Touch of Ease

I walked out into the pasture with our two geldings this past week. What they were doing reminded me of one of those small, but kind and effective ways we can all communicate ease, calmness, and connection with a horse.


Heh, it’s Barb and I’m here with my boy, Nic who’s having a little snack this morning!

I want to tell you about something that happened yesterday that reminded me of a small way we can all communicate with a horse.

We own Nic and we have another older horse named Tiger.

They were out in the pasture and they were nuzzling each other… you know how horses scratch each other at their withers.

I think it’s partly because they itch (-: but it’s also because this part of a horse, right here in front of the withers, is where their mother nuzzles and comforts them. So, this is a place where horses love to be rubbed.

I wanted to share that with you (although you may already know that) because it can be useful to you on the ground and under saddle.

On the ground, horses don’t like to be approached by going right toward their head. But, if you keep your eyes on their shoulder and on their withers, (and not on their eyes) they feel more at ease.

Also, they love to be rubbed on this part of their neck and withers.

Now, I’m going to throw a saddle on Nic and show you how we can use this wither touch idea under saddle.

________ (Barb goes out to the arena)

One of the things I like to do when I ride is this. At the end of a maneuver (for example, a warm-up trot, or canter, or backup). I like to pause and have the discipline, and the consistency to wait and allow my horse to take a deep breath.

That’s because when a horse takes a deep breath, they are calm. They release excess muscle tension. They lower their heart rate and brain wave activity. They are just like us in that way.

What you can do is after the exhale, you can add a touch to the withers. This is a little extra touch of ease for the horse.

Let me show you. This is a backing exercise we do for cow work. (Barb demos a backing exercise and then stops.)

I’m going to wait for Nic to take a breath.

There it was! (Nic does a big exhale.)

Now, I’m going to touch him on the withers. It just adds a little extra touch of comfort. Then I wait a moment more so I know he truly relaxes.

So, that’s how you can use that little wither touch when you’re on the back of a horse.

And again, what I showed you on the ground earlier… and now, here in the arena… those few ideas make up just one tiny little piece of communication and connection that you can do with your horse.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

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9 Comments on Touch of Ease

  1. Beth Bolt Greene on Sun, 12th Jul 2020 1:15 pm
  2. Love that!! Can’t wait to see results on my next ride. Need all the calming emphasis I can get for Liv. Btw-Nick is darling and so are you, Barb.

  3. Karen Stephens on Sun, 12th Jul 2020 1:46 pm
  4. That is the coolest thing I have learned! Thanks so much. I will definitely use that with my super reactive mare and my main man!

  5. Kim Darnall on Sun, 12th Jul 2020 4:53 pm
  6. Thank you Barb
    The “ pause” is so key.

    I love Nic

  7. Roberta Rollins on Sun, 12th Jul 2020 5:12 pm
  8. Great info; I strive to get my horse calm, confident, and totally one with me, and this touch on the withers is something I want to add!

  9. Woods on Sun, 12th Jul 2020 5:53 pm
  10. Thank you will see about trying that.

  11. Becky Richerson on Mon, 13th Jul 2020 7:38 am
  12. Thanks for the info Barb- As long as we’ve had horses I never associated that- I will start settling my barrel horse by using your tip when approaching the alley & let you know how it works with him😉

  13. Janis Smit on Tue, 14th Jul 2020 7:15 pm
  14. Great video… Thank you. been many years but i used to do that to calm my barrel horse and really didn’t think why, my trainer told me to though lol. 🙂 Had forgotten all about it. Will try with my boy!

  15. LindaB on Tue, 14th Jul 2020 11:34 pm
  16. My mare was running with the broodmares for a while and is very aware of her surroundings. That touch helps us stay connected when I am riding, when she’s concerned about something or when her attention shifts away from what we’re doing.
    I use something like it when I’m telling her to let go of a cow, or steadying her, like saying “that’ll do” to a Border Collie! Or, “well done…”
    I will try it in the way you are suggesting. Great idea. I appreciate the emphasis on the timing from Kim, too.

  17. jean e falkey on Wed, 15th Jul 2020 5:56 am
  18. This was a nice gesture. I do this a lot with my newly owned ponies. Never noticed the breath release. Will pay more attention to that!

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