Supporting vs Ignoring the Horse

I was recently talking with a gal who was pondering why it was that frequently those folks who are in a position to influence others in the horse world, demonstrate and behave in ways that make most people around them wary and uncomfortable by their treatment and interaction with horses and humans alike.

We were also discussing why when I'm out and about at other facilities, that unless someone is asking "directly" for my input, that I don't offer to involve myself or share my opinions or ideas, even if this is what I do for a living. My answer always is, "Unless someone is ready to hear a new perspective, why push it upon them."

Misinterpretation of horse behavior

Frequently I've had posts shared with me about how "cute" something is in a horse, mule or donkey's behavior. Unfortunately when folks filter an animal's behavior with human emotions, it clouds their judgement in learning, recognizing or believing what the animal was trying to convey. 

I see it in pawing horses, ones that are difficult to catch, ones that can't halt after a gaming event, jumpers who charge fences, Dressage horses that can't rein back, cutters that continually can't focus on the cow, those that can't ride in a certain position in a group trail ride, etc. 

Owners and riders will "explain" what the horse is doing by interpreting it as a personal statement geared towards the human. The reality is the human's interpretation is usually inaccurate from what the root cause is that is affecting what the horse is emotionally experiencing. He only has so many ways to physically display his feelings. 

Just as with people, our behaviors are a direct result of our emotion. When we're happy, we are physically relaxed, mentally tolerant of many things. When we are concerned, fearful or worried our posture is tense, we get a neck or back ache, and we have no patience or tolerance for anything. 

In that regard, the horses and us are similar. So, if you see chaotic physical movement, if it is easier, put it into human terms. What could cause you to act busy, agitated, defensive, unwilling to participate? 

Let me use the common scenario of a horse not wanting to be caught. This was one of the most inquired questions on my "Ask the Trainer" section I used to have on my website. Something like 2,000 queries in two years. That is a lot of horses not wanting to be caught. 

Why is that? Is it the actual act of being caught? Or if we dig in deeper, perhaps it is the events that follow being caught that the horse is trying to prevent from happening. 

So the next question is what kind of interaction would cause a horse to not want to be around a person? 

If the horse was always critiqued for everything he tried. If the communication between horse and human wasn't clear, leaving the animal unsure of what the persona wanted. If the horse was bullied into doing things that he was fearful of. If the horse was feeling pain or discomfort from incorrect tack fit or the rider's aids. 

There could be many reasons why the best defense a horse could have is the offensive behavior in preventing being handled by the human to eliminate potential mental and emotional stress and/or physical pain. 

So how do you fix the "catching" issues? Acknowledge the horse's initial display of worry or concern, decrease the pressure rather than increasing it when he is unsure. Assessing and refining the ways in which you are communicating and noticing if it is improving his trust or lessening it. 

But these sort of interactions need to come from a place of empathy, rather than ego based critiques. I don't know how many times I've had to "undo" student's mental approach from having been taught traditional practices such as "making the horse do __________." 

This doesn't mean the rider will be "touchy feely" or passive in what they are asking of the horse or how they are communicating. This simply means they believe their horse and they experiment with how best to help the horse through his struggle and continue to pursue working with the horse until he reaches an emotionally quiet place. 

There is nothing natural about people riding horses or what we ask of them. It is quite incredible how much they are willing to do, put up with and adapt to. So rather than take advantage of them, let's believe them. 

Help them. Support them. But don't laugh off dramatic or flamboyant behavior. Please do not wait and see what the horse will do in his time of stress. Intervene. Try. Something. Anything. 

I always say the horse only has so many ways of "telling" us something. We need to listen. They are the most honest feedback "machine" humans interact with. They have no agenda or ulterior motive. They are simply operating on two basic prey animal instincts- life and death.

The Human Struggle with Horsemanship

Many times, whether I am helping a student work with their horse from the ground, there is a bit of an emotional struggle when they are trying to learn new ways of communicating, and the horse is trying to understand the different conversation.

Making Peace in your Equine Partnership

To try and stay "current" with the latest trends, I am part of different online groups, so that I can keep up with the latest "chatter" and better understand when troubled horses and clients come to me, what they've been exposed to and why their thinking is as it is.

Full Immersion Clinic July 19-21, 2019

Here's YOUR opportunity!!!!

I just had two participant spots that opened up in the Alternative Horsemanship with Samantha Harvey Full Immersions Clinic at The Equestrian Center, LLC , LLC in Sandpoint, ID for the July 19-21 session.

What is Alternative Horsemanship? Visit the:

Facebook Page for training and teaching philosophies

Website for details of clinic

Registration to sign up!

These are not "just another horse clinics"- they address so many details and nuances that get skimmed over or missed when folks attend massive participant clinics and don't have the opportunity for personalized instruction.

This is a chance to truly assess yourself, your behaviors, any fears or insecurities. This is a place for you to learn to interpret your horse's thoughts and behaviors and learn life changing tools to create and offer effective communication that diminishes the "drama" in the partnership.

A variety of topics, from anatomical lectures, to demos, to tack fit and usage, to group discussions create a full immersion experience.

Don't miss out. Grab a friend and come join us at a fantastic property with abundant wildlife, epic views, for a fun, safe, non-judgmental learning environment.

Limited on-site hook ups, camping available, nearby BnBs... 15 minutes north America's voted "best" small town!

Pushing versus supporting the horse

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Working the Walk- Setting the standard for the ride

I taught a variety of lessons of yesterday from new clients to those that I've worked with for a while. Some of the things we focused on was where/when the horse's brain was triggered to "leave" his body.

Diffusing Unwanted Horse Movement

Thought I would break down a short clip from a horse that arrived for an assessment. This was taken in the first session.

This particular video is a fantastic example of why most folks don't have accurate or quality steering, and shows so clearly when the brain and body are disconnected, what happens in the physical movement.

Evolving journey of Horsemanship

Some days everything may go as planned and then there are days where nothing seems to be able to be accomplished. My personality is to "will" things to happen, but it has taken a lot of years and intention to realize that wasn't going to work when it came to the horses.

A personal challenge was learning how early I could recognize within ME if there was a horse that was close to the imaginary line of becoming curious and interested in life, versus him mentally bailing and continuing to be defensive towards the human, and to not try to "make" him commit to a change.

Haltering the Horse - Setting the Stadard

We've talked about how the "ride" begins when you think about going for the ride, and learning to "leave" reality of daily stresses and demands behind as you show up to be with your horse.

I've mentioned the conversation starts with how your horse approaches you to be caught, whether in a stall or pasture, which is a great time to assess his mental focus and "tells" you what you might need to address before you even catch him.

Seat Bones and Centered-ness in the Saddle-

Many times folks don't realize that they are sitting crooked in the saddle. If they are off-center in the saddle, they tend unintentionally to "grip" or create a brace on the side that they are less connected with the horse. This lack of centered-ness affects the communication, timing in the use of an aid and the quality of the ride.

Critique vs Positive Alternative communication with the horse

One of the themes at a recent clinic in Oahu was discussing a positive alternative vs. a critique in our communication with the horse.

Most riders focus on what they don't want and attempt to "block," drive or reprimand the horse in a moment of unwanted behavior.

If you're a horse enthusiast here's an opportunity to help you: Understand how your horse's thoughts influence his...

Posted by Alternative Horsemanship Remote Horse Coach on Monday, October 26, 2020