If your horse looks
at you like this - don't get cross - understand that
he doesn't trust you.
This is a guide that works along lines that have worked for us.
We hope it will spark your imagination and creativity so you remain as safe as possible while enjoying your horses.
My knowledge and experience has been developed from watching and studying the psychology and communication of equines. I use my advantages of being physically small and older in years to make things easier for myself. I've had to coach the combinations of inexperienced people and excitable horses so they can work safely together, so I've learned to manage most of the really dangerous issues by developing everyone's ability to be patient.
Contact us if you want to discuss any behavioural or control challenges
However this has not been written just to promote our services.
Things that are important to horses are:
No matter how structured your goal planning for the season is, the most important factors needed to achieve these goals are attention to detail particularly with regard to safety, and the physical fitness training programme of the horse and rider.
- Safety - Horses are an open plains, grazing, prey species … they are constantly on look out for predators, which is what humans are
- Horses are a herd animal. Horses gain security from defined leadership roles.They don’t want to have to be the leader. They will be very happy if you are the leader, but you have to earn this position.
- Play - Horses move each other’s feet to establish dominance, they do this in every day interaction, and they make a game of it. It is wise for us to understand this, and to be very aware of what the horse is telling us.
Cheski also takes human coaching sessions
Things to Think About:
It’s YOUR responsibility to keep yourself safe around horses.
If you forget this you’ll get hurt.
Be aware of the level of your horse's energy and reactivity after he has missed a few days work, particularly if this is a week or two into his new fitness programme. This is a time when he will be prone to muscle soreness. Soreness = Intolerance = Potentially explosive situations
It doesn’t matter what someone else says you should do, if you - as the person handling the horse - don't feel safe in his company - you're correct, you aren't safe in his company at that moment in time
Basic safety rules correctly include wearing proper footwear and protective clothing but it also requires you to be prepared to take a few moments to ask the question: “Why……….my equine friend, are you being "difficult"?”
The most likely answer is that your equine is finding what's just happened or what is about to happen uncomfortable and tricky and the only way he knows how to tell you, is to act in a way that humans describe as “being difficult”.
You may find it useful to remember that horses are very like young children, and there are many parallels between successfully managing children and horses.
Why is he sometimes difficult to catch?
Because he doesn't WANT to be with you.
If he’s difficult to catch – he’s not being "naughty", he just doesn’t trust you.
Something makes him think that your arrival at his paddock will include an activity that will be difficult or uncomfortable. Horses have excellent memories and so he has every right to decide not to give up his freedom just to suit your plans for his day.
Have you been inviting him to join you? Or have you been trying to grab, clutch, seize or capture him? Can you honestly say, if you grumble about the way he behaves towards you, that he has absolutely no reason to mutter about your behaviour towards him? You may have "tried" to be nice to him but were you?
At the end of each session with you, will your horse have reason to chat with his paddock mates extolling the benefits of spending time in your company and how you’ve helped him solve a specific problem he wasn't aware he had?
Why is he so fidgety to handle?
Be aware that your handling might be taken as an invasion of his personal space.
If he’s very fidgety at the time you want to touch him he obviously feels your timing is wrong. Although you might find this infuriating, he’s big, quick and might squash you. So, for safety reasons, hide your frustration and leave him ALONE - either restrained or confined to a small area until he realises that you have plenty of other things to do while he regains his composure and is ready to stand quiet and still.
A relaxed, mentally comfortable horse is a safe horse.
By becoming a good leader for your horses, you will create willing and cooperative animals. Using prey animal psychology is an excellent way to accomplish this.
Watch how horses interact with each other!
One is a leader, and one is a follower. The leader decides what game they are going to play, at what level, and for how long. The one who moves his feet is demoted to lesser status, and the one who did the bossing is elevated. Have you noticed how they can turn their facial expressions from “killer” (bared teeth, ears flat back, flailing legs and swishing tails) to “angelic” (pricked ears, soft eyes and a fascination for a specific clump of grass just in front of right front foot) as though they have flicked a light switch?
Have you noticed that there are no equals in a horse herd?
There are NO EQUALS in a horse herd.
That is important to remember when you are handling horses.
Unconsciously, many of us move quickly away when a horse crowds us. To a horse, this indicates that he’s been made the boss because he got you to move your feet!
An arrogant horse will delight in the knowledge that he can move you around like a chess piece. A worried and insecure horse, looking for direction will be even more concerned about trusting an individual who appears to have appointed him "Leader".
We need to understand that a worried and insecure horse is just following his basic instinctive need to be extra vigilant and ready to flee from any and all real or imagined danger. In his equine assessment process, if you move quickly when he moves quickly, you must be more scared than he. Horses may not have human animal intelligence but general animal sense dictates that scared leaders may well lead you into scary situations.
Every minute you spend with your horse, you ARE training him. Your horse will always use the last thing that you did with him as a reference point to start the next session. So although you might think that “training” is an organised thing that only happens at a specific time in an official place and when you have a “lesson”, it’s actually happening every moment that you’re with a horse.
Why are you in such a hurry to ride him?
If you find your horse doesn’t respect you as his ground control leader, do you really think that he is going to respect or trust you when both of your feet depart terra firma and you climb on his back as the big cats did to his ancestors?
As far as I’m concerned, I don’t assign my personal health and safety to a horse before I know that he’s really attentive and happy to follow my directions firstly from the ground.
This is why I feel it is so important to use a Structured Safety Check List .
This works through a variety of routines to develop your horses' trust and respect of your leadership. Think outside the square and use as many variations as possible in your training. If you feel you are only safe working in circles, work him as though you’re “doodling” or drawing pretty patterns around the paddock or arena. Keep him entertained (a k a the oft heard words "listening to you") by varying the size, speed and direction of your loops, circles and turns. If you don’t keep him interested (read attentive) and following your directions, he might be tempted to assume that you have relinquished the leadership role and he needs to come up with an alternative plan to keep busy.
With all this in mind, I hope you can see the value you can get from insisting that you are trustworthy, and that you must be able to direct your horse’s feet while you are on the ground, BEFORE you ever consider riding him.
Once again, every minute you spend with your horse IS training (for both of you), so don’t give yourselves an indelibly upsetting experience.
Have fun with your horses
Contact us if you want to discuss any behavioural or control challenges