Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Howdy Folks,

It's not always okay to speak up, I really do understand that. And I practice that. Most of the time. However, there are times when choosing not to speak up leaves us with inner thoughts and internal conversations wrestling to understand.

The other day I was at a feed store and while browsing the shelves I overheard a young woman complaining about her horse turning around on the trail. Her friend promptly suggested, "Oh yea, when a horse does that you just keep him turning, around and around, let him know that it's more work to turn around than to do what you want," or words to that effect. I thought about countering that suggestion, but who am I? I'm certainly no trainer. I do alright helping folks learn how to make their horses feel better with exercises, but a trainer I'm not. So I just did my business and moved along.

But I never understood, or subscribed to that method of, "training." First that kind of turning around and around can, and often does, cause the horse to become heavy on their forehand. Which is counterproductive to opening a horse's mind, as a horse on its forehand is most likely to be in flight mode, and that's not really a thinking place. Second, causing a horse to become heavy on its forehand is exactly opposite of correct and healthy body posture and carriage. Lastly it just feels and sounds wrong.

To me that kind of approach always just felt like … "Getting even." … As if to say, "You wanna do that, I'll show you what that gets you." Different approaches for different folks, I reckon ... But to me, "teaching a horse a lesson," falls far short of, "teaching a horse to be confident."

What do I do in a case where my horse refuses, or rebels? … Depends. But it's never, ever "Get evenism." When Kessy, early in our relationship, refused to go down the trail, I dismounted and led her. In those early days I did a lot of walking, and walking for me is difficult. But you see, each little step helped her gain confidence. I'd walk a little, find a spot I could sit down and let her pick at the grass if there was any, or just take in the moment being out there together. We did this for weeks. Eventually she gained the confidence to go happily down the trail.

This confidence can then be transformed to other challenges. That's where I feel, and it's only my opinion, "getting even, or teaching them a lesson," leaves the horse wanting. Those do not build confidence. Without confidence the horse cannot truly enjoy or look forward to doing things with you. Sure she might perform, but it'll remain an effort. Not be a joy. And it's difficult to build on.

I feel, when a person expects a horse to "obey" they are not, "hearing" the horse. When you help your horse build confidence, co-operation is freely given. A horse who has been trained to "obey" will too often see your requests as just another thing they, "Must Do." A horse who has been allowed to learn by building confidence will see your requests as adventures. A side benefit will be a horse who has less separation anxiety, and will be with you on the trail, even when other horses around her are worried and anxious. It's a confidence thing.

Have a perfect day.

Gitty Up
Dutch Henry


  1. Dutch, Its not getting even. Don`t project human emotions to horses. They don`t posses them. First you don`t keep going, and going, and going in a circle, you circle twice, then ask them to go forward, if they turn around again, then you repete the 2 circles. They learn pretty quick that doing the right thing is easy, and the wrong thing is hard. Sometime you may have to turn them more than twice, at first, but they will learn that, that won`t get them back to the barn. I have a mare that I just weaned a foal off of. The firat couple of times I took her out she started going a little nuts, wanting to get back to her foal. I had to fight her all the way back. So I started really working her hard every time we came back to the barn, instead of just unsaddleing her and putting her back into the pasture. After doing this twice, she will now WALK back to the barn, with no funny stuff. If coming home means a lot of work, they will not be so anxious to do so.

    1. Thanks Anon! ... Sorry if I was confusing, I'm not projecting human emotions to the horse, it is the human's emotions and attitude I was addressing here, not the horses. Thanks for your ideas here too! I just prefer not to do it that way. But that could just be me. I like to introduce little tiny baby steps of accomplishments to build confidence.

  2. @ Anonymous; While I agree a couple turns will generally do no harm, I don't believe that is what the customer said, or at least there was no specific number. Just "Keep him going around until he learns." Which, in my opinion is decidedly not the route to take, unless you're into spinning, every time the horse balks at something.

    Dutch used the semi-patient persons route. No offense Dutch.

    Where it me, I would have calmly sat the saddle pointed where I wanted us to go, for a few minutes. If the horse still said no, then I'd hand the reins to a friend, and walked down a ways, still in sight, waited a minute before coming back and remounting, then had my friend go ahead, while I waited. Then I'd ask my horse to continue on...

    This method may take a few tries too, but it works for me, and who am I to knock a working thing.

    1. Thanks Odee! ... haha, you truly understand me and my "semi-patient" ways!