If Horses Could Talk

I’ve been out and about these past fews weeks and I’ve noticed something.

It’s sooo easy to do, but when we do it, we deny ourselves the experience of true horsemanship.

I’m talking about only focusing on what we want a horse to do instead of noticing where the horse’s mind and emotions are first – before we ask.

For example, say we want a lead change, a turnaround, or good cow work, and we start asking without thinking about the horse.

Is their attention with us or at the barn? Are they wired, but we ignore it and push through anyway? Are they too laid back, so we kick harder?

Then do we judge the success of a ride by if we got what we wanted with no concern for the horse’s demeanor when we finished? And if it didn’t go well, did we blame the horse?

Again, I do not intend to sound harsh, it’s just easy to do, and I don’t know a gentler way to say it!

If horses could talk, I wonder how often they would say, “I know you want something from me, but I don’t think you really see me. Please bring my attention to you first and set me up for the task before asking me for a sequence of moves.”

So, what can we do instead? Here are my thoughts on how to build a great partnership with our horse.

First, we must get grounded and clear about what we plan to ask. That way, we give both ourselves and our horses a much-improved chance to be successful.

Initially, we breathe and get slow on the inside because if we are revved up internally and concerned only about maneuver quality, there’s no true communication. And worse yet, both horse and rider will function below their full potential.

After we get our emotions and thoughts regulated, only then can we effectively tune into our horse.

Where is our horse, mentally and emotionally? If they’re too excited or closed down, do we know how to bring them back to being engaged with us?

Every horse is different.

Do you need to bring your horse’s energy up – or down? Is his attention with you or looking at scary monsters in the distance?

Ask a trusted and like-minded mentor if you’re unsure how to help guide your horse’s attention and regulate their energy.

Once you have their focus and their energy is calm, only then begin working on your original goal.

I think of cueing – horse response – rider response – repeat, and on, as a true conversation with a horse. It’s a series of almost imperceptible small moves that silently communicates, “I hear and understand you.”

If I was sitting with a friend and they were looking out into the distance and thinking of something other than me, I knew they couldn’t hear me.

The same is true for our horses.

We are their leader, their helpmate – hopefully, their knight in shining armor who they trust with their life. It’s our job to regulate our emotions and help them with theirs. Our relationship and connection will surely grow, which is one of the main reasons we love our horses.

Please leave a comment for me. What do you think?

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11 Comments on If Horses Could Talk

  1. Ruth on Sun, 2nd Oct 2022 1:43 pm
  2. Very appropriate. My mare’s attention is always across the field to the neighbors. often when in corral her favorite place is looking over where she knows mini horses are though now really visible. She is an only horse and a looky one. Just broke my wrist so it’s a sad fall riding time.
    Enjoyed road to the horse on cowboychannel

  3. Denice Fox on Sun, 2nd Oct 2022 5:38 pm
  4. I rode my 3 year old on Friday and felt I had accomplished nothing. She felt uncharacteristically stiff, not giving to the bit and being just a bit unhappy. Not my normal Mabel. I realized during that night that it was all on ME! I was feeling some stress and tension because I had put some stuff off. the next day, I got my head straight(er) and rode with the intention of being quiet and focused. Lo and behold, she came back to me. We had a lovely ride.

  5. Laura Yarbrough on Tue, 4th Oct 2022 4:59 am
  6. Such a good point. I can feel when my horse is not tuned in or into the task at hand. Transitions up and down in various gates will often open our channels. Then some days we are just not together. We can always start our ride “over” and reset. When all else fails…”You don’t have to like it, just do it!”lol

  7. Diane on Tue, 4th Oct 2022 8:20 pm
  8. Recognize Phyllis Jess’ picture in your article🌟
    Just trail riding their attention wanders. I don’t ask for constant focus but he gets a little reminder that we are going somewhere with a purpose

  9. Carly Kritchen on Tue, 4th Oct 2022 8:40 pm
  10. I’ve thought a lot about being there and with my horse since the clinic. I’ve been concentrating on my breathing when I ride and she’s really been responding to me in a better way.
    It was great to meet you and Sandy- it was such a great experience and good for my horse and me! I really learned a lot of new ways to do things better with my horse!

  11. Sharon on Wed, 5th Oct 2022 9:08 am
  12. Barb, Very well said,written.
    Thank you for sharing in a way that is clear and thoughtful! I know there are days that I need to remind myself to really wait and “read” what my horses are expressing before continuing on.My plans often change and we are both better for that

  13. Terrie Goiney on Wed, 5th Oct 2022 9:41 am
  14. Thank you, Love this Barb! My horse is five and this last year and a half he’s gotten more mellow and that has really helped me in seeing him where he is at in the moment with his thoughts. It’s been really fun slowing myself down and listening/seeing my horse more clearly, though I’m sure he would love it if I could truly hear him.

  15. Camille Abbott on Thu, 6th Oct 2022 5:46 am
  16. So true. This happened to me today. I started out right. I grounded myself. I was breathing. I had my mantra going…but I just couldn’t focus. And it came out in my lesson and it all came apart. Gunny wasn’t her usual self. I couldn’t focus because i was focused on other things. It was a mess, and I knew I was getting ready to end up in the dirt. So I stopped and called it a day. Spent some quality time in the wash rack with Gunny loving on her and helping Clete tend to Flash. Time to regroup a bit.

  17. Natalie on Thu, 6th Oct 2022 5:59 am
  18. I’m amazed at the sensitivity of horses. Given that such an animal can feel the smallest fly on their skin I often think about the unintended cues I give. Once I center my self, ground my thoughts and work with intention many times my young horse will become soft and trusting. Such good confirming points in this message from you.

  19. Elsie Johnson on Sat, 8th Oct 2022 7:54 am
  20. Barb, you have written well and I’m glad to read that someone cares about horses’ emotions. I’m also concerned about the emotional life of horses. My horse sometimes refuses to move even though he has no illness. I’m a bit confused about the reason. Can you help me to figure it out?

  21. Kristine on Fri, 11th Nov 2022 12:04 am
  22. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on how to build a great partnership with our horse. I have learned that keeping them calm helps their focus. That’s why I use a horse-calming supplement.


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