What is Alternative Horsemanship?

I was recently asked about the "Alternative Horsemanship" and why I use that to describe what I do. So I thought I'd share with the group my answer...
The interpretation of "Alternative" Horsemanship is relative to your current perception and word association... as the human student's awareness and recognition of believing the horse's communication evolve, so does their translation of what Alternative "is."

Time and Horses

Enjoying the moment...

Even though there's always something "to do" on the farm, I've been intentionally working towards slowing my own thoughts down.

Yes, I check one thing off the list and add four more projects.

But that is irrelevant to the horses. As is time.

Learning to recognize and change how we respond to triggers that create an "urgency" in our own human patterns of thoughts, emotions and behaviors can completely alter the relationship with the horse.

The human can still have clarity, intention, and a goal, yet without adding the chaos that appears when the Conversation with the horse becomes a dictatorship rather than two-way communication.

Starting a horse under saddle

 I spy... Can you find the new arrival? 

He and his human counterpart recently participated in a Full Immersion Clinic and she decided to bring him in for training to be started under saddle. 

 His past is unknown as she acquired him at auction a year ago. The only thing clear was he was very reactive to the world around him. 

 Part of my goal to help prepare him for life is to help him learn how to think through scenarios, search for options, and to keep trying in a reasonable manner, even if what he originally offered wasn't what was desired.  

One of the things in seeing a horse like this is a reminder of when I come across horses that are as cute as he is, is that often the human's emotions have clouded the perception of what the horse is expressing in his own emotions and is being reflected in their physical behavior. 

This causes unintentional filtering of how a person interprets horse behavior, causing passive support towards the horse when he really needs proactive interaction and guidance. 

Would you like help in assessing your horse to clarify how to approach working with him? Find out more HERE

The horse's head postion

Often I talk about the Conversation with the horse. This applies throughout any interaction with the horse. Recently I was asked about correct head postion. 

The Horse: Valuing the Whole Experience

Decades ago I was an apprentice and working student at a variety of facilities in both North America and in the UK. 

Creating a willing horse by teaching them to search

The "search" is when we ask the horse to learn how to focus mentally and then physically offer a specific response, in other words, much of our Conversations with the horse is about them searching for what we are presenting.

Conversations with Horses


In the horse world I find there can be a lot fear, negativity and critique. This can be overwhelming, frustrating and depressing for many. 

Video Horse Coaching: Distance Learning Programs

 I've had a lot of inquiries about video coaching lately... It is such a great opportunity for learning. Some folks are concerned initially about how complicated it will be, it isn't.

Reviewing the Release with the Horse

 Reviewing The Release

As with everything much left to interpretation when it comes to terminology in association with horses. I try to be clear and precise in the words that I'm offering, but there still can be a gray area in the human student's understanding. This often comes from their level of awareness, background, and unintentional anticipation/expectation of their mind "getting ahead" of wherever they are currently at with their horse. I thought I'd share my perspective of a release with a horse. Here are a few of my thoughts:
What one horse experiences as a release, could be pressure or stress-inducing to another. Often what humans assume a release of pressure is (whether physical or spatial) is not perceived by the horse in the same way, and defeats the purpose. The release is not about "asking nothing," but is a time for the horse to mentally process and emotionally purge any potentially defensive emotions. But if he is "left" standing with tension, concern, or is distracted while offered a release, it will be containment for the horse, rather than a processing opportunity. There is no set "time" as for the length of the release, it needs to be appropriate for the particular scenario and individual horse. Often the human is assuming the initial release is enough, rather than assessing the horse during/after the release to recognize if the horse needed more time, support, etc. to truly let down and process.
If the horse is dramatically/quickly "rushing" out of a release moment, then it wasn't a release.
If the horse is unable to continually release throughout the human interaction, probably too much, too fast has been imposed upon him, and can lead to mentally overwhelming and physically unreasonable behaviors.

Lining up a horse for mounting video

Behind "how to lead a horse," I think "how to line up a horse" for mounting is the second most searched for topic online, followed by "trailer loading issues."

Here's the first time Hazel is learning to help pick me up from the trailer. Join me HERE for daily posts and tips on improving your horsemanship. 
Would you like individualized coaching? Check out the Remote Horse Coach site for a variety of options.

Changing Worried Horse Behaviors

Helping the Horse with Worried Eyes Question: 

"Hi Samantha, The other day you talked about stress showing around the horse's eyes. I recently bought & watched your "Reading the Horse" series, and it helped me get better at seeing more subtle signs of tension sooner. It's really helpful. Thank you for making those videos available!

This is my boy Ernie. He's a Belgian. He is a wonderful sweet friendly guy in his early teens. He's a PMU foal from Canada, and we got him when he was 2. His job is to be a pet and ride just for fun. He has 2 acres to wander about and he has 3 horse friends with him.

Leading the horse with Quality

Why your personal space matters... I see too many folks dragging their horse into their left shoulder blade. 

This often comes from a horse dragging on the lead rope, which may not seem bad when walking straight, but it becomes obvious when a turn is made. 

So ask yourself this: 
How often do you check-in with the horse before you make a turn to assess how soft the horse is in their response to pressure with the lead rope? 
How often do you notice if you grip with your fingers tighter on the rope as you make a turn? 
Does your horse get heavier on the rope as a turn progresses? Is your horse looking the opposite way from the direction you are turning? 
Does your horse change their energy during the turn? 
Do you offer the horse to think through and then move around the turn in quarter sections? 
If your horse offers something unwanted to you stop and address it, or wait and "fix it" later? 

 Every moment with the horse is an opportunity to refine the clarity and specificity of the Conversation. It isn't "about" the turn itself, but rather a scenario that allows you to assess clearly the interaction and address any unwanted thoughts or movement.

 The more intention you have during the seemingly insignificant moments, the more your horse learns to mentally with you, allowing for a physical reasonableness, no matter what may arise.

Teaching a horse to Search to improve the Partnership

The Search

 I balance between working with a horse both on the lead rope and loose. 

 In this scenario, with Pardner the goal is for him to address when I ask him to think, then move with intention.

 It is an opportunity for him to think through his options, try something, perhaps let it go if I ask him to, and then to be willing to try something else. 

 I'm looking to see if he gets stuck on a thought, or if he has the ability to address me, if he can pause when asked to stop or if he has to leave to sort himself out. 

 In the end, he "happens" to be asked to step into a tire cutout. But the focus was not about the task, rather the Quality of the Conversation, that then allowed the horse to "find" the specific task presented. 

 I don't want conditioned or patternized responses from the horse. I want him to be interested in participating and willing to try. Is the about getting him to be obedient? No. It is creating a scenario where we can practice the Conversation together which will apply to any future scenario with him, whether from the ground or while I'm in the saddle.     

Tying the Horse- It isn't about "making" him stay

How often do you "make" your horse stay? I don't. I often get asked about how I work with horses and when folks see pictures of videos of the horse(s) offering to stay without fleeing when in an open field. I thought I'd share this video of Chance. He came to me as a 15-year old that was deemed "psycho" by the two previous trainers that sent him home.

Improving Horse Rider Balance and Position

Many folks think whether in the competition arena or riding for pleasure have misconceptions as to what being balanced in the saddle is. I recently had a slew of questions about this and thought I'd share a brief version of the beginning of finding balance in the saddle.

Unloading the Horse from the Trailer or Lorry- Human Perceptions

I recently had a horse arrive from Montana for training and it was a good reminder of some things I've noticed over the years.

Frequently, especially if loading the horse initially was stressful or concerning for both human and horse, when folks arrive somewhere they tend to want to rush when unloading and "hurry" to get the horse to the new stall or pasture.

Why the one size fits all "Horse Training Program" can be detrimental

Someone in this group recently shared the following comment to my starting vs breaking the horse post: "This really resonates with me. Today I tried a new trainer, something away from my usual showjumping. A ‘natural horseman’ trained in XXXX. I felt my horse was being bombarded with stressful pressures resulting in With him bolting in the arena as his only means of ‘release’, then when cornered, my horse smashed through the gate to escape. I have been informed my horse has no respect for me. I feel so lost."
So I thought I'd share my thoughts... Unfortunately, this isn't unique... I meet a lot of folks who have tried a "trained" professional who has learned through a specific "program."

Lining up the horse to the Mounting Block Video

Conversations at the Mounting Block

Thought I'd share my version of asking a horse to line up at the block.

This is not about the act of the mare lining up, this was the first time I'd asked her to do so without touching the reins. This is an example of what the interaction can be like when pre-establishing effective tools to offer two-way clear communication.

The Quality of the Conversation affects the outcome of the task, such as when mounting.

Reminder I do my LIVE weekly #chitchat from the farm video on FB on Wednesdays, 8am pdt, 3pm gmt. Join me in the private group on FB HERE . If you miss the live version, it will be available for replay at later times.

If you'd like to learn more about improving the Conversations and partnership with your horse, there are lots of Remote Horse Coaching options including video sessions, group coaching, horse webinars and more. 

Language influencing the Quality of our Horsemanship

"My horse is stubborn"
"My horse doesn't want to work."
"My horse is ornery."
"My horse is fine until he is psycho."
"My horse knows what he should do, but just doesn't want to do it."
"My horse loves me."
"My horse tries to scare me sometimes."

Breaking a horse vs. Starting One

I recently was working a horse and a client had brought their son-in-law, who had been raised breaking horses. It was interesting in the conversation I was having in explaining the difference in breaking a horse and created a constant containment. Besides the obviously physically aggressive manner in doing things, I was explaining when "starting" a horse how it would affect everything that would follow in the interaction with the horse.

Are you giving your horse clear indication as to what you want?

The Blinker

I use a comparison of driving a car similar to riding.
Imagine making a turn in your vehicle.
First, you'd use your blinker or turn indicator.
Then you'd turn the steering wheel a specific amount to get the tires lined up with where you want to travel.
Last you'd add a varying degree of the gas pedal.
With horses, it should be the same.
Give warning as to where you'd like for them to move.
Turn their head towards the direction making sure the are looking and thinking towards the designated spot.
Then add energy to have them move towards where they are looking.
Most folks with their horse have no blinker, very little steering and a whole lot of gas pedal.
Then they critique the horse for not getting it right.
In this shot, I'm using my left "blinker" to get Sally's thought to her left, as seen with her left ear acknowledging me.

Ponying... Continuation of the Conversation 

 I find many folks interpret the act of riding one horse and ponying the other as a way to get the unridden animal to follow the other one. This can create mindless movement in the ponied horse and contribute to what seems to him willingly complying, but is not thoughtful, mentally available interaction. 

 I use ponying as an opportunity to continue the Conversation I'd started with the horse while initially working from the ground. This includes directing the ponied horse's thought, specificity of his movement and his energy. 

 There should be no drag on the lead rope, the ponied horse should not be staring at my riding horse avoiding the world around him, and he should not feel challenged by working alongside another horse. 

 The tool of ponying a horse can expand his understanding and acceptance of spatial and physical pressure, can offer him the chance to learn to interact with the human despite another horse nearby, and allow him to search for how to address the human's input. 

 Too many folks don't prepare either the riding or the ponyied horse and things can quickly escalate into unnecessary stressful and potentially dangerous situations when concepts like softening to pressure, letting go of a thought, pausing to check in with the human haven't been established beforehand. 

Join me in the free FB group for daily posts and insight. Here

When the horse is ready to ride

When the horse is ready...

People often ask how do I know when a horse is ready to ride and I'll tell them, "The horse will tell me."

Today I was working with Sally a mare who has some riding experience but carried a lot of containment and obedience. In our Conversations I opened the door for her to purge... and there was a lot she had to say. So her time here has been working on her learning to be able to express herself in a reasonable way without being obedient and then hyper-reactive.

The Crazy Horse- Is it really the horse, or the human?

I see a lot of animals labeled the "crazy horse." Are there some horses that due to human mishandling have reached such an extreme place mentally and emotionally that they would be unsuitable for the average horse handling skills the general equine community has? Yes.

Real World Conversations with Horse- Tolerance vs Curiosity

These four pictures from top left to right show a Conversation of Pardner practicing thinking through "supporting me" while I'm cleaning up debris. This is a desert horse who hadn't been around trees and wild animals. The deer and wild turkeys have made it their mission to "help" him... 

He is a common example of a horse who had been taught to tolerate uncomfortable situations. So he has a great "poker face" for when he is bothered, he doesn't act like the horse who expresses every emotion they are experiencing in a physically scary way.

The problem is this creates a pressure cooker of emotions in him until it becomes too much and "all of a sudden" he gets dramatic. So to change this pattern of obedient and tolerant behavior, I have to break everything down into very short, specific segments to help him learn to think through and sort out how to process in real-time what is being presented, and then to let go of anticipation.

This is not about making him tolerate the chaos, noise, dragging, etc. but rather for him to sort through his anticipation and concerns to learn how to just be aware of his surroundings and hang out with me.

He went from tolerant, to avoiding to eventually becoming curious about what was actually happening nearby. I had to help him go through his "checklist" including trying to leave, being mentally checked-out and avoiding, to becoming watchful, breathing, and finally getting interested in what I was doing. This comes down to clear Conversations that always offer a release- spatially and mentally.  

When there's curiosity, there is a willingness for a horse to try things outside their comfort zone.

Would you like to find out how Sam could help you improve the partnership with your horse? Click HERE to learn more about the seven-day online course "Reading the Horse" or click HERE for Remote Horse Coach options.

Misconception of Circling the Horse

One of the most misused "techniques" I have found is how people present asking the horse to move around a circle. Whether it is for lunging, groundwork, riding one or otherwise, rarely have I witnessed a horse thinking and traveling around a circle in an intentional, soft manner. Often there is a degree of "driving" energy from the human, along with containment via the lead rope, lunge line, reins, the rider's outside leg, etc.

Commonality- Various Scenarios and Quality Conversations with the Horse

What does the mounting block, going out a gate, loading into a horse trailer, crossing over a tarp, or passing through a stream have in common? None of them are about the actual task. Instead, it is about the commonality of the Conversation and having the tools to communicate with the horse clearly the specifics of where you want their thought, focus, and then movement. Each allows for an opportunity to help the horse learn how to think their way through a scenario, rather than just physically comply.

Anticipation in the Human when working with the Horse

One of the greatest challenges humans have is the anticipation of "what will happen" when with their horse. There is a fine line of being aware of your surroundings, and things that are occurring at the moment, but to also not fixate on these and the potential outcome.

Building Trust in the Defensive Horse

A moment of trust... what the picture is really reflecting

Though the rain was pouring down yesterday, the day prior was gorgeous. In this part of the world where the weather can change every five minutes from hail to sunshine, you learn to take advantage of it!

Sally, one of the desert horses that arrived to spend the summer with me had never seen trees, grass, wildlife, etc. before arriving at the farm. Though she's been settling in, everything in her world has changed.

As I was in-between my endless mowing and weed eating and spring chores, I saw a very different Sally standing out in the field. The horses were out grazing in the infield, a place she'd initially go nowhere near as the movement in the branches of the nearby trees due to the wind and wildlife had kept her on-guard eve in her opportunity for letting down.

As I go through my "checklist" of questions to owners with horses that arrive for training, one of the important ones is in regard to the horse's sleep patterns. Noticing if/when/how long the person actually sees the horse sleep.

Since arriving I'd seen Sally sleep, but not in a deep state and for very short periods of time, and only in the night time pastures. But this past week there was a big shift in her mentally. Simple, subtle moments where she'd offered on her own to be much more thoughtful, less emotionally reactive, and able to try in a reasonable manner.

I have found that the quality of the Conversation with the human affects the horse when they are on their own. And then I saw her... I'd turned out horses, but had to gently "re-direct" them to another pasture while they were loose. Sally had made a wrong turn into one area, I called her by name off the grass, she quit eating, came over to me, checked-in, then I pointed and I directed her to the correct pasture. She calmly walked off and resumed grazing. A few other horses had moved off further away, but she didn't engage. Even her body looked softer and more relaxed as she grazed.

And then a short while later, I watched her gently lie down, comfortably viewing the world around her, then settling-in as she took a nap. I headed over to say hi when she'd perked up again. Though she loved scratches for all her itchy spots when standing, she always had a tightness to her body, muscles, and breathing. But as I walked up at this moment, calling out to not startle her, she acknowledged me softly. I watched her, for any concern at my presence. There was none. So I came over and scratched on her and then took a seat.

Was this about capturing a fun picture? Not at all. This was an awesome moment in time that reflected the shift in her perception of the new world around her and me. This was a huge moment, for her to be completely "exposed" laying in the middle of a field, with a human nearby, and not have any fear or containment. This trust is what the equine partnership is built upon.

But it doesn't come from being "nice" to the horse, nor being "hopeful" in the communication. I had to present, and ask Sally to address many of her fears, anticipation, reactivity, and defensiveness in recent sessions. I had to offer her a safe place to express and purge her concern without critiquing her for feeling that way. I couldn't force anything to "happen" but I could offer every interaction to be a quality Conversation.

Does her trusting me as she lies down mean she is "finished?" No. But it is one of the many contributors that will and does affect Sally's journey to her becoming a thoughtful, willing, and confident equine.

Poop Patterns in Horses

Manure can tell you so much about a horse's health and stress levels in its consistency, texture, timing it is passed, etc.

But today I want to talk about something I've noticed over the years. Horses that come in for starting, re-educating, or refinement in their training are at various levels of exposure, confidence, and experience. They come from all over the country and are of many different breeds.

I believe socialization, freedom of movement, exposure to natural elements, and wildlife are important aspects of their education. They are kept in wooded area pastures at night and during the day are allowed to graze in herds in open grass fields.

I often joke I'm a grounds maintenance keeper and work with horses "on the side." I like to keep things neat and tidy and spend hours trying to keep up with the facility. So I notice things, like WHERE the horses poop.

Over the years I've realized there is a commensurate "evolution" in where horses decide to pass manure when they are out grazing during the day time in relation to their training.

In the beginning soon after they arrive, they poop wherever they may be grazing at the moment. As their mental availability and thoughtfulness starts to increase in our sessions together, they start to intentionally move closer to places where manure has been passed in the past. Then as they become more available and willing in "trying" and "searching" during their interactions with me, they start to consistently walk to a specific place to pass manure when grazing, in the same place, each day.

Even with me cleaning up manure daily, they will return to nearly the identical spot to relieve themselves, whether or not other horses have passed manure there recently.

I find the more mentally quiet and emotionally relaxed a horse is, the cleaner they are in where they decide to intentionally poop. If I hadn't noticed this consistently happening over the years with so many horses, I would have categorized the individual horse as a "messy" or clean horse.

But upon closer intentional observations, I have concluded that it, just as with all things horses do, is not an accident. It is yet another reflection of how their interaction with the human affects what their mental and emotional state is when they are on their own.

Horse Training Video- Having Conversations with Horses

Alternative Horsemanship with Samantha Harvey Remote Horse Coach shares a moment captured impromptu on the farm. In this unrehearsed video she shares what Conversation with the horse... or five... can be like. Learn more about the "Reading the Horse" Online Course HERE

Self Awareness Improves our Horsemanship

*What do you see?
*Where are your thoughts?
*When do you get distracted?
*When do you rush?
*When do you avoid?
*When do you anticipate?
*When do you become "hopeful?"
*When do you critique?
*When do you quit?

We are all human and we're not always 100% mentally and emotionally present even if we are physically standing next to or interacting with the horse. It takes effort to have an intentional awareness to learn to change our own patterns in our thoughts and behaviors, but first, we must become aware of what they even are!

So whether you think back to past events with your horse or the next time you head out to spend time with him, start to slow down and ask yourself the above questions.

This isn't about self-critique, but it helps to break down the excessive "chaos" you may be bringing to the time spent with your horse.

Valuing where your own thoughts are will help you understand your own physical responses to your horse. The more you allow yourself to slow down your thinking, the increase in "time" you'll experience to sort out your options in specific communication offered to the horse.

This takes effort, intention, honesty within yourself, and practice. It helps to peel back the layers of "stuff" that often convolute the human ability to "see" the horse without critique and judgment.

Reminder... "Reading the Horse" online course is starting in June! https://bit.ly/horsecourseonline

Myofascial system of the Horse and his physical responses

Here is a recent article I came across by The Equine Documentalist:
The myofascial system is a newly explored phenomenon in the horse. Studies into its complexity show us just how interconnected the whole anatomy of the horse is.
Note how many of the lines go all the way into the hooves. Considering every anatomical point along a myofascial line directly affects every other point, and the position and orientation of each point will affect the position and orientation of every other through the concept of bio-tensegrity, we can see that the hoof will be subject to the physiological state of the body and vice versa. As we further investigate these concepts and relationships the compartmentalising of the hoof and the rest of the musculoskeletal system will be replaced with a more holistic outlook.  Read and watch for more info.

Mental Search vs. Task Fixation in Horse Behavior

Search vs. Task

How many thoughts and behaviors can you recognize in this young horse as he searches for what I'm asking?

When the human allows space for the horse to learn to take the time and sort through his options, it teaches the horse to be thoughtful and intentional vs reactive to the human's request.

This creates a mentally available vs physically tolerant equine partner.

Want to learn more? This horse is used as one of 7 demo horses in the "Reading the Horse" online course 🐎🎥💻. Click the link for the June COURSE details!

Bad Weather & Horse Behavior- Learning Opportunity for Building Trust

It was been raining... for days. Gray, dark, windy, and cold. You can't see the rear of the property. Every simple task becomes a "chore" as I pile on the layers of clothing, jacket, scarf, and hat to head out and mentally head out into the blustery weather.

Reading Horse Behavior to decrease dangerous moments

I'm very excited about the seven-day upcoming online course "Reading the Horse" ( https://bit.ly/horsecourseonline ). One of the great opportunities for learning from these videos of seven different horses will offer people to learn to SEE and put value to all of the numerous and continuous ways they communicate. I know that may sound funny, but often the more time folks spend around the horse the more "routine" many of the interactions can become.

This builds unintentional mindlessness in the human and the horse or "autopilot" responses between the two. If this is the case, the human may miss when potential concerns begin to build in the animal until "all of a sudden..." he does something and it totally surprises the human.

In other cases, the person may see what the horse is physically doing, but not put value to the behavior or recognize the connection in what is currently happening to where it may lead in future actions of the horse.

Often folks are also hopeful. People will "wait" until the horse is committed to an unwanted response and then attempt to intervene at his peak concern. What the human may not have realized is that their initial pause or delay in communication with the horse has taught him that he is "on his own" in a stressful situation. The problem is this consistently, (often unintentional) unsupportive response from the person, teaches the horse that when concerning moments arise, he needs to fend for himself. As he does so, it can create an overwhelming feeling in the handler or rider.

So remember even the seemingly most "mundane" interactions are teaching and conversation opportunities between humans and horses. If folks prioritized quality interaction with their horse during these times, they would be diffusing and diminishing potentially dramatic and dangerous ones in the future, without even realizing it.

Keep in mind horses do not one day randomly become "trained" or reasonable. Even with a horse that has had years of training, someone can "undo" the training depending on how they interact.

Every moment the horse spends time with a human is a continuous learning opportunity. The person can teach the horse either desired or undesirable responses depending on their approach.

What has the quality of your conversations with the horse been lately?

"Reading the Horse" Online Course

*Seven Horses * Seven Days *Seventeen Minute Sessions

Presented by
Alternative Horsemanship with Samantha Harvey: Remote Horse Coach
May 17-23, 2020

Who: All horse folks wanting to learn to recognize and read the horse’s body language and behavior in order to learn how to work towards creating a respectful and fulfilling equine partnership.

Why should I take this course? Many horse enthusiasts truly want the best for their horse. As with everything, there can be a steep learning curve, irrelevant of how many years that you have been around horses. Every horse has something new to teach us. As a client of mine once said, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

Ask yourself the following questions- Do you:
Struggle with the “same” issue(s) with your horse?
Feel overwhelmed by your horse’s behavior?
Want to help your horse become more confident?
Feel like your training has reached a plateau?
Experience your horse resisting your requests?
Feel like your horse ignores your communication?
Have a horse that is a “hard” keeper?
Have a horse that has “issues” with every day handling such as with the farrier, vet, trailer loading, catching, tacking, mounting, riding out, or?
Have a horse that is really great, except for _____?

Find out more and sign up by click HERE

Encouraging Curiosity in the Horse as the Training Continues

Curiosity in the Horse

I had a horse... one of those "I didn't mean to acquire him" types... one of those the hoarding breeder got out of control and ran out of money with a bunch of malnourished pregnant mares... one of those orphaned colts as a consequence. I tried to say no... but Pico wound up with me. He was Curious. Not the most confident nor athletic with his clubbed foot, but he sure did keep everyone entertained. 

Adjusting the Human Perspective: Pain in Horses

A horse that is curious about training...

Many horses and humans live with pain to varying degrees on a daily basis. If you've even been injured or having ongoing pain, think about the all-consuming feeling and emotional state the pain triggered in you.
  • How functional were/are you?
  • Were/are you in a frame of mind to learn something new?
  • How was/is your patience levels?
  • How long could/can you focus?
  • Could you/can you physically stay still, get comfortable, or relaxed?

Preparing your horse for "life"- including not killing the farrier

As a trainer who over the years has gained a reputation unintentionally for working with horses often after the "mainstream" ways of training have not worked, (think big, dramatic and dangerous horses,) I receive many requests for help after all else has "failed." Many unwanted behaviors arise during the handling of horses in everyday scenarios. Two big challenges for many people is trailer loading and having their horse stand well for the farrier.

Cause vs the Symptom: Horses that quit or abruptly stop moving forward

With current world events, I've been doing a lot of Remote Horse Coaching. For folks that have access to their horses, one of the "spring" themes seems to be horses that were going "fine" and then "randomly" or suddenly started stopping, where they abruptly quit moving forward, either when led or ridden.

Using a round pen- an Alternative Horsemanship perspective

I find 95% of folks misuse a round pen, whether under the guise of "exercising" or teaching conditioned responses, an example being the lesser of two evils is to turn, face the human, and be caught rather than made to run; which is a bullying tactic. The problem with teaching conditioned responses and patterns is the day you change the routine, the horse does not know how to react because his responses have been obedient versus thoughtful. Sometimes, this creates him throwing a tantrum or seemingly becoming a fire breathing dragon instead of the horse you're used to. 

Dangerous Horse Behavior: Food Aggression

Question: My 3-year-old gelding has developed a habit of dipping his neck down, then shaking his head at me at feeding time. He didn't do this over summer, of the two youngsters he was the most respectful. I assume his attitude says he is more important than I am, and wonder how to correct him. He is second to the mare in herd status, she is just 4 but very dominant over him, but accepts me as the lead mare. Why has my lovely Chinook taken such a turn? Had him since he was a baby, and the only difference is, its Alaska and its winter so I don't spend as much time with them.

Learning to See the Horse

A client's mule from a few years ago...
30+ years ago when I started out with horses I never would have thought my journey would evolve as it has... The variety of disciplines and animals I've worked with was not exactly intentional, but rather part of my evolving journey. The more exposure I had to unfamiliar experiences, the more I wanted to learn. Whether it was 3 Day Eventing, jumpers, Dressage, racehorses, driving, ranch roping, moving cattle, cutting, reined cow horse, packing in the mountains, colt starting, Horsemanship, or rehabilitating dangerous horses, each area had something to add to my foundation of understanding. Over the years my experiences ranged in working with a variety of breeds such as Thoroughbreds, ponies, Warmbloods, Arabians, Heavy and Light Drafts, Chilean Criollos, east Asian horses, gaited horses, Mustangs, Mules, and many others.

Practice Listening to the Horse

We could gain a lot more out of our relationships if we practiced listening and hearing more, especially when comes to interacting with the horse.

Trail Riding with your Horse: All the right Ingredients

One of the greatest challenges I have is getting folks to switch from reactive to proactive behavior with their horse. Although for a majority of people riding is supposed to be a fun outlet or escape from other aspects of their life, it isn't always the romanticized experience that initially inspires most folks to start riding in the first place. But it can quickly become an emotionally frustrating experience when the human has intentions that may not yet be appropriate for their own abilities or that of their horse. 

The Follow Through with the Horse

I was recently asked a great follow up question and thought I'd share my response here. Paraphrasing here, I was asked what happens if you try to be aware and support your horse 99% of the time, but "miss" the 1 % when a horse's behavior catches you off guard. Is it just horses being horses or? So I thought I'd share my answer in today's post.

Preparing the Horse for Realistic Unknowns

If you have the opportunity to spend time with your horse, there are plenty of ways to learn to notice any unintentionally conditioned behaviors in them.

Why Horsemanship matters in Everyday Scenarios

Why "it" matters...
Yesterday in preparation for embracing truly remote isolation for the next few months, I had to pick up three different horses (all currently at private, remote desert locations) and bring them to a fourth private farm to meet the vet.

I haven't taught in person in the last month, and these horses will be making the 1,400-mile journey north through country most folks in the USA have never even been to. Do you know what it is like to drive for 300 miles on one road and only pass a few other vehicles? My rig is self-sustained, including with enough fuel so that we never have to engage with another human to make the entire trip! We will summer in isolation in the heart of the rocky mountains.

What do you do with horses?

People often ask "what kind of horse training do you do?" I say, "I work with people and horses."

In the traditional world of horses, not categorizing yourself meant that you didn't really know a whole lot about anything. Nowadays I find it quite ironic how many students I have that many of my clients come from "specialized" trainers but are having major issues on fundamental basics with their horses and the specialized trainers are unable to help them through the situations other than forcing the horses into submission through fearful and aggressive tactics.

Mindfulness in our Horsemanship

As with most things, there is a learning curve in the progression and improvement of Horsemanship. It involves recognizing, understanding and then grasping concepts and building the skillset not only in the mechanics of the "hands-on" communication but also learning how to achieve quality interaction with the horse. 

Desensitizing the Horse vs Supporting the Horse

I don't try to desensitize or de-spook a horse. Instead the more the horse is mentally available and engaged in a Conversation with the human, the less overwhelming the world can be.