If You Listen to Your Horse With More Than Your Ears,
You Will Hear Him Talking to You
My name is JudyRyder Duffy; we live in Arizona and have several breeds
of gaited horses including Missouri Fox Trotter, Tennessee Walker,
and Icelandic Horses.
We use several different/combined methods of training our horses.
We take a little of this and a little of that, and whatever works
best for each individual horse.
We have several email lists totalling 2,000 subscribers. One of
the lists is totally dedicated to Gaited Horses, another for equine
massage/complementary therapies, and others. For links to the lists,
check here: Email
Whether you have a new baby or a new adult horse,
all training should start with ground training.
It will form a foundation for your relationship with
Before starting to train, be sure that your horse has the
proper nutrition and food. Grass hay is much better for
horses than alfalfa hay. Grain should not be fed to horses
unless they are working very hard every day and/or have jobs
such as roping, jumping, racing, etc.
For horses who might be a little nervous or spooky, be sure
to give them enough B vitamins and calcium/magnesium. These
supplements have a calming affect in regard to stress.
Before going on to the Groundwork section, please take a look at Dr.
Many great horsemen have allowed us to use their articles on this
website. We have information from the best of the best!
They are glad to share the information for the
good of the horse. I thank them very much for this.
While I do not necessarily agree with every single thing each person writes,
uses, or endorses,
the material is presented so that each person can make their own
decisions as to what is best for them and their horse(s). There will
be several different articles on the same subject (i.e. trailer
loading) to enable owners to see their choices, experiment with
different methods, and to pick what they are comfortable with.
By Robin Hood:
I always encourage
people to look at lots of things and find out, not only what works for them
but, what feels okay for them. You can always make any method better. I
have a suggestion for anyone observing a clinician/trainer at work-- ask
yourself the following questions:
Is what they are saying and what they are doing really the same? (I
read many books and all the methods sound nice but in reality are not always
How does it feel to you in your heart and in your gut?
If you were in the horse's shoes-- how would you feel or what would
you be learning?
And one of the most important questions: What do they do when their
method doesn't work? Do they have other tools or do they just continue to
escalate the pressure?
If you are watching a video-- turn off the sound and see it without
hearing the words and you can also do the opposite - listen to it without
seeing - you might be surprised at the incongruencies that occur.
Lisa and Erin, Teamwork Equine Services:
Natural horsemanship is a holistic approach to working with horses. Instead
of looking for a quick fix to mask a symptom, you try to address the cause
of the problem. For example, if the horse is taking off and running away
with the rider, charging jumps or spooking, many people will go to a more
severe bit or some other mechanical device. In natural horsemanship you may
determine that the cause of the problem is fear. If the cause is fear, the
horse is having a natural flight response. He is not being "bad." He is not
being "silly." He certainly isn't "just having fun." The horse is probably
afraid of being ridden or of people in general, and the situation may be
frightening him as well.
Instead of wrestling with the actual problem, in natural horsemanship you
would probably start from scratch with groundwork to build a foundation of
trust. You'd help the horse to relax while you are touching him with your
hands and other objects all over. You'd help him to relax while you acquaint
him with scary objects, such as spray bottles, measuring tapes, tarps,
beachballs, etc. You'd help him to feel comfortable and safe walking over
ground poles and through tight spaces. You'd learn how to move each part of
the horse very precisely (forehand, hindquarters, head up and down, going
forward, backing up, going sideways, turning. . . until the two of you flow
together like partners dancing.
Many people claim that fear isn't the problem with their horse, but, if you
have a trained eye, the horse's body language may be telling another story.
One way to check if he is really comfortable with the saddle, for example,
is to put it on him when he is not tied to anything and see if he stands
still. It is important to learn how to read the horse's signals and be able
to recognize when he is just starting to feel tense (LONG before he starts
bucking, spooking or whatever) as well as when he is just starting to relax
(so that you can know when to reward him).
Another big difference in natural horsemanship is the reward system. Most
people reward their horse with verbal praise and/or clapping the horse on
the neck. In natural horsemanship, the view is that this kind of reward is
appropriate for a predator (such a in dog training), but because a horse is
a prey animal, all he wants is a release and no further stimulation the
INSTANT he does something right--this is "comfort" to him. When you are
first starting with groundwork, this might mean stopping your request
instantly while backing away from the horse looking the other way, then
breathing deeply and being as depleted of energy as possible for as long as
a minute or so. Giving the horse his space (comfort) is what the reward is.
Instead of training the horse through repetition to do a specific thing, the
goal of natural horsemanship is to help the horse to be calm and relaxed,
yet at the same time fully attentive and mentally prepared to respond to any
request you may make at any given moment. It is an excellent foundation for
any discipline and extremely therapeutic for horses from both a mental and
physical point of view.
Natural horsemanship requires a lot of patience, time and commitment. There
are no miracles to it. It is a slow approach (just as in housepainting, it
is very long on "prep work") but in the long run, if you want to get
extraordinary results, it is well worth it.
A relationship based on respect without fear
We would like to share with you a way of living, thinking, and feeling about
horses. It is based on learning to understand the natural instincts of your
horse so that you can build a relationship that is based on respect without
fear. In this process, you will find that you will spend more time working
on yourself. You will learn how to communicate with your horse in ways
horses understand, how to interpret what your horse is telling you, and how
you can work together in harmony.
Teamwork between "predator" and "prey"
We believe in taking the time and putting forth the effort to achieve mutual
understanding. In order to achieve a relationship that goes beyond the norm
you first must understand and respect the horse's basic need for
A horse is by nature an animal of prey. He is designed to flee from danger.
Before you've had time to blink, he can already be halfway across the arena.
On the other hand, we humans are predators by nature. We have the look,
smell, and feel of predators. It is natural for us--as humans--to behave in
ways that alarm horses. And it takes a lot of patience and persistence for
us to prove to horses that we are trustworthy.
A horse's instinct for self-preservation is stronger than any bit, tie-down,
or restraint. Mechanical devices such as these not only induce pain but are
cruel and cause anxiety because they prevent a horse, who is claustrophobic
by nature, from having the ability to flee. Horses can learn to want to be
with you because they trust you and feel a bond, not because they are tied
to you physically.
The goal: braver horses, smarter horses
Horses instinctively run first and ask questions later. Our goal is to earn
the trust and respect of our horses so that they remain cool, calm, and
collected--but most importantly--so that their capacity for thought is
increased, not decreased. A stressed horse has a diminished capacity for
thought. A stressed horse can be dangerous--an animal who is at least ten
times your weight, who is not thinking, and is only in survival mode can be
Tapping into horses' natural instincts as followers
C.W. Training believes that horses have an inherent desire to perform
for their handlers, but are usually confused by unclear signals or are
locked into undesirable behaviors that were never corrected. In 20 years of
horse training and competition, I have concluded that there are no problem
horses - only uneducated horses (and handlers). All horses are trainable;
all horses are salvageable.
The most enjoyable horses are those with good manners that have been
patiently built through a solid training foundation (conditioned response).
Once the foundation is established, the horse becomes a quick, willing
student who is eager to learn and please. In many ways horses are just like
people, with different characteristics and personalities. Each one learns at
a different level and length of time; some horses learn lessons more easily
Some are physically built to perform better than others. Those with
conformation that fits a particular discipline may learn more easily. But
all horses can be enjoyed. All horses can do arena work and be on the trail
in a relaxed manner. Just like us, horses are always learning every day.
Horses are not golf carts, where we turn the key and go. Just like us they
have good days and bad days. If we go on vacation for two weeks, we don't
perform on our first day back like we did just before we left. So why should
we expect our horse to be any different when it has been laid up for any
length of time?
Most problems arise by skipping over the basics of the horse's education.
You may want to do upper level (10th grade) work , but the horse is at 4th
grade. From that you get a confused, nervous horse that rears or bucks,
which are just two types of misbehavior that are the byproduct of skipping
There are three Golden Rules that I train by when working with your horse:
(1) You can't get hurt: the technique you choose should not put you in any
danger. (2) The horse doesn't get hurt: training is of little use if your
horse is lame or hurt. (3) The horse is calmer after the lesson, telling you
he is comfortable and understanding the lesson.
There are three parts of the horse that need to be trained: Physical,
Mental, and Emotional. We work with all three. Reprinted with permission from Charles Wilhelm Training
"Being a leader, and being a "boss" are not the same thing. Both are
positions of authority. But there is a level of respect, IMO, given to the
leader that the "boss" will never attain. That respect has to be earned.
can be lost. It can be regained. But it always has to be earned. "
"In normal riding, we let the horse go forward and cause him to stop.
Ideally, with natural horsemanship we cause the horse to go forward and
him to stop." ~~Parelli
What is "Feel"?
Perhaps feel is developing the ability to connect with our horses using
the languages of thought, touch and energy; a refined level of clear,
non-verbal communication based on understanding and empathy coming from
the heart, tempered by the mind and reached only through time, practice
and a passionate desire to achieve it in the first place.~~Sue