR HORSE: Training your horse to stand still as a statue while you mount is a MUST! If your horse likes to walk about while you try to mount up — have someone hold him while you get up and properly placed in the saddle. Once you are mounted — sit well in the saddle with an erect posture, take a deep and cleansing breath and sink into your saddle with poise and assurance before you start off with him. Take time frequently with just you and him; when no one is around, mount him inside the pasture or paddock fence and just stand there in the saddle with him for several minutes. Then after quite some time, ask him to walk. Of course you will need to spend the time needed to train him to stand quiet and still while you are on him. And you must each learn the particulars of how to open the pasture gate while you are in the saddle.

RETURNING FROM A RIDE: There is always the temptation on your horses part, to run back to the barn at the end of a ride. He will be tempted to trot instead of walk; canter instead of trot; or run instead of canter. Be careful or you will be allowing him to learn or to think you are teaching him to run home. If you persist in this permissiveness you may eventually have a runaway horse each time his head turns toward home.

When you do return home; come down to a walk well away from the barn and let him cool down well as you near the barn. If you are cantering in and he wants to go faster, break down the gait to a trot and if needed down to a walk even if a long way from the barn. If he won’t walk calmly but wants to jig and go sideways or tries breaking into a faster gait — you need to spend some time in the paddocks and school him to walk and trot when you tell him too. If you still have trouble; get help from an outside equestrian or a trainer.

BUYING YOUR HORSE: When buying a horse be aware that what you see during the purchasing meeting with the horse — is what you will have when you take him home. He is most likely on his best behavior at the barns and paddocks where he lives, so when you remove him to take him to your place you are likely to get worse behavior not better. Unless you are a very experience rider with some good horse sense, you should purchase an older, settled horse for a first mount and then as you improve get a younger more spirited one.

Look at the teeth to detect age and condition of the horse. Horse newspapers have lots of ads and some advice. There are auctions for horses too; once you find out about them you can get on the mailing list and visit a few before you buy. Classified ads are a very good sources of horses for sale.

When you go to look at a horse to purchase; take along an honest and reputable person to help you with that purchase. A good saddle horse should cost you from $2,500 to $5,000. A trained horse can cost much more but may well be worth the cost. Specialty horses of course — Arabians and Thoroughbreds for instance can cost more than a nice home or in some cases more than a nice shopping center. You don’t always get what you pay for… but you can count on paying for what you get.

Watch for conformation (shape and bodily proportion) in the horse; which can be learned from books and then there is Attitude — this is the same as for humans. If the horse has a bad attitude it’s hardly worth owning at any cost. The horse should be checked perhaps even x-rayed by a Veterinarian. This is called Vetting a horse; done in a pre-purchase exam. This usually costs about $300 to $500. A lot of lameness can’t be seen with the eye and will only show up with strenuous training, or during work or competition — just when you can’t afford it. ===
Happy Trails and best wishes to a lot of good horsin’ around for all you readers who want horses. Horses can bring out the best and the worst of a person and give you endless hours of pleasure, exercise and frustration. But most horse owners and lovers wouldn’t have it any other way.


Copyright 2004 by Jody Hudson and

Numerous other articles at []


Jody Hudson, Realtor specializing in horse properties and being around horse farms, since 1972 and much more. Many years of being around an being in business to help people with horses.

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Originally posted 2012-07-23 16:53:26.

How Can I Think and Act Like a Trustworthy Leader? Get Taught by a Horse

“In teaching skills, in developing self-confidence, the same sort of patience and kindness is needed with horses as with people.” ~ President Dwight Eisenhower

” I have often said there’s nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.”
~ President Ronald Reagan

“No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.”
~ British Prime Minister Winston Churchill

FRITZ BLACK from Birdseye, Utah, is from a family of foundry-men and ranchers. He is a very tall, strong man with a gentle voice and easy manner. He expertly rides and deeply respects horses. He uses the lessons that horses have taught him ~ and the horses themselves ~ to instruct world-class industrial managers in the most vital component of leadership: Trust.

Black’s company accepts applicants for an intense and relatively un-pampered four days of stable, field and classroom instruction with him and his posse of expert management psychologists and veteran cowpokes who actually work the ranch. Those who complete the course fly back home with a sound and practical ability to increase the level of trust they feel for others and that others feel for them.

We asked Mr. Black, who for 21 years was a manager and leadership instructor for the Nestlé nutrition, health and wellness company, to reply to questions about the psychological basics and the practical details of how horses actually teach lessons in leadership.

Question: Can horses detect lies and liars?

Reply: I do not believe they can detect lies and liars. What they can do is always see the truth. Horses are prey animals, so they think much differently than we do. They approach every interaction with a human as a fearful situation. Horses believe that every human is a liar. They are looking for inconsistency in a person’s action that will validate the fear they feel. They catch every mistake a person makes in their body language and in their actions. They manifest this through their own reactions. Like most prey animals, horses have the ability to look and listen to more than one thing at a time. When a horse looks at you with one eye, but the other is looking elsewhere; they are showing distrust. They same is true with their ears. If you cannot see inside of both ears, they are not trusting and respecting you.

Q. What characteristics do horses and riders share with followers and leaders?

R. I believe that great followers and great leaders have very similar characteristics. Both are dedicated, well trained and ready to work towards a goal. In the case of a professional horseman the same is true. The relationships look much like that of the relationships of leaders and followers. However, few horsemen are professionals. Most people ride for pleasure and respite. In this case the horse is working and the rider is recreating. The relationship is much more like a friendship than a working relationship. Just as it is more common to make mistakes with those closest to us, (spouses, children, close friends) it is easy to be less attentive to the needs and wants of a horse you ride for pleasure. The lessons a horse can teach you will help you just as much, if not more, with the close relationships in your life. Through working with and understanding horses, you will learn the keys to service and building better relationships in all areas of your life.

Q. What makes horses angry?

R. Horses are social animals. They live in groups and develop a hierarchal order amongst the herd. They get angry when that order is not followed or respected. As an example; at feeding time the most dominant horse always eats first. If another tries to get in front of that horse, the dominant horse will bite, kick, and push the offending horse mercilessly. Another situation that angers horses is an invasion of their space. Every horse has a personal space that it does not want violated. (It differs with every horse.) To train a horse and get them to be a steady animal you can trust, a trainer must take small steps into that personal space and expand it in every session. If you try to move too fast and take the next step before a horse is ready, that angers them.

Q. Can many horses be ridden by one rider? And vice versa.

R. Yes and yes. A trainer lays the groundwork. Once a horse is comfortable with being ridden, any rider can step in and ride them. However; the horse carefully watches the new rider’s every move. At the first sign of deception or inconsistency, the horse starts to become difficult to handle. If trust is lost, the horse will not follow the new rider’s direction and will refuse to work. If it worsens, the horse will do all it can to get out of the situation including throwing the rider and running away. A rider can ride many different horses. The rider will need to understand the different personalities, level of training, and needs of every horse. The rider cannot treat every horse the same. They need to understand every horse and work within each one’s abilities.

Q. How far does a rider trust his or her horse?

R. A more appropriate question would be; how far does a rider trust himself or herself. When all is said and done, the horse has little to do with the quality of the ride. As long as the horse feels safe and has trust in the rider, all will go well. The horse will do what is asked quickly and efficiently. If the horse doesn’t trust and respect the rider it will be a war of wills and a very unpleasant day.

Q. How did General Eisenhower feel about horses? Other presidents?

R. Eisenhower was an expert horseman. He loved the animals and kept many of them on his farm. In his book, At Ease: Stories I Tell My Friends, Eisenhower talks at length about “Blackie” a horse he trained and rode during his two-year deployment in Panama. He stated, “In teaching skills, in developing self-confidence, the same sort of patience and kindness is needed with horses as with people.” Some biographers believe that the horse “Blackie” taught Eisenhower as much as the officer taught the horse. One author goes so far as to assert that the horse was instrumental to helping Eisenhower to get over the death of his son the previous year and may have saved his marriage. Other presidents and world leaders were avid horsemen. Teddy Roosevelt was a true cowboy and he loved horses. Ronald Regan once said,” I have often said there’s nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.” Winston Churchill said, “No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.”

Q. Can horse whisperers also be people whisperers?

R. Only if they want to be. All great horse trainers are able to connect with the animals through a deep love and dedication to these awesome creatures. They understand them and have empathy for them. They see the way each horse wants to be treated and act accordingly. Dedication, consistency and respect drive their actions and help them to develop a strong relationship with the horse upon a foundation of trust. If the same passion and dedication is put into leading people, the results would certainly be similar. However, I have found that most “horse whisperers” as you call them, typically have limited interest in working with people. People are deceptive and hard to read. Horses are not. They have no idea how to deceive anyone. Typically, it is two very different types of people that make a life in these two endeavors. This is the main reason that I have a horse training expert on the team. He is a word-class horse trainer, but he is a novice in dealing with people. I have made a life of leading people, but I am a novice in training horses. We form a team with the ability to help both man and horse.

Q. What can horses teach about: setting and reaching goals; levels of concentration; mental and physical energy; impulsiveness; hesitation; openness; self-deceit; self-control; decisiveness; and imagination?

R. Simple: Consistency, persistence, passion, responsibility, focus, work ethic, honesty, respect, and creativity are all needed to prove your integrity to the horse. If you have integrity, (you are who you say you are and you do what you say you will), the horse will trust you and learn how to serve you. Here is an example: In order to make the horse comfortable before riding them, you must clean their hooves out. Dirt and small rocks can get packed in the voids of the horse’s feet. With the added weight of the saddle, tack and rider, this can cause severe discomfort to the horse. Before you ever think about saddling the horse, you had better be able to pick up their feet and clean them. So it is an early goal of training that must be completed before you move to the next goal. Imagine the trust a horse must have in you to allow you to lift one of its feet. We take people through this process and they get to see the work needed to reach the goal of simply cleaning the hooves. The horse shows them all of the mistakes they make along the way.

Q. Can a person hide his or her true self from a horse?

R. No! That is what makes our program so powerful. Horses do not care about a person’s title, income, skill set, etc. They only care about and react to what is happening to them right now. They do not understand deception and lies. They see only the truth. The truth is not found in intensions and motive. It is found only in decisions and actions. When a person works with a horse, they learn to see their own inconsistencies and can work on improving their body language. You can psyche yourself up and convince yourself you are not afraid of a horse, but your body language tells the truth. The horse will see the fear and react to it. They will even take advantage of it.

Q. What are the compatibilities and trouble spots, if any, among fillies, stallions, geldings, men and women riders in various combinations? Is there a best fit? Is there a worst?

R. There is no formula that works better than any other. A much more important detail to look at is whether the horse and rider have complementary characteristics. You do not want to put a fearless rider on a fearless horse or a timid rider on a timid horse. A much better pairing would be to put the fearless rider on a bold, yet cautious horse and the timid rider on a proud, yet steady horse. Every horse has a personality. We try to match personalities and find the right horse for every rider. I will say that women are typically much better riders than men. They seem to have a maternal instinct that the horses respond well to. As a generality, they are more serving and empathetic. Men are typically better trainers as they don’t worry so much about asking the horse to do something the horse finds uncomfortable. Generally, men will push a horse harder and get more out of the horse in every training session.

Q. Are there heavy-weight horses for heavy-weight riders?

R. Horses are built to handle weight. It may seem like a person that weighs twice as much as an average person should have a horse twice as big, but that is just not true. I believe that most mature horses can handle the weight of 99.9% of those that would ride them. I am a fairly large guy. I am 6′-6″ tall and weigh 250 lbs. My favorite horse, and the one I ride the most, is one of our smallest horses. This little horse handles my weight easily and could take a rider weighing 350 if needed.

Q. What can a horse teach a leader that can’t be learned from golf, poker and football?

R. They can teach us the importance of building relationships upon a foundation of service, consistency, trust and responsibility. Poker and golf are individual games with little need for relationship skills. Poker can teach you to read body language and to be a good deceiver. Golf can teach the principles of hard work, solid fundamentals and risk/reward aggressiveness. Football is a team sport that teaches you to do your job and be a part of something greater than yourself. However, all people on the team understand the goal of winning games and performing well. With horses you are dealing with a participant that really would rather be out eating grass. You have to be able to get them to do things that they would rather not do. I have yet to see a horse finish a ride and want to hang around with the rider to celebrate. They just want to get back to the pasture and away from the rider.

Q. How great must a rider be to ride well with a great horse?

R. There are only two limitations in riding any horse well – trust and training. The rider of this year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winning horses was Calvin Borel. Mr. Borel had only one workout with Mine That Bird before the Kentucky Derby. The horse was very well trained and prepared for the race, as was the jockey. They quickly, with only one workout, learned to trust each other and the result speaks for itself. I am confident that I could ride Mine That Bird, but I am certainly not ready or willing to ride him in a race. The result would be ugly. So the real issue is not in matching greatness or talent, it’s in a refined relationship between horse and rider. Each must know their role and be trusting of the other. If both the horse and rider are great at what they do, the result happens much quicker. (Stephen M. R. Covey would call this “the speed of trust”.) An average rider can easily ride a great horse. The results however, will be average. The lowest common denominator dictates the outcome.

Q. Can horses “love” people, and vice versa?

R. Certainly. You first need to understand that love is a verb. To love the horse, you must serve the horse, protect the horse, and give the horse your time. The horse will serve you in the same way if you have built a relationship upon a strong foundation of consistency, trust and responsibility. Horses will show you love by doing what you ask them to do. You may even get a kiss from them if you have carrots in your pocket.

Q. “How do horses deal with ego?”

R. Horses are proud creatures. They live in a hierarchical society where ego comes into play every day. Once a human is introduced, the structure of the herd changes. Every horse looks to the herd leader to see if they fear this person. If the leader shows fear, the herd stays away. If the leader horse shows no fear and approaches the human, that person will soon be surrounded by horses. If a person comes into this interaction with ego, the lead horse will read the body language and react in a fearful manner because horses believe that ego interferes with understanding. Horses believe that people who lack understanding are scary creatures. They look for validation of this fear in every movement a human makes. Ego, in the mind of a horse, translates into aggression. You have to enter this relationship with your ego checked at the stall door. BL

By Ben Luck

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Originally posted 2012-07-24 16:57:25.

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Horsemanship

Expert Author William Savage

English Lit was not high among my favorite classes in high school but I thoroughly enjoyed the essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson. I always intended to have a book of those essays for my own and after many ( many, many) years of procrastination I bought his book of essays not long ago.

I enjoy them as much now as I did then.

Emerson didn’t say much about horses. Of course in his day nearly every one was transported from place to place on the back of or behind one. Maybe somewhere in his writings he talkes about horses – I ‘m not sure. But, in reading his essay “Compensation”, I thought there’s much about horsemanship here, even though Emerson doesn’t discuss horses at all. Still, it’s a good essay for the horseman or horsewoman to read.

In Compensation, Emerson discusses the dualism of nature and the forces of equilibrium that in effect rule our lives. There are basic principles that we are either unaware of or choose to ignore in our daily pursuits. When we “go with the flow” (my words not Emerson’s) we tend to be rewarded, when we don’t, things come back to bite us.

Horses seem to understand the laws of nature bettter than we do. Being prey animals they aren’t risk-takers. They’re happier in the herd than being the “individual contributors” that we tend to prize so highly. To be an “average” horse is likely not shameful as far as the horse is concened, where to be satisfied with being “average” implies a bit of the slacker in us.

What comes out of all of this, is the reward granted in learning to live in harmony with the horse. The horse after all instinctively tries to maintain equilibrium. We try to do this when we’re first learning horseback riding, but in general we end up doing the opposite.

We haven’t yet learned to “go with the flow”.

In halter training the foal the best way to get it to initially follow a lead is to put a rope around it’s hindquarters and gently tug, pushing the foal towards us. With with gentle pressure applied to its hindquarters, the foal yields to the pressure to restore equilibrium. If we try to pull the foal physically by the lead rope, it thinks it’s being forced to heaven only knows where and it doesn’t want to go there.

So in training the foal we learn something ourselves – how to achieve equilibrium.

In the saddle we learn that a horse naturally yields to very slight pressure. We’re the ones that have to learn that – not the horse. The horse is just trying to reestablish equilibrium by yielding to pressure, be it tension on a rein, pressure by a leg or a subtle shift in body weight.

In the round ring, the horse responds to what I like to think of as visual pressure. Our location and movement in the center of the ring influences the actions of the horse, even though there is no physical force exerted. Again, the horse is responding to this pressure to get the situation to where it “should be” – that is, equilibrium.

In Compensation, Emerson states that if we do something (e.g. train a horse) poorly, we end up with a poor result (e.g., a poorly trained horse) because we’ve messed up equilibrium and will suffer the consequences as the world seeks to get back in equilibrium. We get our just rewards, our compensation and have to live with it. Deal with the horse harshly and you’ll always have to deal with it harshly to get it to do anything. That’s the new state of equiibrium and it costs.

Had Emerson devoted an essay or two to the art of horsemanship I’m guessing he’d be regarded as the 19th Century equivalent to Xenophon, Lyons, or Parelli. I could be wrong but I’m guessing that Ralph Waldo Emerson believed his own stuff and he’d have been a pretty effective trainer of horses.

I’d encourage everyone to give Emerson a try. Recommending his writings on my equine oriented website probably doesn’t make much sense – unless I add a section titled “Other or Misc.”. And I don’t promise reading his essays would make you a better horseman or horsewoman – but it probably wouldn’t hurt any either. You might even get to like Ralph Waldo.

William “Bill” savage lives in Montana. A retired engineer he has a few horses on a few acres. When not spending time with family, horses, or doing chores, Bill works on his equine web site where these articles are created.

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Originally posted 2012-07-22 16:50:34.

Books on Horsemanship – Xenophon Had it Right

Expert Author William Savage

Xenophon was a 4th Century BC Greek cavalry officer and military hero, student of Socrates, historian, author, and expert on horsemanship – a man of many talents. His horsemanship writings addressed the proper care of the horse, how to choose a horse, and the training of the war horse.

I don’t propose that his writings on horsemanship be required reading for the horse lover, but you’ll find many nuggets of solid and fundamental advice therein. We can relate more to what Pat Parelli, John Lyons, Cherry Hill, Buck Brannamen, Ray Hunt or other contemporary trainers have to say. But Parelli, Lyons and the others will certainly give a tip of their hats to Xenophon and acknowledge the debt owed to him by all who have followed him.

What makes Xenophon’s work so special and timeless? If nothing else it’s because what he had to say is built upon his love for the horse and his strong belief that the horse’s mind in many ways parallels the human mind. You can take Xenophon’s teachings and distill them into a few “commandments” which, if you keep them in mind will take you a long ways in working with a horse

Temperament – A fundamental principle of his teaching is “never show anger to the horse”. If we can keep that in mind we avoid many of the problems with horses which we in reality often bring upon ourselves.

Our youngest Fjord gelding, Lars, is a wonderful animal who has a stubborn streak (Norwegian background I guess). I find myself smiling at him through clenched teeth on occasion and have learned that anger on my part either produces zero results or simply makes a touchy situation worse. Anger does not work, nor does force. Xenophon taught that horses, like people, respond poorly to force. We will do things when forced, but not necessarily do those things well – at best enough to “get by”. A horse doing something under force does so without understanding and it is fundamental in teaching the horse that the horse understands.

The use of force is almost always counterproductive when the horse is in a situation in which it is afraid of something. If the horse is afraid of an object, such as a mailbox by the side of a road ( been through that one), you need to either avoid the object or slowly work the horse in closer proximity to it. Anger, force or punishment will only reinforce the horse’s fear. It now associates the bad things you’re doing with the object, compounding its fear. We learn this when first placing a bridle on a horse. Trying to force it on the horse only makes it that much more difficult the next time.

Trust and Care – Xenophon insists that a horse be well cared for including food, grooming, proper and clean quarters, and attention. While it was the custom back in his time that training be done by a groom, Xenophon insisted that the owner visit the horse daily to ensure it’s welfare and as a means of building trust for the time when owner and horse will become “partners”.

My favorite riding horse comes to me instead of running away when she sees the halter in my hand. She associates the halter with grooming, a bit of grain, or exercise and perhaps a good ride. I don’t have to chase her around the pasture which would be the case I’m sure if she received rough treatment. Even Lars comes to the halter, which means I have done a good job with anger management when he experiences a stubborn streak. We are indeed “partners”.

Riding – Xenophon taught that the horse should be mounted slowly and the rider should be able to do so from either side. The horse should be encouraged to carry it’s head properly and once that is accomplished to proceed with a loose rein. To quote from Xenophon:

“If you teach the horse to go with a slack bridle, to hold his neck up and to arch it towards the head, you will
cause the horse to do the very things in which he himself delights and takes the greatest pleasure.

A proof that he delights in them is that whenever he himself chooses to show off before horses, and especially
before mares, he raises his neck highest and arches his head most,looking fierce; he lifts his legs freely off the ground and tosses his tail up.

Whenever, therefore, you induce him to carry himself in the attitudes he naturally assumes when he is most anxious to display his beauty, you make him look as though he took pleasure in being ridden, and give him a noble, fierce, and attractive appearance”.

Now Xenophon was primarily introducing novice horsemen to the purchase, care and training of the war horse. But with the exception of some “battlefield” training exercises, nearly everything in The Art of Horsemanship applies to our relationship with horses in this day and age. Xenophon assumed zero experience on the part of his audience and, like a good teacher will do, heavily stressed the fundamentals.

If you’re looking for a book, video or DVD on some aspect of horsemanship or training and have the luxury of being able to review the item in advance, try to see where the author is setting the foundation of his or her work. Is there an underlying theme based upon a few basic principles or beliefs? You’ll certainly find this in anything published by Parelli, Lyons, or Hempfling to name three.

And if you want to explore the world of Xenophon further several sources are –

Life and Writings of Xenophon from The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy at

His work on the Art of Horsemanship is nicely summed up at,

and, []

For a scholarly translation of The Art of Horsemanship, sometimes difficult to read but written in great detail –

You’ll get a thumbnail sketch from – and at the same time be introduced to a fine Internet reference source – Wikipedia; their main page is –

Copyright © 2005 W. Savage. All Rights Reserved.

William “Bill” Savage, a retired, engineer lives on the Goose Bay Ranch in Montana where he spends time with family, horses, and his web site. You can read other articles of his including those on horsemanship on his web site

Originally posted 2012-07-21 16:50:26.

Peppermint, Not Just A Horse Treat: Using Peppermint Essential Oil For Horses

Expert Author Lisa Ann Carter

Most people who have been around horses for any length of time know that horses LOVE peppermint! Peppermint has been used as a cure-all for thousands of years by many ancient civilizations ranging from the ancient Egyptians to the Chinese. Horses are naturally drawn to the natural health properties of the peppermint plant (Mentha piperita). Animals instinctively know what plants are beneficial to their health and seek them out in their diets. Ancient peoples followed suit and learned from observing nature. You’ll be surprised at some of the benefits of peppermint for your horse and see the importance of having it handy in your barn’s medicine cabinet.

Natural Remedy For Colic/Digestive Upset

One of the most powerful benefits of peppermint essential oil is its positive effects on the digestive system. It has been used as a remedy for nausea, diarrhea, heartburn, indigestion and gas. Peppermint has a very soothing effect on the stomach and intestinal tract of the horse, and as such is a must for any natural colic remedy kit.

For horses showing signs of colic, while you are waiting for your vet to arrive, allow them to inhale some peppermint essential oil. Then drop about 20 drops of the oil into the horse’s mouth by pulling out the lower lip and dropping the oil in the space between the lip and gum. You’ll also want to apply 20 drops of the oil to the horse’s umbilical area. Repeat about every 30 minutes as needed.

Natural Pain Relief For Sore Muscles And Joints

Peppermint essential oil is a wonderful pain reliever and is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. I use it on myself for tension headaches and sinus pressure. It can also be applied directly to painful muscles and/or joints. You can use peppermint essential oils during in conjunction with an equine massage, particularly at the poll, temporalis (forehead) and TMJ areas. The oil seems to have a very relaxing effect on most horses when applied to these areas.

A Quick Summer Cool Down

If you have ever applied peppermint essential oil to yourself, you’ll understand the cooling effect it has on the body. During hot weather, you can provide your horse with some quick relief by putting a few drops of peppermint essential oil in a bucket of water and sponging them down with it.

HINT: You can also fill a water bottle and add a drop or two of peppermint essential oil for a nice cooling spritzer for yourself on a hot summer day!

Aide Concentration And Alertness

According to Dr. Mary Starr, studies show that peppermint actually increased focus by 28% and that some schools encouraged teachers to give peppermint candy to their students just before testing. If you have one of those horses that has a hard time maintaining focus or has a short attention span, try putting a drop or two of peppermint essential oil in the feed bucket at feeding time or give it to them just before a training session.

Natural Pest Control

Peppermint essential oil has been used as a natural pest control for centuries. Its strong smell is useful in repelling insects like fleas, roaches, flies, mosquitoes and ants and has even been used to deter rodents. It’s a great addition to any natural pest control program in your barn.

Add several drops of peppermint essential oil to a spray bottle with water and spray your horse down as an inspect repellent.

Soak cotton balls with peppermint oil and place around your home or barn to keep rodents and crawling insects away.

Natural Flavoring

In addition to all the wonderful health benefits of peppermint essential oil, it tastes really great too! To ensure that your horses drink enough water during both the summer and winter months, add a drop or two to their water buckets. It is a great inexpensive alternative to having to add molasses or other sweeteners to your horse’s water.

The next time you are offered a peppermint, remember some of these benefits. Adding peppermint essential oil to your barn can replace several chemical-based products, making it a cheap and efficient natural alternative for your horse care arsenal.

Share your uses for peppermint oil by commenting on this article.

About The Author:

Lisa Carter is a Certified Equine Massage Therapist (CEMT/LAMP) and small animal veterinary technician. She has helped numerous horses return to a state of balance and improved performance. Get Lisa’s free report “Achieving Balance In The Horse Through Teamwork” when you sign up for her weekly Natural Horse Care Newsletter.

Find other helpful horse health and equine massage tips by visiting

Originally posted 2012-07-18 05:17:51.

Handling Horses With Confidence – Stop Fearing and Start Enjoying Your Horse

Expert Author Tamara L Svencer

Quiet Confidence

There is one tool that any person needs to have in order to successfully work with horses. It is a tool that is of more importance than any other tool that you may possess. You cannot buy this tool at a feed store or order it online. It is a tool that will make all other tools of the trade more useful. And without it all other tools useless. That tool is confidence. A sort of fearlessness in the face of an animal that could very easily hurt you at best, and kill you at worst.

A horse by nature does not really communicate its wishes through verbal commands. They do on occasion let you know what they are about to do by whinnying or neighing, but for the most part they speak to each other through body language. I want to address the fact that when you step into their world your body language will do the speaking for you. You need to learn what they are saying and be able to anticipate what they are about to do. The more fluent you become in speaking their language the easier and safer your horse experiences will become.

A horse is a prey animal. It survives through picking up on the slightest signals around it. It is also a great reader of things unseen. They have a sixth sense of sorts, filtering in information from between the lines, as well as directly. When you venture into their space they are picking up on so much more than what you are doing. They can sense what you are feeling. They have a sponge like ability to absorb what you are feeling especially anxiety. It is very important to remember that when you are feeling nervous or anxious so is your horse. This signals to your horse that they need to be ready to flee because danger is around.

Unfortunately they do not understand that to a person who lacks confidence they are often the danger that is around. So whenever you are going to interact with your horse or any horses for that matter, you need to really be aware of the feelings you are projecting onto them. You need a quiet confidence, a sense of relaxed energy, that will allow them to remain calm in your presence. And over time you will develop this quiet confidence more and more.

What do I mean by quiet confidence? Well quiet confidence comes from a sense that you truly know that everything around you is alright and that you are in control of the situation. It speaks of a true leadership state of mind. That is what a horse is looking for, a true leader. If you want to have a natural leadership role with your horse, this is the key, quiet confidence. When you see people yelling and screaming at their horses teetering on the edge of abusing them into doing what they want, they are reacting out of fear or anger. Fear and anger do not make for good leadership qualities. Horses understand that when you are out of control you can not control them.

Before you can have control of your horse, you must be able to control yourself. The horse knows this and you should learn it before going any further. Focus on understanding that with a horse fear is a sign of weakness or danger. Weak people do not lead horses, weak people get pushed around by horses. When a horse senses fear it also can become nervous and ready to flee for safety. When a horse does not respond to something you want it to do and it makes you angry you need to take a mental timeout. Horses do not lead through anger. Horses lead in one way and one way only – quiet confidence.

Confidence is not something you can just get either. It is learned, built upon, and grows. It takes time to get the confidence you need to be a true leader in all situations.

The whole idea of natural horsemanship has taken off to a great extent in recent years. It has helped put some of the archaic and outdated training techniques to rest and for this I am thankful. Just like any new idea that comes along, it has been over marketed and milked for every single penny it can produce. People have slapped the “natural horsemanship” label on everything from books to gear in order to sell it more quickly. I am not a natural horsewoman. I am just a woman who seeks to have a very balanced and productive relationship with my horse. In fact if I wanted to be a natural horsewoman I don’t think I would ever place my rump in a saddle. My horses would be left running free on open ranges and I would never subject them to the training, fences, trailers, and shows I so often do. Everything humans do for the most part with and too their horses is unnatural. Calling it natural doesn’t make it that way.

Whatever I can do to learn more, I will. And whenever I can help teach someone else something that will aid them in developing a deeper relationship with their horse, I will.

I hope by the end of this book you will have learned something and moved forward in the understanding that a horse is not just a beast. They are very intelligent, very perceptive, very able creatures that I feel every human can call their partner.

The relationship you have with your horse is much like the relationship you share with people in your lives. To have a successful relationship of any kind it must be a working relationship. It must continually be growing and as it grows it will strengthen itself naturally. It must also be a balanced relationship. The start to having a balanced relationship with your horse is to understand that a horse is a horse and not a human being. That is the beginning to having a fulfilling experience that makes both parties happy.

Human beings have this inner need to humanize animals and other “things” that inhabit our lives. We assume that animals think and react like people through spoken words. I have heard many people referring to their horses as if the horse was just another human. I want you to understand that a horse speaks a different language, feels different emotions, and is very non human.

I think the world may be a better place if people were a little more like horses and a little less like people. And that is the key here, be more like a horse instead of forcing the horse to be more like a human.

The biggest mistake most people make with their horses is to “love” them too much. It isn’t hard to love a horse. It is really easy in fact to develop a very deep emotional attachment to it. I want you to love your horse. I want you to love your horse so much that you make unselfish decisions when it comes to their development. Spoiling a horse in the name of love only benefits the owners own need to feel loved by the horse. But horses do not “love” people in the sense than humans love one another. Yes they can become very attached to their human companions. They become bonded in a way that resembles human love. But it is not the same. When you truly love your horse you will understand that you must make every effort possible to bring forth a well mannered and obedient animal.

Chances are that you will not own your horse for the entirety of its life. Things change so rapidly in our lifetimes. People lose jobs, they need to relocate, get new jobs, have children, become physically unable to care for their horses. Many things can happen that will result in you needing to find a new home for your horse. A horse that is well mannered, submissive, and obedient will go on to have a long and well-lived life.

It is horses that have been spoiled in the name of love that develop the multitude of undesirable behaviors that will dwindle their chances at finding a good home. And even worse your beloved friend could end up at a stock sale being shipped to Canada or Mexico to have their lives ended in a cruel and unimaginable way.

It is a sad but truthful reality that as the economy has dwindled in recent years we find far too many horses left in a state of homelessness. Many people who loved their horses have had to make the ultimate decision on the welfare of their animals and surrender them to others so that they can be cared for adequately. There are so many horses and not enough quality places for them to live right now. Many horses have ended up in the hands of horse traders, or less than perfect living arrangements. Only the good horse who is useful to man will find a place in this world to live a nice quality life. Horses that have issues are often the first to be sent off to the sale.

So if you truly love your horse, you will be a strong leader. Leading your horse in a way that will produce a balanced animal will insure him a place in the human world for many years to come. I ask you to put aside your own needs and consider your horses long term needs. Spoiling your horse will not gain you anything other than a lot of problems or worse injuries.

I want you to understand what I mean by spoiling. Anything you do with your horse needs to have a few simple boundaries. You need to maintain a space around you. You can envision a bubble of sorts – it expands out about 1 or 2 feet around you – this space is yours and the horse is not to enter it. (When we look at the lead mare behavior in the next chapter you will learn more about why this is so important)
You can pet your horse, in fact I feel touching your horse all over his body is an excellent way of gentling him/her. You can offer your horse treats on occasion as long as it is done in moderation and at the correct time. People tend to think that because a horse comes rushing over to the fence to see them, somehow they have created a special connection with their horse. The horse will always come running to the fence if it is given treats for showing up. They come running to see the treat not you.

I want to show you that the horse can come running from a true bond to you, not because he is bribed into behavior. You need to remember that everything you do should be done in moderation which will end in balance.

Balance is not something only needed in the saddle. Balance must exist in every aspect of horsemanship. Imagine a scale if you will on the left hand side you see the opposite of spoiling, you see neglect and abuse. It is easier to picture this end of the spectrum in your mind. On the left we have the abusive owner who try’s to beat submission into his animal and neglects to even care for its basic needs of food, shelter and water. Now look to the right hand side of the spectrum and you will see the polar opposite of the bad side. You see the owner who allows the horse to dominate and dictate to him/her what is going to happen. On this side the owner pops in every once in awhile with sugary treats and over indulges the animal. Soon the horse is nipping at his owners’ pockets and dragging him around by the lead rope or worse kicking them out of disrespect or being uncontrollable in some other way. You need to be somewhere directly in the middle of this scale. You need to maintain balanced and fair treatment of your horse through quiet confidence.

A horse is a simple animal. You can show your horse “love” by giving him/her proper nutrition and as much clean drinking water as they can drink. You can show love by feeding him grain twice a day, giving him a good supply of hay, and a nice pasture to graze upon. You can show them love by keeping their stall clean, and keeping their bodies clean through proper grooming. You can show them love by providing proper veterinarian care and keeping them pest free. You can show them love by scratching under their chin or in any other place they can’t normally reach. This is a horses happy place, being cared for and being provided for. This type of love will benefit your horse for many years to come and will produce a pleasant animal to work and play with.

The key is to find balance, where both parties are happy and content with the partnership. If the horse isn’t happy you are too far to the left. If you are not happy you have drifted too far to the right. If you stay in the middle everyone will be content.

It is human, not horse beliefs, that dictate that we must buy affection. I told you earlier to think more like the horse. They don’t care if you are spending lots of money on new halters and bridles. They don’t care that you took a loan out to have a better horse trailer than your neighbor. The true connection that will bond you tightly to your horse doesn’t cost anything but time. Humans somehow try to make up for not enough time spent by placing a monetary band-aid on the shortcoming. You cannot buy your way to control. You must put in the effort and the time needed to make the connection and the connection can only be made through confident leadership.

In the horse world there are two types of social roles, a leader and a follower. If you take a look out in your own field you will see that there is only one true main leader and the rest filter in behind them. Number 2 horse will follow number 1 but she will also lead number 3. Number 3 follows number 1 & 2 but leads number 4. There are no two number 2 ranking horses, it is a single file line that leads all the way down to the lowest member of the society. They all bow down to number 1 and number 1 submits to no one. Your job is to study number 1 and learn about how she leads with quiet confidence.

Confidence is something that comes from the inside and extends out into our physical being. It is a feeling of collected self awareness. You feel powerful therefore you are. Maybe you are fortunate and are a naturally confident person, then your task is going to be easier. Be sure that your confidence is not actually arrogance. Arrogance is actually the lack of true confidence. It comes from feeling inadequate and trying to over compensate by puffing oneself up. Horses can call this bluff easily. Arrogance and horses will add up to injury or worse death.

The horse will look for a confident leader. You need to stand with confidence, move with confidence, breath with confidence. You need to personify confidence. I want you to stand up tall and move like a mountain around horses. In your mind you ball up all of that strong energy and you move right through them instead of wavering around them. If they are in your way, you make them move out of your way.

Time will prove to you as you apply this simple state of mind that the horse will respond naturally to you and move as you will them too. You must be very clear and focused in your thinking as to exactly what you want them to do and then apply just enough energy to make it come true.

There will be times when you may face a horse that has more confidence than you. In these instances you will need to make sound judgments on how you proceed. Training an animal with more confidence than you can be dangerous.

Ask yourself if this horse is really more confident, or is he more afraid? Are his actions based on dominance or fear? You need to study this horse and see if you can learn something from it. Remember horses are our teachers and they have mimicked their way to where they are. Study his/her confidence and then do just that, mimic their behavior, but always be safe.

I want you to really develop this confidence around horses. Become consciously aware of what you are projecting at the horse. Be aware of what you are feeling before you go through the gate. Be diligent in your pursuit of this quiet confidence.

You can spend thousands of dollars attending a seminar or clinic on horse training to learn how to train horses. You can go out and spend hundreds of dollars on new training aids or even thousands on a new round pen to do your training in. All of it will be money wasted if you don’t have the confidence to lead the horse. You cannot fake it. You cannot buy it. You must develop it. It is free except for the time you spend building it. It is invaluable.

There are many horse owners who have a fearful relationship with their own horses. Being fearful is the main mistake people make with ther horses. Being even the slightest bit nervous around a horse will put you in the subordinate seat. You will not get results in your training. You will have a very flat and unsatisfying relationship if you base it on fear.

I want to suggest to those that are afraid, even in the slightest, of their own horse that they go out and buy a whip. You may never even need to use it. It is more a tool to help you feel safe and more confident. Get out your lunge whip if you want. Carry it in your hand when dealing with your horse. I am not asking you to use it, I am asking you to carry it. Sometimes the security of knowing you have it will give your confidence the boost it needs to start conversing successfully with your horse. If a horse respects a lifeless stick that only weighs ounces because it can produce a slight sting on his rear, imagine how much more respect you alone could have with the horse. Carry your whip in hand until you feel safe in leaving it behind. It is merely an aid to help you start to understand that horses are not as big and bad as some people believe them to be.

Before long you will understand just how powerful you can be and just how submissive a horse can be. You will also find that this new confidence will filter out into the rest of your life. You will walk a little straighter and be bolder in what you do. You learn to be more aware of the feelings you are projecting. Confidence will attract the horses attention just like it does a humans.

Remember confidence is not bullying. Think back to when you were in school and there were bullies. Usually a bully was just puffing himself up and acting aggressively towards others because he was afraid. A horse can tell when he is being bullied and it will not have the lasting effect that confidence will. You can bully a horse sometimes but bullying will only get you so far.

I have seen lots of horse bullies and none of them were horses. They have all been humans trying to put on a show of strength. And that is all it is, a show. The horse knows the difference between bullying and confidence. Bullying comes from inner fear, confidence comes from inner strength. A horse will follow strength, he will flee from fear. And keep in mind that if he can’t flee from the fear, he can as a last resort, act out in protective aggression. Bullying a horse is a good way to get hurt or killed.

I don’t want you to fear your horse. Sometimes it is easy to fear an animal that has so much power and so much strength. His size alone can easily make him dangerous but for the most part a horse is a docile and timid creature.

He is also submissive and willing to be a part of man’s world. If he weren’t he would simply jump over the fence we have built to contain him or bust through the barn door and set himself free. He doesn’t use his strength in the same manner a human being would. He will if faced with a life threatening situation, but for the most part he is docile and timid.

That’s not to say it is a guarantee that your horse will never assert itself over you physically. He can and chances are he will, but it will be in more subtle ways than stomping you to death. Horses often “test” you to see if you are paying attention. Subtle invasions of your role as leader can add up to a mutiny, so be aware of what the horse is saying to you at all times.

Try to replace fear with respect. Respect the fact that he is large and you should proceed with educated caution when handling him. Do not irritate a horse or tease it. Do not provoke him to prove a point to other humans. In fact leave all your desires to impress people with your horse skills at home. Concentrate on you and him and the relationship you truly want to share.

Use common sense. Do not stand behind a horse and taunt it to kick you to prove it won’t. You may get unlucky one day and try this with the wrong horse. Show respect, not fear. After you start to have a “safe” track record your confidence will naturally grow and replace the fears you once had.

This article is an excerpt from the book H.E.R.D Human Equine Relationship Development by author Tamara Svencer

Learn the secrets of equine communication through body language. End problem behavior and have more of a natural balanced relationship with your horse today! Tamara Svencer is the author of H.E.R.D Human Equine Relationship Development visit to learn more!


Originally posted 2012-07-17 05:16:59.

How To Clean Your Suede Saddle

Suede saddles require special care and attention when cleaning as suede reacts differently to leather and requires a different cleaning regime. The following is a step-by-step guide on how to care for suede (or doeskin) saddles:

1. Firstly when cleaning a suede saddle it is important to note that the cleaning process may lighten the colour of the suede. It is advisable to do test patch at the back of the cantle where it cannot be seen prior to any use of a cleaning product. If a colour change happens (and you are not happy with the change once the test patch is dry) do not use the product. In addition, due to possible colour change issues it is important to clean the whole of a saddle so that any potential colour change is even.

2. When the saddle is dry use a suede cleaning brush and brush vigorously; you want to get as much dirt and grease off the suede saddle as you can.

3. Once you have brushed the saddle if it is mostly clean but there are a few patches still showing that appear a little dirty then clean the whole saddle with shoe suede cleaner (concentrating a little more on the dirty patches). Note, before you use a suede cleaning product you need to have done a test as described in step one above. Once you have cleaned the saddle with suede cleaner you will need to let the saddle dry before then brushing it again with a suede brush. Once you have finished cleaning the saddle and it is dry then it is advisable to waterproof your suede saddle with a suede water-proofing product.

4. If your saddle is really dirty and the shoe suede cleaner does not bring up the suede then you could use a mild carpet cleaning solution. Don not use the carpet cleaning solution neat; you will need to follow the instructions on the product regarding diluting it. It is important to test the effect of any cleaning product first as described in test one where you test on a non visible patch at the back of the cantle. The test patch needs to have been allowed to dry before being able to see if the cleaning product is suitable. If you are happy with the results of your test patch then prepare the cleaning product solution in a suitable bowl and use a nail brush scrub for cleaning by dipping it into the carpet cleaning solution; after each dip use the nail brush to brush your suede saddle. Clean the whole of the suede on the saddle. The saddle will get wet during this process, you can use a suede brush during cleaning to help part any greasy suede.

5. Once you have brushed the carpet cleaning solution over the whole of the suede saddle then use a clean towel to rub as much of the cleaner as you can off the suede, if the suede still looks dirty then you can repeat step 4 where you clean the whole suede saddle with the mild carpet cleaning solution and a nail brush until the grease is gone.

6. Leave to the saddle to dry naturally, this could take 24-48 hours, do not put the saddle near heat.

7. Once dry brush the suede saddle with a dry suede brush and waterproof the suede with a suede water-proofing product.

8. Please note, suede can go a lighter colour once dry and brushed up, once the waterproof spray is applied the colour may darken again.

9. If your saddle is part suede with leather skirts and flaps make sure you keep the cleaner off these leather parts. If excess cleaner does get onto leather parts then wipe the cleaner off the leather parts immediately.

Copyright (c) 2012 Native Pony & Cob Saddles

Andrea Hicks is a saddle fitter and designer, she developed The Native Pony Saddle Company range for wider horses and ponies and has been fitting saddles for over 20 years. Her designs include Phoenix Saddles for native ponies, Warmbloods, Arabs, Icelandics and Iberian horses.

Originally posted 2012-07-15 13:55:47.

Horse Riding – Is It Wrong to Dismount When Your Horse Acts Up?

A mantra for many horse trainers and riding coaches is that you “can’t let the horse win”. This belief leads to riders – even nervous ones – being told that it is wrong to get off their horses when they act up because the horse has “won” and learned how to get the rider off his back. I disagree with this thinking and encourage riders to dismount whenever they choose and especially when they feel unsafe. The threshold where fear starts is different for everyone. Some people are triggered by just the thought of the horse possibly “acting up”. Other people might only become very unsettled after the horse has bucked, reared or spooked. The important factor is your awareness of tension caused by fear and your ability to manage it.

A primitive part of our brains, the amydgala, controls our fear response. It is also known as “the lizard brain” because its programming is able to take over the rational mind as well as the physical responses. It is what triggers your fight, flight or freeze mode. You lose the ability to think logically, your body tenses, your heart rate quickens and you either stop breathing or your breathing becomes very rapid. As the fear heightens, other physical symptoms may occur such as being light headed, feeling nauseous, getting tunnel vision, shaking, sweating or clammy skin. Your horse may become anxious as well as he senses and reacts to your nervousness. In this state, the situation can go from bad to worse if you stay in the saddle. You may be able to ride through it, but it will not be an enjoyable experience for either you or your horse. Unless you are able to work through your anxiety, release your tension, breathe and think clearly, it is likely to negative training experience for you both. In order to improve your confidence, you need to build on positive experiences – starting with small steps.

When you recognize the first signs of fear, your little inner voice telling you to get off, or that you do not have the riding skills to deal with the situation, you can create a positive training opportunity by dismounting and working through the situation from the ground. Ground work, done correctly, gives you and your horse the time and opportunity to get your composure,regain focus and work through the fearful situation. Use a foundation of training building blocks, that allow you and your horse to take one step at a time at your own pace to gain trust and confidence in yourselves as well as in each other. In your own time, continue the exercises from the saddle. But, you don’t have to do it all in one session.

If your horse is calm but you are a bundle of nerves, just practice mounting and dismounting over and over. While you are doing this exercise, your horse will get used to the idea that he should not walk off as soon as you are in the saddle and that dismounting does not mean you are finished working. When you are ready, ask your horse to walk a few steps – as far as you are comfortable going – before you halt and dismount. Extend the length of time you stay in the saddle and/or the area of the trail or arena you go to. If you need to settle before remounting, do a bit of ground work. You can change your mind at any time because your horse has no idea what your plan is. Gradually push the envelope of your comfort zone by asking a bit more of yourself and your horse as you feel more comfortable and confident.

Avoid putting the pressure of deadlines and expectations on yourself and your horse. Your journey will have highs and lows. At times, you will retrace steps you have already taken and other times you will leap forward. Confidence is built on a good foundation of solid building blocks, having trust in yourself and your horse, and having a support team that encourages you but allows you to grow in your own time and at your own pace. Enjoy the ride.

Anne Gage is a Gold Level trainer certified in the Chris Irwin method of horsemanship. She teaches adult riders to confidently work with their horses, improve their riding skills and bring the joy back into their riding experience. Her training and coaching methods are based on building mutual trust & respect between horse and human. Anne coaches and trains clients out of High Point Farm near Orangeville, Ontario, Canada and also travels to other locations giving one & two day clinics, workshops and private sessions. For more information, visit her website

Originally posted 2012-07-14 13:55:01.