Equine Info

Some of the Nature of Horses

In the beginning , a horse does not see the reason, meaning or purpose in what we are asking it to do. Through repetition, the horse learns what we want or do not want of it.

Lewis Blackburn

A Horse thinks, feels, makes decisions – treat him like a friend, not a slave – people must learn that generally whatever the horse does he feels is correct. We are the ones that got into the horse's life, they didn't get into ours.

In my line of work as a trainer / teacher I meet and successfully deal with many tough/wired horses that are deemed more or less untrainable and lost causes. People ask me what is the secret in dealing with or training that type of horse ? There is no secret as horses respond positively to effective, patient, clear communication in their language and understandable training methods.

prey animals

Horses are Prey animals, viewing us as Predators (which we act and smell like) . They react first (Instinctively - commonly called "right brained") and think later (typical run a ways and then look back) and by doing so have managed to survive for so many millions of years (more than 40 million). We must work to get them to expand and then to use their left brain (more pragmatic/analytical brain) more than their purely instinctive right brain side.

Whenever we are around a horse (on the ground or on its back) we are training the horse all the time , whether right or wrong, whether we are aware or not . If we are too unaware the horse will begin to manipulate us, even when training.

As the horses do not speak English , we must learn their language. Their language is based predominately on body language and they best understand firm but passive persistence and release from pressure.

Horses do not see the reason or meaning of what we are asking them to do unless it is in their language.

Use reverse psychology and lateral thinking to act and think more like a Prey Animal than as a Predator to gain the most communication and compliance.

herd instinct / hierarchy (aka Pecking Order)

One of the paradoxes with horses is that although they have long memories and tend to not forget much, they still must daily re-establish (check / verify) positioning (hierarchy / pecking order) within herds , the second horse or BETA has a task of checking on the ALPHA and the herd (followers) generally stick with the Beta. The Alpha typically doesn't have time or patience to deal with the herd members otherwise (due to being responsible for herd safety and it's ego gets in the way as well). The Beta horse lives a more sedate / calm life has more patience with the herd members. The Omega horse typically, being bottom of the herd, has the important task of releasing anxieties / stoically stored stress of others by being the so to speak “whipping post”.

The Leader/Boss/Alpha can and will loose credibility by making leadership mistakes such as leading down to steep a hill and if then a follower hurts itself and/or over rough ground that causes injury to the follower members, etc.
The entire herd can move as one as do fish, birds and other herds in order to ward off (confuse) predators, therefore all herd members are connected mentally and as such can also read their rider constantly

regarding stoicism (small smart brain, huge heart)

Horses have a huge heart physically as well as mentally and they store their anxieties (some call it baggage) much like humans do only much more so. For example, if they trust their rider and something occurs to spook them, they will gulp down / swallow their fear and accept the rider's judgments (so long as the rider is the leading member of the two individual herd ). In a human training error, this also occurs if they are intimidated to the point they dare not fail to do whatever the rider or intimidator demands, so they again swallow their fears/anxieties and accept the situations (mostly begrudgingly). In either case the baggage builds up steadily until it overflows and then can occur what is generally called “an explosion”. In a herd of horses there is an Omega horse that generally provides the other horses with a way to expel / express their anxiety / baggage build ups so that they more or less empty out some or all of what has built up in them from time to time. If they do not get that release then it is up to us to provide a method for releasing the build up. There are other circumstances that can serve to generate relief and increase the horses capacity for holding stress down, such as moving home locations or changing to a more kind owner, etc.

Regarding surgeries and medical treatments

It has been discovered, that humans and animals still actually feel the pain, feel stress then sits in the subconscious (it forms more of the baggage that they and we hold inside in addition to everything else we stoically endure). Similar to what happens with nightmares that we humans have (horses also have nightmares, it has been surmised). That of course would add to the build up of already stoically stored stress/baggage thus hurrying the build up to the top /maximum and hear sounds, even when sedated, so the stress caused of their storage capacity as time goes by and to an eventual explosion.

Surgery / medical treatment stresses (plus real or imagined stresses / traumas) when added to each little everyday thing that they would normally have plenty of room to store "deep down as do we" can build up to just too much to endure and it eventually spills over. Then, low and behold, we have a “different horse” until more space/capacity can be created/generated in their system, which is normally accomplished by expelling some of the stress in their herd situations, otherwise leaving us to do the job ourselves.


If you stop and think about it......humans have many different problems (rider nervousness, losses of confidence and some even more extreme breakdowns, etc.) that we suffer with as a similar result to our carrying anxieties/traumas/stresses deep inside We are simply a lot better at using our so called "left side" brain (analytical abilities) and can generally handle problems better than the horse is able to do with its natural overriding Instincts to protect itself. Therefore, we should try to expand the horses left brain with as many complex exercises as possible (such as backing up in various complex maneuvers/directions, squeeze games, etc.).

Normally the stoically stored stress "expelling job" would be down to an Omega horse to be the "whipping post" for herd members; otherwise we must do the job in order to create normal capacity and have them use their left brain abilities (especially when a rider is trying to bring them back from instinctive behavior due to some surprise that spooked them).