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  • Writer's pictureKristie Cotton

What can your horse do for you…

 Let’s actually ask, ” What can I do for my horse? ” Horses are majestic animals that are wonderful simply to be with. Horses are gentle and honest; they do not have the ability to manipulate or lie. – psychology today


        They are also sensitive animals that immediately empathize with humans who take care of them daily. By reacting to body language and mirroring the moods of their caretakers, horses make the perfect, nonjudgmental “therapist” by non-verbally providing insight into a person’s negative behaviors. Loyal, loving and trustworthy, horses are animals that humans have always bonded with almost effortlessly. – Kauffman’s animal health

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       Horses bring so much joy to those that are passionate about riding them and caring for them. They free us from the everyday stresses of the problems in the world. Horses have served purpose in the history of work, travel, cavalry, and ceremonial purposes. The horse has evolved as athlete, partner, and plays key role as therapist for victims as well as  those with physical and mental disabilities. Horses provide so much to so many lives. We need to ask, “ what are we doing for the horse? “

          Have our horses become an instrument that endures pain and confusion at the mercy of our desires for happiness, ribbons, glory and entertainment?


       Anyone that desires to advocate for the horse needs a thorough understanding of the horses physique and movement. There is a large amount of horses getting ruined mentally and physically by misconceptions of the training methods offered online today. These horses are then given up on, given away, or sold as a “rescue.”  Ending up in the hands of someone that doesn’t know how to re educate them at a mental and physical level. Most owners don’t understand why the horse is still misbehaving, even with the best love and care possible. Where do these discouraged owners go for guidance? The internet! The internet can be a great source of information, we also know it can be a detrimental place of misconception, especially for the horse.


          Most misconceptions of information may have been intended as helpful, but nothing can replace the knowledge of hands on professional advice.  Are we demanding our horses to perform for us without asking if they are enjoying the ride as well ? Assuming that the horse is “working” and would rather be doing something else is not always true. Horses will attempt to evade a certain exercise, but most horses love to have a purpose. This purpose is rewarding to both horse and rider, if the horse is comfortable and not confused and frustrated.

I would like to describe some of the misconceptions I have seen that can truly ruin the partnership.

  1. Meant only for awareness, not insult

         Some misconceptions of riders: 

  1. One rein stop – The internet has tons of videos and advice on teaching the horse to “give” with a pretty good pressure or an all out “ yank” to train the horse to stop at any gait

  2. What the horse understands: “ I am on high alert, I can’t relax because my rider may suddenly yank my nose to their knee, expecting me to stop. I do not have time to properly prepare my body for this stop, this creates an unbalanced stop, a discomfort of not being able to coordinate back muscles to allow me to balance the stop”

  3. Actual Understanding :This was originally a slight flexion with the inside rein to help horses that brace against the bit and are difficult to stop and slow. It worked well, if you kept the opposite hand planted on the horses neck

  4. Half Halt – This is one of the most misunderstood “ Aid “ of communication to the horse. The half halt is a specific riding aid given by an equestrian to his horse, in which the driving aids and restraining aids are applied in quick succession. It is sometimes thought of as an “almost halt,” asking the horse to prepare to halt in balance, before pushing it onward to continue in its gait. – Wikipedia

  5. Misconception :This is usually interpreted as it sounds, drive and pull at the same time.

  6. What the horse understands : “I am going to lean on the bit so I can contract my back in an attempt to protect myself from the damages of being rushed forward onto a strong contact on my mouth. I endure my “ work “ but only because I have mentally shut my brain off until it’s time to eat.”

  7. Actual Understanding : What needs to be understood is that it is a quiet dialogue of asking your horse to re balance themselves in preparation for anything different..a corner, change of speed, falling on forehand, etc.  It is the communication that works in the moment to help re balance the horse, it may never be the same combination of aids.

  8. Disengage the hindquarter –The ability to disengage your horse’s hindquarters—that is, teach him to yield his hindquarters on your cue—is important for control. – Google

  9. Misconception : Again this is a huge misconception believing in spinning the horses hind end sideways out of control.

  10. What the horse understands: “Any time someone approaches my hindquarter, I need to step over very quickly. Under saddle, I need to protect the unnecessary strain on my stifle by bracing against the pressure of my riders leg. This begins to create an inverted rotation which builds unbalanced muscles of my back. “

  11. Actual understanding : This movement should still be called and taught as a turn on the forehand. Each step sideways of the horses hindquarter should be a slow process of allowing the horse to “ pivot “ slowly circling around the front legs. The turn on the forehand teaches the horse to think about the communication to respond to separate movement of all parts of the body.

  12. Inside leg to outside rein – The inside leg applies pressure (from below the knee down) to the horse’s side. The horse should step away from the pressure, creating a slight bend through the body.  Outside Rein: The outside rein “fills up” when the horse steps away through the bending from the inside leg. ..

  13. That’s a little confusing…

  14. Misconception: Hold constant leg pressure along with strong outside rein contact.

  15. Horse response:  “Evade the nagging of the constant inside leg pressure by bracing against the leg, use the heavy outside rein contact as a crutch to lean on”.

  16. Actual understanding: When inside leg pressure is applied with slight inside rein flexion, the horse should automatically respond by bending around the inside leg. The outside rein contact supports the rhythm as well as the outside shoulder.  As with all communication with the horse, this should not be a constant application of aids as it keeps the horse from learning self carriage.

These are just a few examples that I wanted to describe. If you can’t afford the appropriate help, most trainers are willing to help you and your horse out in exchange for your help with the barn. Consider seeking hands on advice before turning to the internet for self help training. This can actually save you from making a bigger mess of you and your horses partnership, that will take longer to fix.

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“I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.”

― Mark Twain

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