What Your Horse Wants You To Know What Horses Bad Behaviour Means And How To Correct It

by Gincy Self Bucklin

Author Gincy Self Bucklin Isbn 978 0764540851 File size 8 5 MB Year 2003 Pages 208 Language English File format PDF Category Animals Listen to and communicate with your horse successfully This is a book for everyone who has ever looked at the constantly increasing list of methods and systems marketed as horsemanship and wondered which of the many possible approaches would be most suitable for a particular behavior problem Gincy Bucklin has distilled her many years of experience with hors

Publisher :

Author : Gincy Self Bucklin

ISBN : 978 0764540851

Year : 2003

Language: English

File Size : 8.5 MB

Category : Animals



W hat Yo u r
H orse
W ants Yo u
t o Kn o w

W hat Yo u r
H orse
W ants Y o u
to K n o w
WHAT HORSES’
"BAD” BEHAVIOR MEANS, AND
HOW TO CORRECT IT
Gincy Self Bucklin

н е
ГЖ 2
HOWELL
BOOK
HOUSE

Copyright © 2003 by Virginia Self Bucklin. All rights reserved.
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L ib rary of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data:
Bucklin, Gincy Self.
What your horse wants you to know : what horses' "bad” behavior means,
and how to correct it / Gincy Self Bucklin.
p. cm.
Includes index.
ISBN 978-0-7645-4085-1 (alk. paper)
1. Horses—Behavior. 2. Horses—Training. 3. Human-animal
communicalion. I. Title.
SF28I.B83
2003
636.Г0835—dc21
2003004634
Manufactured in the United States of America
14 13 12 II
All drawings by Heather Holloway
Book design by Melissa Auciello-Brogan
Cover design by Jose Almaguer
Book production by Wiley Publishing. Inc. Composition Services

То Harris Howard Bucklin Jr.
Finest of horsemen, and best of husbands
This book is lovingly dedicated

ы

C o n ten ts
Acknowledgments
Preface
Introduction: What You Need to Know to Help Your Horse
Bathing: Afraid of the Hose
Biting People
Blankets: Fear of Blanketing
Bridling: Fusses About His Ears
Bridling: Raises or Throws Head When Removing
Bridling: Won't Open His Mouth
Clipping, Resistance To
Cold Weather Behavior
Doctoring: Applying Eye Ointments
Doctoring: Drenching
Doctoring: Fear of Shots
Doctoring: Soaking a Leg or a Foot
Doctoring: Treating Wounds
Ear-Shyness, Overcoming
Feeding Problems: Bolting His Grain
Feeding Problems: Making Noise While Waiting
Feeding Problems: Picky Eater
Feeding Problems: Throwing Grain Out of the Manger
Feet, Refusing to Hold Up
Feet, Refusing to Pick Up
Feet: Refusing to Stand for the Farrier
Gates, Problems With Arena
Grazing in Hand Problems
Grooming, Fussing or Fidgeting During
Haltering, Resistance To

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xiii
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viii

Contents

Head-Shyness, Overcoming
Kicking at Other Horses
Kicking at People
Leading, Breaking Away While
Leading, Running Over Handler While
Leading, Rushing Ahead While
Leading, Spooking While
Leading: Won't Go When Asked
Leg Wraps, Fussing About
Longeing: Horse Won't Start
Longeing, Pulling Away While
Longeing: Turning to Face You
Mane Pulling, Resistance To
Mounting, Moving During
Nipping
Panicking Against Crossties
Panicking: Stepping on the Lead Rope or Reins
Panicking When Caught in Something
Panicking When Left Alone
Pawing: Dangerous Striking
Rawing for Treats
Pawing From Nervousness
Rawing: Mild Striking
Personal Space: Bumping, Stepping on or Walking Into You
Personal Space: Head Swinging
Personal Space: Mugging for Treats
Rearing as a Game
Rearing When Being Led
Saddling, Moving During
Saddling: Problems While Being Cinched or Girthed Up
Spooking at Familiar Objects
Stall Problems: Breaking Out

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Contents
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ix

Stall Problems: Crowding
Stall Problems: Fear of Doorways
Stall Problems: Getting Cast
Stall Problems: Kicking the Stall
Stall Problems: Manure on the Wall, in the Manger or
in the Water Bucket
Stall Problems: Playing With the Water
Stall Problems: Souring Ears or Charging the Bars
Stall Problems: Turning the Tail to the Door
Stall Problems: Walking and Weaving
Stall Problems: Windsucking or Cribbing
Trailering: Loading
Trailering: Loading When You Can't Do It Right
Trailering: Pawing or Kicking While Underway
Trailering: Scrambling
Turnout, Breaking Away During
Turnout: Bullying Other Horses
Turnout: Charging
Turnout: Chewing Wood
Turnout: Refusing to Be Caught
Tying: Chewing on the Rope
Tying: Won't Tie
Afterword

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143

Appendix A: Resources
Appendix B: Illustrated Glossary
Index

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189

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A ckn o w led g m en ts
I have learned about horses and training from many sources during my life, the
most outstanding of whom were my mother, Margaret Cabell Self, Mike and
Ruth Miller of Sleepy Hollow in Tarrytown, New York, William Hillebrand and
Sally Swift. And, like all of us, I learned the most from the horses themselves.
It took me a long time to leam to listen to them, but they never gave up, and I’m
getting better at it.
I would also like to acknowledge the help and support for this book that I
received from my daughter Karen Stoddard Hayes—the real writer in the fam­
ily— and all the people on the Riding With Confidence and Horseman Off-Topic
e-groups, who so generously gave of their thoughts and ideas when I was
stumped.
Gincy Self Bucklin
Narragansett, Rhode Island
February 2003

P reface
A surprising number of horse owners are afraid of their horses! They aren’t
frightened all the time, but maybe they don’t go on trails, or mounting is tricky,
or they don’t really like to canter. Other owners seem to spend a lot of time
being angry with their horses, or disciplining them. When you think about the
nature of the horse, you have to wonder what went wrong. Horses, as a group,
are by nature somewhat lazy (they will sleep as much as 20 hours a day), gre­
garious (as herd animals, they enjoy interaction with their fellow creatures) and
peaceful (as vegetarians, they don’t have to fight with each other or attack other
animals to get food). If horses are laid-back, friendly and nonviolent, what’s to
be afraid of or angry about?
Nearly all o f the trouble is o f our own making.
First, we don't communicate well! That is, we don’t make clear to the horse,
in ways that he can understand, what we want; and we don’t listen, or don’t try
to understand, what he wants. The horse becomes confused and makes “mis­
takes” that are frequently perceived as deliberate: “What’s wrong with you? You
know better than that!” Both horse and handler have become frustrated and
angry.
By focusing on communication, rather than simply “training,” we change
our attitude toward the horse from insisting on obedience to creating an atmos­
phere of mutual cooperation. This gives the horse far more confidence and elim­
inates much of the tension that lies behind so many “disobediences.” The horse
discovers that what we want is really the pleasantest and easiest thing for him
to do in any situation, and we discover that making things easier for the horse
leads to far more successful and satisfying training.
Second, we don 7 understand the best ways to teach the horse. We ride a
young horse toward a jump. He approaches it somewhat tensely and unevenly
balanced. Rather than risk a fall, he stops. We punish him for stopping! The next
time, not only is he worried about his balance, he is also worried about being
punished. If he does jump it will be an awkward leap, probably much higher
than necessary to compensate for his insecurity. We tell all our friends what a
big jump he has in him. He tells all his friends he hates jumping!
With the spread of knowledge through better worldwide communication—
more books, Internet access, television, etc.— the understanding of how to deal
with other species has undergone a revolution. Knowledgeable trainers have
moved away from the belief that the horse is inferior in intelligence and inca­
pable of learning except through punishment. Instead, they have studied how the
horse perceives humans and how he learns. They understand the importance of
good relationships and positive reinforcement—marking the good behavior
rather than the bad. The result is that the horse himself becomes part of the

xiii

xiv

Preface

solution rather than part of the problem. Instead of worrying frantically about
how to avoid punishment, he looks for ways to earn rewards.
Third, we're in too much o f a hurry. A horse is not born knowing all the
things we want him to know. It takes time for him to learn them, and people are
not always patient. They send a young horse to a trainer for a month and think
he should be perfectly trained when he returns. The trainer may be under pres­
sure to get the horse ready for competition, so he skips the true essentials to put
a superficial gloss on the horse. We are also not patient enough with ourselves.
Riding and handling horses well are not skills that are learned in a hurry, but
people want to ride on trails and canter and jump and often expect the horse to
cope with their inadequacies. The horse tries to tell them he can’t do it, but they
insist, and soon you have a frustrated or frightened animal and a rider who
thinks he has a problem horse.
The purpose of this book is to guide you in solving some of the problems
you may be having with your horse, and to improve your understanding both
of the problem and of the horse himself. This book deals almost entirely with
problems you meet on the ground, because riding problems often result from
inadequate riding skills, which are a separate challenge. However, many riding
problems are best solved on the ground first.
Each chapter describes a different problem, telling you first of all what the
horse is trying to communicate to you, as well as what he may think you are saying to him. Only when you know what the horse thinks the problem is can you
help him solve it.
Then I will offer you a variety of possible ways to deal with the problem.
The solutions are mostly based on using one or more of four training systems:
clicker training, Parelli Natural Horse-man-ship, round pen training and
Tellington-Jones Equine Awareness Method, all of which are explained briefly
in the Introduction. I have found all of these systems to be fairly easy to learn,
and there is a good support system for each one in books, tapes and on the
Internet (see Appendix A). With reasonable care, the novice whose intent is
good can use them without harming or abusing the horse.
Finally, I will tell you what not to do, which is often equally important.
You should begin by reading the Introduction, to get an overview of the
things you need to know to use the book. There will be page references through­
out the text to bring you back to a specific tool or training method.

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I n t r o d u c t io n : W hat Y o u N eed
to K n o w to H elp Y o u r H orse
THE RULES
R u le N u m b er 1

Look after your own personal safety first, then your
horse's.
And, of course, the safety of anyone nearby. Working with horses is different
from working with smaller animals. Even a horse who doesn’t want to hurt you
may do so by accident. He has so much size and power and quickness that a
slight miscalculation on his part can result in serious injury to someone. I have
known some very experienced horsemen who stood too close and were nailed by
a horse who was just playing and got a little careless. Don’t be careless yourself.
R u le N u m b e r 2

The most important factor in having a horse who wants to
please you is genuine caring on your part. Horses are very
forgiving of the people who truly love them, even when
those people make mistakes that are frightening or even
painful.
This is a book about dealing with things horses do that don’t please you. This
means that to some extent you’re going to be “training” your horse. Or trying
to. In the process, you’re going to make mistakes. We all do. But if your horse’s
welfare and feelings have top priority, you’re not going to make many unfor­
givable mistakes.
R ule N u m b e r 3

Make learning fun for both of you.
Look for ways to make the horse feel successful, not frustrated or angry. All the
training systems described later on, and used throughout the book, have an ele­
ment of fun and accomplishment. If you get bored or frustrated, change games.
If you aren’t having fun, the horse won’t either. Use a lot of praise and smiles.
When you smile it makes you feel happy, and the horse senses that and feels
happy too.

1

2

What Your Horse Wants You to Know

R ule N u m b e r 4

"If it doesn't even begin to work, try something else/'
(Morton W. "Cappy" Smith)
Helping your horse solve his problems is largely a matter of trial and error, espe­
cially when you’re just learning. As you gain experience, you make better
guesses about what will work, but they are still guesses. The trick is to see the
error early on and be willing to try something else, not be chained to one way
of doing things. That’s not the same as chopping and changing until the horse is
confused. It simply means that you try something for awhile. If you see
improvement right away and the horse seems comfortable with it, you know
you’re on the right track. If nothing much seems to be happening, stay with it a
bit longer—sometimes the road to understanding has a few bumps and curves
in it. If it upsets the horse a lot or makes the behavior worse, it’s probably
wrong.

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R ule N u m b e r 5

Be patient, persistent and consistent.
Patience. Take the time it takes. Don’t try to get it all done in one day. Only if
you are willing to spend the time doing the basic stuff—what a house painter
calls the prep work—will you get the best results. That doesn’t mean you have
to keep doing the same boring things over and over. It does mean that as you go
forward and see weaknesses, you must have the patience and the persistence to
go back and fix what isn’t right. Horses, like children, have a lot of patience and
persistence when they’re trying to get their own way. So you have to be just as
patient and persistent. And as you are persistent in asking for what you want, so
you are also consistent. You don’t tell the horse one thing one day and change
the rules the next. That’s how children, and horses, turn into spoiled brats. You
also have to have the judgment to make this fit with Rule Number 4!
R u le N u m b e r 6

Always ask yourself "Why?"
Don’t make the “just” assumption. The horse is “just being a stinker” or “just
wants to annoy me” or “that’s just the way he is.” Horses have reasons for every­
thing they do. Sometimes it takes a long time to determine the reason.
Sometimes you don’t know for sure, but you make an educated guess. In the
case of sudden behavioral changes, always look for a physical cause— some­
thing that is creating pain or the potential for pain.

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Introduction: What You Need to Know to Help Your Horse

3

TALKING HORSES

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I had a horse whom I had been jumping pretty regularly. One day, about
halfway through our ju m p in g session, I asked him to jump through a threefoot combination—two fences with one stride b e t w e e n — w h ich he had
been doing successfully for some time. To my surprise and annoyance, he
refused to jump the second fence. After a short battle—I wasn't going to "let
him get away with it" —I got him over the two fences. The next day he was
d e a d lame! It seems he had strained his back a little at some point, and the
effort of ju m p in g two fences in quick succession was more than he thought
he co u ld do. He was right, i was wrong. It cost me time and money, and
his trust. So we learn.

R ule N u m b e r 7

Beware of shortcuts and quick fixes.
lly if
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You

A horse doesn’t develop a bad habit or a bad attitude in a day, and you aren’t
going to fix it in one or two training sessions. Physiologically, it takes three
times as long to change a habit as it did to develop it in the first place. The real
“shortcut” is to learn as much as you can, so you can find the true cause of the
problem and choose the best method for solving it. Sometimes the right solu­
tions are simple and quick, but if they’re not, trying to cut comers will end up
taking longer, or may mean not arriving at all.
R ule N u m ber 8

Always quit when you're both ahead.
It’s so tempting to do it “one more time” when things are going well. Besides
risking failure, you also take away from the horse’s feeling of success, which is
what makes him want to do it again tomorrow.

■‘just
'eryison.
i the
>me-

R ule N u m b e r 9

You don't always have to win.
Sometimes the best thing to do when you’re getting nowhere is simply leave it
alone, rather than making a big issue of a particular problem. Work on other,
totally unrelated things that the horse and you can enjoy together. After a few
weeks of this, if the problem comes up again, the horse’s whole attitude toward
you and it may have changed to the point where he no longer sees it as some­
thing to worry about.

4

What Your Horse Wants You to Know

R u le N u m b er 10

If you don't know, ask.
If you have a problem that you can’t solve, find someone who knows and ask for
help. If there is no one in your area, try the Internet or the library. Just be sure the
person you ask is someone whose skills and techniques you respect. And don’t
make the mistake of running around and asking everyone you meet what they
think. You may get 20 different answers and end up more confused than before.

THE TOOLS
What It's All About: Building a Good Relationship
The big difficulty we and horses have in communicating with one another is that
they are prey—potentially someone’s lunch—and we are predators whom they
instinctively perceive as someone who wants to eat them. If you walk straight at
a horse, looking at him as you do so, his instinct, even if he knows you well, is
to turn away, ready to ran, since your body language is saying that you want to
catch (and eventually kill and eat) him. So your first goal with a horse is to com­
municate that even though you look like a predator, you really don’t want to
have that relationship with him.
What kind of a relationship do you want with your horse? Pretty much the
same relationship you want with a friend or a spouse— a give-and-take rela­
tionship, a partnership. But partnership doesn’t mean you are equal all the time.
In any given situation where there are decisions to be made, one of you will
nearly always be more qualified than the other. If it’s a question of which trail
to take to reach an objective, you’re the one who knows, but if it’s a question of
where to put his feet to get over a bit of trappy ground, the horse has a better
feeling for that. You each have to respect the other’s judgment and be willing to
give up control when the other partner is the expert.
But now we run into another horse attribute: Horses are herd animals. In the
wild, the lowest-ranked member of the herd is the one most likely to lose out,
whether it’s getting the best food or being pushed out to where a predator can
get him. It’s called survival of the fittest, and is one of the ways nature ensures
that the best animals survive. But that means in his relationships with other
horses, a horse is constantly challenging, trying to improve his rank. Once he
has decided you’re not a predator but a friend, and therefore a member of his
herd, he tries to make you a lower-ranked member than himself. Since he is big­
ger and stronger than you, he doesn’t see why he shouldn’t be able to do this.
Consequently, before you can be partners, you have to gain the horse’s
respect so that he will give you control when,it’s appropriate. Since most of the
time you work in situations where you know more about what’s going on than
he does, he has to give up control most of the time to you. You have to be “lead
mare,” the herd boss.
A lot of trainers try to gain this respect solely by being bossy, aggressive,
demanding, making the horse toe the line. That’s what the lead mare does. But
there appears to be an innate trust between horses in a herd that does not apply

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Introduction: What You Need to Know to Help Your Horse

5

to our relationship. In other words, the lead mare can apparently be tough and
bossy with the other horses and they still love and trust her. You have to create
that love and trust first. Then, when you ask for respect as well, the horse will
not perceive it simply as tyranny. Think of the teachers you had in school. If you
felt the teacher liked you and she gave you a bad mark on a paper, you tried to
do better. On the other hand, if you felt she didn 't like you and she gave you a
bad mark, you figured it was just because she didn’t like you. In addition, the
teachers whom you felt liked you, but who also expected—and got—respect and
politeness from the students at all times, are the teachers you remember and
hold in the highest regard.
First, you build trust. You show the horse that you respect his needs and
feelings. You will see in the descriptions of Parelli, clicker training and Tteam
that there are a number of ways to do that. Then you can use those same train­
ing systems, with the addition of round pen training, to gain respect and even
greater trust. (Round pen training is also used to gain initial trust, but it takes a
more experienced horseman.) A horse who trusts and respects you will listen to
you, and that’s what you need to start with. When a horse trusts you, he gives
up control to you, even in situations that are threatening. The horse who isn’t
willing to give up control is the one who spooks violently or bolts when some­
thing unusual or unexpected occurs. A horse who trusts you says, “Oh! What
was that? Oh, you say it’s okay? Fine.”
One situation where building a relationship can be difficult is with stallions,
and some mares in heat. Many people have beautifully behaved stallions, but
working with them does require greater experience and sensitivity than with the
average gelding. Mares in heat are sometimes so tense and uncomfortable that
you just have to be very forgiving. There are hormones and homeopathic reme­
dies that work in many cases to make the mare more comfortable.
The classic green rider-green horse combination produces another difficult
situation. This is compounded if the rider is a child. Parents give the child a
young horse as though it were a puppy or a kitten, but puppies and kittens don’t
weigh a thousand pounds, and you don’t try to ride them, either. Older riders
who rode as children decide to go back to it, and get talked into a young horse
because their perception of their skills is skewed by memory and childhood
fearlessness. It is possible, if the horse is kind and the rider is sensible, very
patient and has a good advisor, to work these relationships out, but they should
be avoided if possible.

Communication From You to the Horse. Your Body:
The Natural Tools
We all know about the natural aids: hands, legs, seat, weight and voice. But
those are not the only natural ways in which we communicate with a horse. Our
whole body talks to the horse all the time. Two things are taking place; the first
is something I call muscular telepathy, which describes a phenomenon we see
in all creatures that move around in groups, whether herds of horses, flocks of
birds or schools of fish. Let’s take a school of fish, several hundred all swim­
ming along together. Suddenly they all shoot off, upward and to the right.

6

What Your Horse Wants You to Know

almost simultaneously. Now you know the lead fish didn’t say to the second
fish, “When I get to that piece of red coral, I’m going to go up and to the right.
Pass it on.” O f course not! But something is going on that enables the fish to
move together effortlessly and without running into one another. At some level,
their bodies talk to each other, hence “muscular telepathy.” This ability is not
restricted within species; our bodies talk to our horses’ bodies and theirs to ours.
Therefore, by releasing tensions in our own bodies we can communicate relax­
ation and confidence to the horse.

TALKING HORSES
I originally learned about muscular telepathy at a Centered Riding clinic
some years ago. As an instructor, I was assigned a student on a longe line.
We were told to choose some area of the horse's body that we wanted to
change. The horse carried his head high with his neck somewhat upsidedown, so we chose the back of his neck. Then the two of us, student and
instructor, were to focus on the backs of our own necks and do whatever
exercises seemed appropriate to release any tensions we might have in that
area. So we worked on that for five minutes or so. Then we were to focus
on the horse's neck and, while continuing to maintain relaxation in our
own necks, im agine the horse's neck releasing and relaxing as well. To our
astonishment, the horse immediately released much of his tension and
dropped his head!
Since then I have learned that if we allow ourselves, we can feel what
is going on in the horse's body because we can find the same tensions in
our own bodies.

There is a corollary to muscular telepathy that was only discovered fairly
recently. It was always thought that emotions began in the brain, and the body
reacted. Research now indicates that it works the other way around. For exam­
ple, your body sees, hears or senses something scary and responds by holding
its breath, tensing abdominal muscles to create a protective fetal position and
preparing to flee. The brain looks at this and says, “Gracious, I must be fright­
ened!” Then along comes someone who is relaxed and confident, who smiles
cheerfully and says, “Hey, it’s okay.” You find yourself returning the smile, and
suddenly you are no longer frightened. Her body transmitted its emotion (cheer­
ful/smile) via muscular telepathy to yours (you smile), and changed your emo­
tion from fearful to cheerful.
You have probably known people who never seem to be concerned when
riding and whose horses never seem to act up. My husband is such a person.
Horses who were nervous wrecks with other riders would just trudge along with
him. If they happened to spook at a bird, it was as if he didn’t even notice. He
just went with the motion and calmly continued on his way. The lack of tension
in his body was transmitted to the horse via muscular telepathy, and gave the

Introdui

horse the confidei
say, “good for hir
doesn’t happen ov

The Five Steps
The five steps are
chi and similar m
into the mode it \
When you sense tr
by doing the five s
then says, “Ah, no
himself feeling sec
you and your horsi
Grounding is t
using the terms “n
specific. Groundin
ing well: the tennis
in a downhill race
school. Remember
body in any direct)
the ground, withou
rienced when you I
Grounding is й
Grounding makes 1
him calm and conf

When I was takii
nician seemed t
horse had been \
differently, and I
solidly grounded
letically whenev
off, his feet woul

The five steps с
for most people. If
tice it more, but dor
Step 1. Growing
Growing stretches £
just as stretching ou

Introduction: What You Need to Know to Help Your Horse

say to the second
p and to the right,
nables the fish to
ier. At some level,
This ability is not
and theirs to ours,
mmunicate relax-

i Riding clinic
n a longe line,
we wanted to
lewhat upsideis, student and
d do whatever
;ht have in that
were to focus
axation in our
as well. To our
is tension and
• can feel what
п е tensions in

7

horse the confidence and thus the relaxation we all look for. “Well,” you may
say, “good for him, but / can’t do that.” Yes, you can. It takes practice and it
doesn’t happen overnight, but you can leam. Here’s how.

The Five Steps and Grounding
The Five steps are a group of exercises derived from Centered Riding, yoga, taichi and similar mental and physical disciplines. Together they put your body
into the mode it would normally be in when you feel relaxed and confident.
When you sense trouble during ground work, either in yourself or in your horse,
by doing the five steps you fix your body in “confident” mode, and your brain
then says, “Ah, now I feel more comfortable.” Your horse copies you and finds
himself feeling secure as well. The more you do this, the more confidence both
you and your horse develop.
Grounding is the ultimate result that the five steps lead you to. I have been
using the terms “relaxed” and “confident,” but “grounded” is more correct and
specific. Grounding is what all good athletes are doing when they are perform­
ing well: the tennis player receiving a serve, the baseball player at bat, the skier
in a downhill race and you when you were playing dodge ball in grammar
school. Remember that stance you had? Alert, balanced, ready to move your
body in any direction to avoid the ball, but with your feet firmly connected to
the ground, without tension. By contrast, not being grounded is what you expe­
rienced when you tried to skate the first time!
Grounding is also essential fo r the horse, both physically and emotionally.
Grounding makes him feel he can handle any situation, and this, in turn, makes
him calm and confident.

TALKING HORSES
discovered fairly
lin, and the body
■ound. For examjonds by holding
etal position and
I must be frightdent, who smiles
ng the smile, and
s emotion (cheeranged your emoconcemed when
is such a person,
rudge along with
t even notice. He
le lack of tension
hy, and gave the

When 1was taking a Rarelli clinic, I was impressed with how easily our cli­
nician seemed to handle every horse, no matter how uncontrolled the
horse had been with his owner. I watched him carefully to see what he did
differently and the thing that caught my eye was that he always looked
solidly grounded. This meant that not only could he move quickly and ath­
letically whenever necessary, but the feeling I got was that if a bomb went
off, his feet would never leave the ground.

The five steps can be practiced in any order, but I find this order works best
for most people. If you find one step more difficult than another, you can prac­
tice it more, but don’t dwell on it to the point of making yourself tense about it.
Step 1. Growing
Growing stretches and straightens your body, and thus makes it more flexible,
just as stretching out a Slinky makes it more flexible. It also releases tensions in

8

What Your Horse Wants You to Know

the front of your body, which tends to shorten up in stress situations (sort of like
returning to the fetal position).
Bring your relaxed left hand up in front of your nose, with your thumb
toward you. Now reach up with your left arm, following it up with your eyes
and head until your arm is vertical above your shoulder, with your fingers
slightly flexed. Next bring your head and eyes back down so you are looking
straight in front of you, but as though you were looking over granny glasses.
Continue to reach up with your arm, stretching as far as you can, until you feel
a pull at your waist. Bring your arm down slowly, but leave your body up there.
Repeat with your right arm, but this time when you finish bring your hand
down to the top of your head, directly between your ears and behind your nose.
Tap a couple of times, then, bringing your arm down, imagine there is a string
on the top of your head that is attached to a big balloon, or, if you prefer, imag­
ine a lock of your hair is caught in a nail above your head. Allow the balloon,
or the pressure on your hair, to pull your body upward.
Think of a cardboard skeleton—a Halloween decoration. Its head and torso
hang from a string, and then its arms and legs hang from the torso.
Step 2. Shakeout
Shakeout releases all sorts of small tensions throughout your body that you
would normally not be conscious of. You see many athletes shaking out just
before a competition.
From your “growing” position, allow your arms to dangle, then begin to
shake your fingers as though you had water or sand on them that you were try­
ing to flick off. Continue up your arms with the same shaking motion, doing
your hands, wrists, forearms, elbows, arms and finally your shoulders.
Now do your feet, one at a time, beginning with the foot, then the ankle,
shin, knee and thigh. Be sure to shake them vigorously, not rotate or wiggle
them up and down. You can imagine that they are saltshakers and you are shak­
ing salt everywhere.
Finally, bend over from the hip, as far as is comfortable, with your knees
lightly flexed and your arms dangling, and shake all over like a dog. (Hint: The
sillier you feel, the better you’re doing it!)
Step 3. Breathing
Correct breathing is the essential skill. Hold your breath for 10 or 15 seconds and
see how tense you become throughout your whole body. Horses hold their breath
when they are tense, too. Correct breathing consists of a fairly short inhale and a
long, slow exhale— at least twice as long as the inhale. Take a quick, gasping
breath. Even the sound is scary. Now breathe a long sigh. Whew! That’s better!
When horses breathe out that long sneezy sigh, which we call blowing out, we
know they’re relaxed. Horses who never blow out are always a bit tense.
Correct breathing comes from the diaphragm, not the chest. Your shoulders
should not lift when you inhale, and your upper chest should not expand until the
end of the inhale. Place your hand on your stomach, just about at your waistline.
Breathe in through your nose, if possible, fairly rapidly. Feel how your hand is

Introt

pushed out by у
as in front. Thei
air out slowly, 1
breathe in again
you are always
If you have
chest, try this. L
ing your forean
be next to each
upper arms will
to feel your dia
shoulders still.
Step 4. Soft Ey
The easiest way
begin by staring
everything else i
toward the objec
Notice how mui
focused directly
you see all arour
Soft eyes ai
ground too. Firs
which is the foci
a bird). But mon
space, and they (
When you a
tions. Step one, i
the steps and pu
mount, you have
the stirrup with i
straighten up, pu
my stirrup”— or
But after a while
together effortles
Left brain is
instructor is talki
can go into righ
often a person rit
Lefl brain is
ens the horse. It i
happens, while ri
sons instructors s
ers are frightened
When they look i
the horse.



W hat Yo u r
H orse
W ants Yo u
t o Kn o w

W hat Yo u r
H orse
W ants Y o u
to K n o w
WHAT HORSES’
"BAD” BEHAVIOR MEANS, AND
HOW TO CORRECT IT
Gincy Self Bucklin

н е
ГЖ 2
HOWELL
BOOK
HOUSE

Copyright © 2003 by Virginia Self Bucklin. All rights reserved.
Howell Book House
Published by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Hoboken, NJ
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L ib rary of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data:
Bucklin, Gincy Self.
What your horse wants you to know : what horses' "bad” behavior means,
and how to correct it / Gincy Self Bucklin.
p. cm.
Includes index.
ISBN 978-0-7645-4085-1 (alk. paper)
1. Horses—Behavior. 2. Horses—Training. 3. Human-animal
communicalion. I. Title.
SF28I.B83
2003
636.Г0835—dc21
2003004634
Manufactured in the United States of America
14 13 12 II
All drawings by Heather Holloway
Book design by Melissa Auciello-Brogan
Cover design by Jose Almaguer
Book production by Wiley Publishing. Inc. Composition Services

То Harris Howard Bucklin Jr.
Finest of horsemen, and best of husbands
This book is lovingly dedicated

ы

C o n ten ts
Acknowledgments
Preface
Introduction: What You Need to Know to Help Your Horse
Bathing: Afraid of the Hose
Biting People
Blankets: Fear of Blanketing
Bridling: Fusses About His Ears
Bridling: Raises or Throws Head When Removing
Bridling: Won't Open His Mouth
Clipping, Resistance To
Cold Weather Behavior
Doctoring: Applying Eye Ointments
Doctoring: Drenching
Doctoring: Fear of Shots
Doctoring: Soaking a Leg or a Foot
Doctoring: Treating Wounds
Ear-Shyness, Overcoming
Feeding Problems: Bolting His Grain
Feeding Problems: Making Noise While Waiting
Feeding Problems: Picky Eater
Feeding Problems: Throwing Grain Out of the Manger
Feet, Refusing to Hold Up
Feet, Refusing to Pick Up
Feet: Refusing to Stand for the Farrier
Gates, Problems With Arena
Grazing in Hand Problems
Grooming, Fussing or Fidgeting During
Haltering, Resistance To

xi
xiii
1
37
38
40
42
44
47
48
50
52
53
55
56
58
59
61
62
63
64
65
67
69
70
72
74
76

viii

Contents

Head-Shyness, Overcoming
Kicking at Other Horses
Kicking at People
Leading, Breaking Away While
Leading, Running Over Handler While
Leading, Rushing Ahead While
Leading, Spooking While
Leading: Won't Go When Asked
Leg Wraps, Fussing About
Longeing: Horse Won't Start
Longeing, Pulling Away While
Longeing: Turning to Face You
Mane Pulling, Resistance To
Mounting, Moving During
Nipping
Panicking Against Crossties
Panicking: Stepping on the Lead Rope or Reins
Panicking When Caught in Something
Panicking When Left Alone
Pawing: Dangerous Striking
Rawing for Treats
Pawing From Nervousness
Rawing: Mild Striking
Personal Space: Bumping, Stepping on or Walking Into You
Personal Space: Head Swinging
Personal Space: Mugging for Treats
Rearing as a Game
Rearing When Being Led
Saddling, Moving During
Saddling: Problems While Being Cinched or Girthed Up
Spooking at Familiar Objects
Stall Problems: Breaking Out

78
79
81
83
86
87
89
91
93
94
96
98
99
102
105
107
111
112
114
116
117
119
120
121
122
124
125
127
129
131
133
135

Contents
78
79
81
83
86
87
89
91
93
94
96
98
99
02
05
07
11
12
14
16
17
19
20
21
22
74
25
27
29
31
33
35

ix

Stall Problems: Crowding
Stall Problems: Fear of Doorways
Stall Problems: Getting Cast
Stall Problems: Kicking the Stall
Stall Problems: Manure on the Wall, in the Manger or
in the Water Bucket
Stall Problems: Playing With the Water
Stall Problems: Souring Ears or Charging the Bars
Stall Problems: Turning the Tail to the Door
Stall Problems: Walking and Weaving
Stall Problems: Windsucking or Cribbing
Trailering: Loading
Trailering: Loading When You Can't Do It Right
Trailering: Pawing or Kicking While Underway
Trailering: Scrambling
Turnout, Breaking Away During
Turnout: Bullying Other Horses
Turnout: Charging
Turnout: Chewing Wood
Turnout: Refusing to Be Caught
Tying: Chewing on the Rope
Tying: Won't Tie
Afterword

137
139
140
143

Appendix A: Resources
Appendix B: Illustrated Glossary
Index

179
183
189

144
145
146
148
149
151
152
154
156
158
159
162
164
166
167
170
171
177

A ckn o w led g m en ts
I have learned about horses and training from many sources during my life, the
most outstanding of whom were my mother, Margaret Cabell Self, Mike and
Ruth Miller of Sleepy Hollow in Tarrytown, New York, William Hillebrand and
Sally Swift. And, like all of us, I learned the most from the horses themselves.
It took me a long time to leam to listen to them, but they never gave up, and I’m
getting better at it.
I would also like to acknowledge the help and support for this book that I
received from my daughter Karen Stoddard Hayes—the real writer in the fam­
ily— and all the people on the Riding With Confidence and Horseman Off-Topic
e-groups, who so generously gave of their thoughts and ideas when I was
stumped.
Gincy Self Bucklin
Narragansett, Rhode Island
February 2003

P reface
A surprising number of horse owners are afraid of their horses! They aren’t
frightened all the time, but maybe they don’t go on trails, or mounting is tricky,
or they don’t really like to canter. Other owners seem to spend a lot of time
being angry with their horses, or disciplining them. When you think about the
nature of the horse, you have to wonder what went wrong. Horses, as a group,
are by nature somewhat lazy (they will sleep as much as 20 hours a day), gre­
garious (as herd animals, they enjoy interaction with their fellow creatures) and
peaceful (as vegetarians, they don’t have to fight with each other or attack other
animals to get food). If horses are laid-back, friendly and nonviolent, what’s to
be afraid of or angry about?
Nearly all o f the trouble is o f our own making.
First, we don't communicate well! That is, we don’t make clear to the horse,
in ways that he can understand, what we want; and we don’t listen, or don’t try
to understand, what he wants. The horse becomes confused and makes “mis­
takes” that are frequently perceived as deliberate: “What’s wrong with you? You
know better than that!” Both horse and handler have become frustrated and
angry.
By focusing on communication, rather than simply “training,” we change
our attitude toward the horse from insisting on obedience to creating an atmos­
phere of mutual cooperation. This gives the horse far more confidence and elim­
inates much of the tension that lies behind so many “disobediences.” The horse
discovers that what we want is really the pleasantest and easiest thing for him
to do in any situation, and we discover that making things easier for the horse
leads to far more successful and satisfying training.
Second, we don 7 understand the best ways to teach the horse. We ride a
young horse toward a jump. He approaches it somewhat tensely and unevenly
balanced. Rather than risk a fall, he stops. We punish him for stopping! The next
time, not only is he worried about his balance, he is also worried about being
punished. If he does jump it will be an awkward leap, probably much higher
than necessary to compensate for his insecurity. We tell all our friends what a
big jump he has in him. He tells all his friends he hates jumping!
With the spread of knowledge through better worldwide communication—
more books, Internet access, television, etc.— the understanding of how to deal
with other species has undergone a revolution. Knowledgeable trainers have
moved away from the belief that the horse is inferior in intelligence and inca­
pable of learning except through punishment. Instead, they have studied how the
horse perceives humans and how he learns. They understand the importance of
good relationships and positive reinforcement—marking the good behavior
rather than the bad. The result is that the horse himself becomes part of the

xiii

xiv

Preface

solution rather than part of the problem. Instead of worrying frantically about
how to avoid punishment, he looks for ways to earn rewards.
Third, we're in too much o f a hurry. A horse is not born knowing all the
things we want him to know. It takes time for him to learn them, and people are
not always patient. They send a young horse to a trainer for a month and think
he should be perfectly trained when he returns. The trainer may be under pres­
sure to get the horse ready for competition, so he skips the true essentials to put
a superficial gloss on the horse. We are also not patient enough with ourselves.
Riding and handling horses well are not skills that are learned in a hurry, but
people want to ride on trails and canter and jump and often expect the horse to
cope with their inadequacies. The horse tries to tell them he can’t do it, but they
insist, and soon you have a frustrated or frightened animal and a rider who
thinks he has a problem horse.
The purpose of this book is to guide you in solving some of the problems
you may be having with your horse, and to improve your understanding both
of the problem and of the horse himself. This book deals almost entirely with
problems you meet on the ground, because riding problems often result from
inadequate riding skills, which are a separate challenge. However, many riding
problems are best solved on the ground first.
Each chapter describes a different problem, telling you first of all what the
horse is trying to communicate to you, as well as what he may think you are saying to him. Only when you know what the horse thinks the problem is can you
help him solve it.
Then I will offer you a variety of possible ways to deal with the problem.
The solutions are mostly based on using one or more of four training systems:
clicker training, Parelli Natural Horse-man-ship, round pen training and
Tellington-Jones Equine Awareness Method, all of which are explained briefly
in the Introduction. I have found all of these systems to be fairly easy to learn,
and there is a good support system for each one in books, tapes and on the
Internet (see Appendix A). With reasonable care, the novice whose intent is
good can use them without harming or abusing the horse.
Finally, I will tell you what not to do, which is often equally important.
You should begin by reading the Introduction, to get an overview of the
things you need to know to use the book. There will be page references through­
out the text to bring you back to a specific tool or training method.

Ini
TO
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I n t r o d u c t io n : W hat Y o u N eed
to K n o w to H elp Y o u r H orse
THE RULES
R u le N u m b er 1

Look after your own personal safety first, then your
horse's.
And, of course, the safety of anyone nearby. Working with horses is different
from working with smaller animals. Even a horse who doesn’t want to hurt you
may do so by accident. He has so much size and power and quickness that a
slight miscalculation on his part can result in serious injury to someone. I have
known some very experienced horsemen who stood too close and were nailed by
a horse who was just playing and got a little careless. Don’t be careless yourself.
R u le N u m b e r 2

The most important factor in having a horse who wants to
please you is genuine caring on your part. Horses are very
forgiving of the people who truly love them, even when
those people make mistakes that are frightening or even
painful.
This is a book about dealing with things horses do that don’t please you. This
means that to some extent you’re going to be “training” your horse. Or trying
to. In the process, you’re going to make mistakes. We all do. But if your horse’s
welfare and feelings have top priority, you’re not going to make many unfor­
givable mistakes.
R ule N u m b e r 3

Make learning fun for both of you.
Look for ways to make the horse feel successful, not frustrated or angry. All the
training systems described later on, and used throughout the book, have an ele­
ment of fun and accomplishment. If you get bored or frustrated, change games.
If you aren’t having fun, the horse won’t either. Use a lot of praise and smiles.
When you smile it makes you feel happy, and the horse senses that and feels
happy too.

1

2

What Your Horse Wants You to Know

R ule N u m b e r 4

"If it doesn't even begin to work, try something else/'
(Morton W. "Cappy" Smith)
Helping your horse solve his problems is largely a matter of trial and error, espe­
cially when you’re just learning. As you gain experience, you make better
guesses about what will work, but they are still guesses. The trick is to see the
error early on and be willing to try something else, not be chained to one way
of doing things. That’s not the same as chopping and changing until the horse is
confused. It simply means that you try something for awhile. If you see
improvement right away and the horse seems comfortable with it, you know
you’re on the right track. If nothing much seems to be happening, stay with it a
bit longer—sometimes the road to understanding has a few bumps and curves
in it. If it upsets the horse a lot or makes the behavior worse, it’s probably
wrong.

I had
halfwi
foot с
been i
refuse
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Ni
Bewar i

Rule
R ule N u m b e r 5

Be patient, persistent and consistent.
Patience. Take the time it takes. Don’t try to get it all done in one day. Only if
you are willing to spend the time doing the basic stuff—what a house painter
calls the prep work—will you get the best results. That doesn’t mean you have
to keep doing the same boring things over and over. It does mean that as you go
forward and see weaknesses, you must have the patience and the persistence to
go back and fix what isn’t right. Horses, like children, have a lot of patience and
persistence when they’re trying to get their own way. So you have to be just as
patient and persistent. And as you are persistent in asking for what you want, so
you are also consistent. You don’t tell the horse one thing one day and change
the rules the next. That’s how children, and horses, turn into spoiled brats. You
also have to have the judgment to make this fit with Rule Number 4!
R u le N u m b e r 6

Always ask yourself "Why?"
Don’t make the “just” assumption. The horse is “just being a stinker” or “just
wants to annoy me” or “that’s just the way he is.” Horses have reasons for every­
thing they do. Sometimes it takes a long time to determine the reason.
Sometimes you don’t know for sure, but you make an educated guess. In the
case of sudden behavioral changes, always look for a physical cause— some­
thing that is creating pain or the potential for pain.

A horse
going to
times as
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Introduction: What You Need to Know to Help Your Horse

3

TALKING HORSES

Espejetter
e the
way
rse is
l see
enow
h it a
jrves
jably

I had a horse whom I had been jumping pretty regularly. One day, about
halfway through our ju m p in g session, I asked him to jump through a threefoot combination—two fences with one stride b e t w e e n — w h ich he had
been doing successfully for some time. To my surprise and annoyance, he
refused to jump the second fence. After a short battle—I wasn't going to "let
him get away with it" —I got him over the two fences. The next day he was
d e a d lame! It seems he had strained his back a little at some point, and the
effort of ju m p in g two fences in quick succession was more than he thought
he co u ld do. He was right, i was wrong. It cost me time and money, and
his trust. So we learn.

R ule N u m b e r 7

Beware of shortcuts and quick fixes.
lly if
inter
have
>u go
ce to
; and
st as
it, so
ange
You

A horse doesn’t develop a bad habit or a bad attitude in a day, and you aren’t
going to fix it in one or two training sessions. Physiologically, it takes three
times as long to change a habit as it did to develop it in the first place. The real
“shortcut” is to learn as much as you can, so you can find the true cause of the
problem and choose the best method for solving it. Sometimes the right solu­
tions are simple and quick, but if they’re not, trying to cut comers will end up
taking longer, or may mean not arriving at all.
R ule N u m ber 8

Always quit when you're both ahead.
It’s so tempting to do it “one more time” when things are going well. Besides
risking failure, you also take away from the horse’s feeling of success, which is
what makes him want to do it again tomorrow.

■‘just
'eryison.
i the
>me-

R ule N u m b e r 9

You don't always have to win.
Sometimes the best thing to do when you’re getting nowhere is simply leave it
alone, rather than making a big issue of a particular problem. Work on other,
totally unrelated things that the horse and you can enjoy together. After a few
weeks of this, if the problem comes up again, the horse’s whole attitude toward
you and it may have changed to the point where he no longer sees it as some­
thing to worry about.

4

What Your Horse Wants You to Know

R u le N u m b er 10

If you don't know, ask.
If you have a problem that you can’t solve, find someone who knows and ask for
help. If there is no one in your area, try the Internet or the library. Just be sure the
person you ask is someone whose skills and techniques you respect. And don’t
make the mistake of running around and asking everyone you meet what they
think. You may get 20 different answers and end up more confused than before.

THE TOOLS
What It's All About: Building a Good Relationship
The big difficulty we and horses have in communicating with one another is that
they are prey—potentially someone’s lunch—and we are predators whom they
instinctively perceive as someone who wants to eat them. If you walk straight at
a horse, looking at him as you do so, his instinct, even if he knows you well, is
to turn away, ready to ran, since your body language is saying that you want to
catch (and eventually kill and eat) him. So your first goal with a horse is to com­
municate that even though you look like a predator, you really don’t want to
have that relationship with him.
What kind of a relationship do you want with your horse? Pretty much the
same relationship you want with a friend or a spouse— a give-and-take rela­
tionship, a partnership. But partnership doesn’t mean you are equal all the time.
In any given situation where there are decisions to be made, one of you will
nearly always be more qualified than the other. If it’s a question of which trail
to take to reach an objective, you’re the one who knows, but if it’s a question of
where to put his feet to get over a bit of trappy ground, the horse has a better
feeling for that. You each have to respect the other’s judgment and be willing to
give up control when the other partner is the expert.
But now we run into another horse attribute: Horses are herd animals. In the
wild, the lowest-ranked member of the herd is the one most likely to lose out,
whether it’s getting the best food or being pushed out to where a predator can
get him. It’s called survival of the fittest, and is one of the ways nature ensures
that the best animals survive. But that means in his relationships with other
horses, a horse is constantly challenging, trying to improve his rank. Once he
has decided you’re not a predator but a friend, and therefore a member of his
herd, he tries to make you a lower-ranked member than himself. Since he is big­
ger and stronger than you, he doesn’t see why he shouldn’t be able to do this.
Consequently, before you can be partners, you have to gain the horse’s
respect so that he will give you control when,it’s appropriate. Since most of the
time you work in situations where you know more about what’s going on than
he does, he has to give up control most of the time to you. You have to be “lead
mare,” the herd boss.
A lot of trainers try to gain this respect solely by being bossy, aggressive,
demanding, making the horse toe the line. That’s what the lead mare does. But
there appears to be an innate trust between horses in a herd that does not apply

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Introduction: What You Need to Know to Help Your Horse

5

to our relationship. In other words, the lead mare can apparently be tough and
bossy with the other horses and they still love and trust her. You have to create
that love and trust first. Then, when you ask for respect as well, the horse will
not perceive it simply as tyranny. Think of the teachers you had in school. If you
felt the teacher liked you and she gave you a bad mark on a paper, you tried to
do better. On the other hand, if you felt she didn 't like you and she gave you a
bad mark, you figured it was just because she didn’t like you. In addition, the
teachers whom you felt liked you, but who also expected—and got—respect and
politeness from the students at all times, are the teachers you remember and
hold in the highest regard.
First, you build trust. You show the horse that you respect his needs and
feelings. You will see in the descriptions of Parelli, clicker training and Tteam
that there are a number of ways to do that. Then you can use those same train­
ing systems, with the addition of round pen training, to gain respect and even
greater trust. (Round pen training is also used to gain initial trust, but it takes a
more experienced horseman.) A horse who trusts and respects you will listen to
you, and that’s what you need to start with. When a horse trusts you, he gives
up control to you, even in situations that are threatening. The horse who isn’t
willing to give up control is the one who spooks violently or bolts when some­
thing unusual or unexpected occurs. A horse who trusts you says, “Oh! What
was that? Oh, you say it’s okay? Fine.”
One situation where building a relationship can be difficult is with stallions,
and some mares in heat. Many people have beautifully behaved stallions, but
working with them does require greater experience and sensitivity than with the
average gelding. Mares in heat are sometimes so tense and uncomfortable that
you just have to be very forgiving. There are hormones and homeopathic reme­
dies that work in many cases to make the mare more comfortable.
The classic green rider-green horse combination produces another difficult
situation. This is compounded if the rider is a child. Parents give the child a
young horse as though it were a puppy or a kitten, but puppies and kittens don’t
weigh a thousand pounds, and you don’t try to ride them, either. Older riders
who rode as children decide to go back to it, and get talked into a young horse
because their perception of their skills is skewed by memory and childhood
fearlessness. It is possible, if the horse is kind and the rider is sensible, very
patient and has a good advisor, to work these relationships out, but they should
be avoided if possible.

Communication From You to the Horse. Your Body:
The Natural Tools
We all know about the natural aids: hands, legs, seat, weight and voice. But
those are not the only natural ways in which we communicate with a horse. Our
whole body talks to the horse all the time. Two things are taking place; the first
is something I call muscular telepathy, which describes a phenomenon we see
in all creatures that move around in groups, whether herds of horses, flocks of
birds or schools of fish. Let’s take a school of fish, several hundred all swim­
ming along together. Suddenly they all shoot off, upward and to the right.

6

What Your Horse Wants You to Know

almost simultaneously. Now you know the lead fish didn’t say to the second
fish, “When I get to that piece of red coral, I’m going to go up and to the right.
Pass it on.” O f course not! But something is going on that enables the fish to
move together effortlessly and without running into one another. At some level,
their bodies talk to each other, hence “muscular telepathy.” This ability is not
restricted within species; our bodies talk to our horses’ bodies and theirs to ours.
Therefore, by releasing tensions in our own bodies we can communicate relax­
ation and confidence to the horse.

TALKING HORSES
I originally learned about muscular telepathy at a Centered Riding clinic
some years ago. As an instructor, I was assigned a student on a longe line.
We were told to choose some area of the horse's body that we wanted to
change. The horse carried his head high with his neck somewhat upsidedown, so we chose the back of his neck. Then the two of us, student and
instructor, were to focus on the backs of our own necks and do whatever
exercises seemed appropriate to release any tensions we might have in that
area. So we worked on that for five minutes or so. Then we were to focus
on the horse's neck and, while continuing to maintain relaxation in our
own necks, im agine the horse's neck releasing and relaxing as well. To our
astonishment, the horse immediately released much of his tension and
dropped his head!
Since then I have learned that if we allow ourselves, we can feel what
is going on in the horse's body because we can find the same tensions in
our own bodies.

There is a corollary to muscular telepathy that was only discovered fairly
recently. It was always thought that emotions began in the brain, and the body
reacted. Research now indicates that it works the other way around. For exam­
ple, your body sees, hears or senses something scary and responds by holding
its breath, tensing abdominal muscles to create a protective fetal position and
preparing to flee. The brain looks at this and says, “Gracious, I must be fright­
ened!” Then along comes someone who is relaxed and confident, who smiles
cheerfully and says, “Hey, it’s okay.” You find yourself returning the smile, and
suddenly you are no longer frightened. Her body transmitted its emotion (cheer­
ful/smile) via muscular telepathy to yours (you smile), and changed your emo­
tion from fearful to cheerful.
You have probably known people who never seem to be concerned when
riding and whose horses never seem to act up. My husband is such a person.
Horses who were nervous wrecks with other riders would just trudge along with
him. If they happened to spook at a bird, it was as if he didn’t even notice. He
just went with the motion and calmly continued on his way. The lack of tension
in his body was transmitted to the horse via muscular telepathy, and gave the

Introdui

horse the confidei
say, “good for hir
doesn’t happen ov

The Five Steps
The five steps are
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Step 1. Growing
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Introduction: What You Need to Know to Help Your Horse

say to the second
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7

horse the confidence and thus the relaxation we all look for. “Well,” you may
say, “good for him, but / can’t do that.” Yes, you can. It takes practice and it
doesn’t happen overnight, but you can leam. Here’s how.

The Five Steps and Grounding
The Five steps are a group of exercises derived from Centered Riding, yoga, taichi and similar mental and physical disciplines. Together they put your body
into the mode it would normally be in when you feel relaxed and confident.
When you sense trouble during ground work, either in yourself or in your horse,
by doing the five steps you fix your body in “confident” mode, and your brain
then says, “Ah, now I feel more comfortable.” Your horse copies you and finds
himself feeling secure as well. The more you do this, the more confidence both
you and your horse develop.
Grounding is the ultimate result that the five steps lead you to. I have been
using the terms “relaxed” and “confident,” but “grounded” is more correct and
specific. Grounding is what all good athletes are doing when they are perform­
ing well: the tennis player receiving a serve, the baseball player at bat, the skier
in a downhill race and you when you were playing dodge ball in grammar
school. Remember that stance you had? Alert, balanced, ready to move your
body in any direction to avoid the ball, but with your feet firmly connected to
the ground, without tension. By contrast, not being grounded is what you expe­
rienced when you tried to skate the first time!
Grounding is also essential fo r the horse, both physically and emotionally.
Grounding makes him feel he can handle any situation, and this, in turn, makes
him calm and confident.

TALKING HORSES
discovered fairly
lin, and the body
■ound. For examjonds by holding
etal position and
I must be frightdent, who smiles
ng the smile, and
s emotion (cheeranged your emoconcemed when
is such a person,
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hy, and gave the

When 1was taking a Rarelli clinic, I was impressed with how easily our cli­
nician seemed to handle every horse, no matter how uncontrolled the
horse had been with his owner. I watched him carefully to see what he did
differently and the thing that caught my eye was that he always looked
solidly grounded. This meant that not only could he move quickly and ath­
letically whenever necessary, but the feeling I got was that if a bomb went
off, his feet would never leave the ground.

The five steps can be practiced in any order, but I find this order works best
for most people. If you find one step more difficult than another, you can prac­
tice it more, but don’t dwell on it to the point of making yourself tense about it.
Step 1. Growing
Growing stretches and straightens your body, and thus makes it more flexible,
just as stretching out a Slinky makes it more flexible. It also releases tensions in

8

What Your Horse Wants You to Know

the front of your body, which tends to shorten up in stress situations (sort of like
returning to the fetal position).
Bring your relaxed left hand up in front of your nose, with your thumb
toward you. Now reach up with your left arm, following it up with your eyes
and head until your arm is vertical above your shoulder, with your fingers
slightly flexed. Next bring your head and eyes back down so you are looking
straight in front of you, but as though you were looking over granny glasses.
Continue to reach up with your arm, stretching as far as you can, until you feel
a pull at your waist. Bring your arm down slowly, but leave your body up there.
Repeat with your right arm, but this time when you finish bring your hand
down to the top of your head, directly between your ears and behind your nose.
Tap a couple of times, then, bringing your arm down, imagine there is a string
on the top of your head that is attached to a big balloon, or, if you prefer, imag­
ine a lock of your hair is caught in a nail above your head. Allow the balloon,
or the pressure on your hair, to pull your body upward.
Think of a cardboard skeleton—a Halloween decoration. Its head and torso
hang from a string, and then its arms and legs hang from the torso.
Step 2. Shakeout
Shakeout releases all sorts of small tensions throughout your body that you
would normally not be conscious of. You see many athletes shaking out just
before a competition.
From your “growing” position, allow your arms to dangle, then begin to
shake your fingers as though you had water or sand on them that you were try­
ing to flick off. Continue up your arms with the same shaking motion, doing
your hands, wrists, forearms, elbows, arms and finally your shoulders.
Now do your feet, one at a time, beginning with the foot, then the ankle,
shin, knee and thigh. Be sure to shake them vigorously, not rotate or wiggle
them up and down. You can imagine that they are saltshakers and you are shak­
ing salt everywhere.
Finally, bend over from the hip, as far as is comfortable, with your knees
lightly flexed and your arms dangling, and shake all over like a dog. (Hint: The
sillier you feel, the better you’re doing it!)
Step 3. Breathing
Correct breathing is the essential skill. Hold your breath for 10 or 15 seconds and
see how tense you become throughout your whole body. Horses hold their breath
when they are tense, too. Correct breathing consists of a fairly short inhale and a
long, slow exhale— at least twice as long as the inhale. Take a quick, gasping
breath. Even the sound is scary. Now breathe a long sigh. Whew! That’s better!
When horses breathe out that long sneezy sigh, which we call blowing out, we
know they’re relaxed. Horses who never blow out are always a bit tense.
Correct breathing comes from the diaphragm, not the chest. Your shoulders
should not lift when you inhale, and your upper chest should not expand until the
end of the inhale. Place your hand on your stomach, just about at your waistline.
Breathe in through your nose, if possible, fairly rapidly. Feel how your hand is

Introt

pushed out by у
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air out slowly, 1
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