Presence, pressure & “labeling” the horse

We so often times see & hear people that label a horse. Quite often its lazy, stubborn, pig-headed, etc. other times its crazy, hot, on the muscle. The ones that really irritate me are stupid, mean, bad tempered, etc.

I have to ask WHY do you think the horse is like that???? Watch the horse in their natural environment, interacting with other horses & see if they respond to their herd mates in the same manner they respond to you.

Most times when a horse is being labeled, it is because the human has made them that way, through the application of pressure & presence.

Many times a horse that is “dull, lazy, stubborn” has been nagged (ineffective, untimely presence & pressure) at until they have learned to tune out the human because the human rarely, if ever, follows up on the first initial request to do something with firmness. this has been going on so long that the horse (because they are creatures of habit) has learned that if they don’t comply immediately, they may not have to comply at all. Other times it’s because the horse didn’t understand what the request was to begin with, then the human started pounding away and the horse learned to associate the request with punishment & decided the best course of action was to avoid it altogether.  Often, these horses, much like people, have a a more “laid back” outlook on life. They can be brought up to a much lighter more responsive behavior with consistency & follow through.

The “hot, on the muscle, crazy” horse, similar to the previous horse, usually has a more “energetic” outlook on life. But most times the reason they are harder to get along with is due to the human inability to adjust their pressure & presence level. A lot of times, the human only understands one level of application. The more sensitive horse will over react with that level of presence & pressure. When that is consistently applied (it can take just ONE session of consistent error in application) the horse can be mentally “patterned” to over react/brace/resist to ANY request after that until they are put into a place where they can learn differently.

There are horses that are a combination of the 2 “types”. They might have been ultra sensitive in the beginning and, because of over (or under) application, they are “stubborn” in some things and “crazy” in others. They might be afraid to move because of something that happened, yet when they do move, it’s explosive, then they shut down again. Or they may be constantly ON the move, can’t get stopped because of what happened and mentally “check out” & won’t respond until you  have to up the presence/pressure to excessive limits.

Labeling a horse is no different then labeling humans. We may be ignorant of something so are slower to respond/react because we have to process on how to do something. But that doesn’t mean we are stubborn or lazy. We may be fearful of something and so we react quickly and with jerky motions because it is unfamiliar. It doesn’t mean we are crazy.

When interacting with horses, we need to REALLY pay attention to how we present ourselves and how we apply the pressure we use to obtain the results we desire. If we want to wipe off a speck of dirt from our face, not many of us will go right to 80 grit sandpaper on a power sander right off the bat . . . . . . . . . . gulliver11


The Pushing Game


I see this WAY too often in my travels. A person has a horse that is troubled while being led and the person has their forearm against the horse’s neck shoulder in a vain attempt to keep the animal off of them.

Simple biological fact: most horses weigh about FIVE TIMES what we do Their core instincts are to push against another being for either dominance, security or evasion. Why in the world would a puny human think that by putting their arm against the horse’s neck/shoulder, they can keep that animal off of them???

I have seen this attempt at control from all level of horsemanship. From uneducated local level beginner rider/handlers up through Olympic caliber trainers. The most common thread I have heard was “if you keep the lead line short and your arm stiff, you can keep them off you”. No, they just learn to shove you out of the way.

There is physiological changes in a horse that crops up from this type of handling. I have had horses come in for training that have never been ridden that have over development of the left shoulder from being braced up against the human.

Groundwork, it’s not just for breakfast anymore . . . . .

It’s a brand new world, yet the presentation to the horse is as old as time

The internet, cell phones, smart phones, tablets, HDTV and all else that has become so prevalent in our world of communication has changed the way many of us think, function, react, etc. It has changed the way we advertise, the way we conduct ourselves and mostly the way we view the world & the people around us.

But the fundamental horse never changes. He doesn’t care if you have the latest iphone 6 or an outdated flip phone that can’t accept text messages. He doesn’t care if you drive a 2016 Toyota Prius with the ability to turn your iphone off the second you get in the car or if you drive a 1960’s pickup with rusted out floorboards that belches black smoke.

What he does care about is the way you present yourself to him & how you make him feel. Do you trigger fear & self preservation? Do you trigger security & a sense of well being? Do you exude a negative or a positive energy?

This is an instinctive response in the horse, one he will always instinctively turn/return to. Choosing this over food, water, etc. and it all boils down to whether you can control the feet of the horse. Because this is Horse Psychology 101. In a natural environment, the herd is controlled by the herd leader(s). Most of the time this is a lead mare and is assisted by the herd stallion (yep the WOMAN is in charge 😉 ) The herd looks to her to provide safety, security, food, water, etc. There are infinite levels of hierarchy within the herd, but the leader is the one that controls all the others feet. Is able to move those feet when, where, at what speed, in whatever direction they so choose. In return the herd is provided all those things that are so absolutely necessary for their survival.

So the next time you interact with your horse, consider what you are presenting to him/her. Leave your phone in your car (house/barn/etc). Push the modern world aside and offer your horse the same thing he wants to offer you.