H.E.R.D Human Equine Relationship Development by Tamara Svencer - HTML preview

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she was a very confident and strong willed mare.

She had also been neglected when she arrived at

our farm. She was starved and underweight. Her

first priority was to eat and she seized every

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -56-opportunity to do so. This was in the best interest

of her survival, she needed to gain weight. A

skinny weak horse will not survive as long as one

at a healthy weight. A horse knows that in order to

get the best food they need good pasture and a

herd to keep them safe. That is pretty simple.

My niece like most kids wanted to ride her

new horse and as soon as the mare got a little

weight on her and had her hooves trimmed we

saddled her up. This horse was very herd bound.

No matter what you did, the day ended with her

running off back to her pasture and friends.

The experience for my niece was

frightening. Having a horse out of control while

you are on its back is a little nerve shattering for a

novice rider. But my niece stuck with it, she didn't

give in. It took some time and a lot of patience but

eventually this horse stopped its shenanigans. It

stopped them as she started to understand that

my niece who was only 12 at the time could lead

her with confidence.

You need to approach every situation with

unshakeable confidence. Training isn't isolated to

the round pen. Training happens in every aspect

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -57-of horse handling. It is interwoven into the fabric

of horse ownership. The lead mare never gives up

her position, not for a minute, she maintains

control at all times and so must you. There is no

in between position in the horse world, you either

are the leader or the follower. You must prove

your leadership ability. If you submit for just a

minute, you will have to reestablish your role as

leader. This is all they understand.

I think it is really unfair to the horse when

we try to superimpose our beliefs and behaviors

onto them. This is just totally confusing and

unfortunate for the horse. A horse is so simple it

is hard for the human being to understand them.

They are simple and honest.

Imagine if someone put you on a plane and

dropped you off in China. You don't speak a word

of Chinese and you have no idea what is socially

and culturally acceptable. It would take time and

effort to adapt. You wouldn't just expect everyone

to convert over to English and go by your social

standards. You must think the same way about

the horse. You have to learn what they find

acceptable and adjust yourself in order to

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -58-communicate easier.

Now there are "old school" horsemen who

believe this is all nonsense, a horse can learn to

adjust to our way of thinking. And it is a sad truth

that yes they can. It is a tribute to the horses great

intelligent and submissive nature that they will

eventually learn the ways of man to some degree.

They will learn them as much as they need to


As the higher thinking being it is easier for

us and more effective to learn their language and

behaviors. It cuts down the stress placed on the

animal and has far superior results in the end. It

creates an animal who understands from the get

go what is expected rather than stumbling

through trial and error until they feel their

behavior is accepted. It is a different kind of work

and it is far more compassionate than beating an

animal into submission or tiring it out so severely

it finally submits to our will.

So lets go back to the lead mare again what

is she saying and how is she saying it. A horse has

two business ends. The head and the rear end.

They use their head in a multitude of ways

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -59-to speak to the other horses. A head that is raised

and ears that are erect says I am alert for some

reason. You will notice that all of the other horses

will raise their heads and follow in suit

concentrating on what she is looking at. A head

that is lowered and ears that are relaxed says I am

relaxed. The bottom lip often hangs a little lower

and she may have her weight shifted off of one of

her back legs, this is saying I am relaxed. Her eyes

may also look soft almost like they could close at

any second. The lower the head the more relaxed

she is. You will notice when the lead mare is

relaxed the rest of the herd is as well. Some may

graze while others rest right along with her. This

is a nice quiet time in the herd.

Ears are a major part of communication in

the horse. Ears that are pinned flat back says I am

angry and you need to move. This is often

displayed before a bite is issued. Horses normally

give a warning then deliver with an action. This is

the case most often but sometimes the final

punishment is just dealt out in acts that the leader

feels deserve no warning. Ears pinned back says I

am really unhappy about you being in my space,

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -60-move now or your gonna get it. Ears pinned back

and mouth open says I am going to bite you now.

Sometimes you will witness the snaking of

the head along the ground as a warning that a

horse is angry and about to try and dominate

another. Ears tell you what the horse is paying

attention to as well. A horse can position one ear

on you, listening to what is going on as you

tighten the girth for example, and use the other

ear to be listening to what is going on in front of

it. An ear that is cocked to you means they are

paying attention to you and that is good.

If you start just observing your horse,

sitting quietly off to the side and just watching,

you will start to notice that their language is

almost undetectable but still very effective. The

way they speak to each other sets an example for

the human who wishes to interact with them. A

horse will say what it needs to say, deliver

correction if need be, and then goes on with its

life. It is quick and over within a few seconds. The

horse who is being spoken too has just seconds to

listen and react. Failure to do so ends with

correction of either a bite, a bump, or a kick. Once

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -61-the correction has been servedthier lives resume.

This is the way they understand dealing with


A horse that does something wrong to a

human may receive a multitude of punishments.

Humans will turn them in circles, lunge them,

lock them away in the barn or yell and scream at

them. All of which the horse doesn't truly

understand. They understand the energy coming

off of the human probably better than the

punishment. Usually when a human is angry,

their facial expression is more tense. Their

movements a little more exaggerated. Their voice

becomes louder and more angry. This body

language is all that is telling them they did

something wrong.

Correction of a horse should mirror that

dished out by the lead mare. Swift, immediate,

and in appropriate amount to the offense. Once

the correction is served life goes back to normal.

That is all that is needed. This is just too simple

for humans to comprehend at times. I think

humans feel like a horse is so big that they have to

beat it to have an effect on it. Remember a horses

Human Equine Relationship Development


H.E.R.D -62-skin is so sensitive, it can feel the tiniest fly on its

withers. Just because they are a large animal

doesn't mean it takes massive amounts of

correction to fix an issue.

I think that the traditional ways of making

a horse run in circles or jerking around on the

horse just release the frustration the human is

feeling toward the horses offense. The horse only

learns you are angry, at best you prove some sort

of haphazard dominance over them, at worst you

hurt the horse and produce fear.

A correction to the nose when a horse is

about to bite when done quickly and assertively

corrects the problem and then you just resume

what you are doing. The horse understands this.

He tried to assert himself over you and you in

return told him that was not happening. You have

about 3 seconds to do so. I think even quicker is

better. It needs to be instantaneous. There is no

time to run to the barn for a crop or a lunge line.

If it takes longer than 3 seconds he will have no

idea as to why he is being corrected.

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -63-So lets talk about correction and what that

means. A lead mare will first warn the other

horses, or direct them, as too what she wants

done. She strolls up and they need to move aside,

lets take feed time for example. Her food is

poured in her bowl and another horse dives in

and gets a mouthful of grain. She comes charging

with confidence, ears pinned back. All of her body

language is saying move. Usually the horse

quickly retreats happy to have just stolen a bite of

free food. But if he sticks around a second too

long he is going to either get bit or kicked and she

will have no sympathy in how she does it. She

warned him, he didn't leave, so he will be

physically corrected. If he is so stubborn to stand

there and ignore her, she will dull out whatever it

takes to make him move by amplifying the

strength of force until he finally retreats. Usually a

horse that is settled into the herd only needs the

look of her coming and ears pinned back to know

he needs to beat feet and make a retreat.

So enters the human into the equation. We

are so much smaller and inferior physically to the

horse. They could squash us like a bug if the

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -64-wanted too but they don't realize that. To them we

are just as powerful as they are unless proven

otherwise. Which means we need to take careful

precaution to never reveal this little secret. A

horse kick can exert up too 400 pounds of force

and an average human can kick is about 88

pounds of force. If you get into a kicking match

with a horse, you will lose. When the lead mare

kicks at her followers she isn't holding anything

back. She goes at them often with both guns

blazing. Let's talk about the other business end of

the horse, the mouth. If you have ever had the

misfortune of being bit by a horse you know it can

be brutal. They have to have their teeth come

together to reopen their mouth and it is very

painful to be bit by one. Usually you have a huge

circle bruise and maybe even broken skin.

This is where I find correction to be a

major issue. It is socially unacceptable to slap or

hit living creatures in human society. Remember

all the talk about balance before, here balance

becomes imperative. I will slap a horse in the nose

for trying to bite, trust me, usually my fingers hurt

worse than his nose. I will also slap a horse on the

Human Equine Relationship Development


H.E.R.D -65-neck when it refuses to follow. My little slap

doesn't hurt the horse it is more of a stimulus to

snap them out of the mental rut they are in. I will

threaten, more often than not, just like the lead

mare does.

Force exerted to the rear of a horse drives it

forward. I am not talking about actually whipping.

All you need is to have a crop in hand and go

towards the rump as if you will use it. The horse

will usually heed the warning and begin to listen

and obey. You rarely actually have to make

physical contact if you are an established leader.

Just like the lead mare need only twitch her tail a

certain way to make the horse behind her flee

before she actually has to kick it. But if the threat is left unheeded then yes you must quickly follow

through with the correction. If you do this

faithfully your horse will heed the warning sign

and be obedient rather than accept the correction.

Human Equine Relationship Development


H.E.R.D -66-

The rules to correction are as follows:

1. Give the warning if possible. (if a horse is

trying to bite you or kick at you no

warning is given, correction is quickly

and fairly dispersed and then you just go

on about your business like nothing


2. In the case of a disobedient situation (ex.

won't load in trailer when normally has

no fear, won't move out of your way at the

gate) where you have given the warning

and the horse ignores you follow up with a

correction of your choice.

3. Immediately go back to normal the second

the horse starts to even make the slightest

movement towards obedience. If it doesn't

repeat the above steps increasing the

intensity of correction until he/she moves.

Never correct your horse when you angry.

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -67-This is where correction can easily slip into abuse.

Walk away and cool off!

Correction to a horse is natural. The

correction it receives from a human pales in

comparison to what it will receive from it's

horsemates. I have heard a lot of people talking

about how you should never have to discipline a

horse with force. Horses are like children if

brought up correctly over time you will no longer

need to correct them. They are learning every step

of the way, just as you are. If a horse is not

corrected swiftly it will repeat its behavior again

and again and this can turn into a very serious

problem if left unchecked. Think of the long term

implications for the horse and remember horses

with behavior issues have a less likely chance of

having a satisfying life.

I am a stern advocate of animal welfare. I

believe that we are stewards for are four legged

friends. Beating a horse, tying it up for hours on

end, or applying any of the other archaic torture

training techniques used in the olden days of

horsemanship to me is inexcusable.

I am a firm believer in balance in

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -68-correction. Correcting out of a desire to better the

animal, not my image. Many of the old timers act

as if they have something to prove to others about

how they can handle any horse. The truth of the

matter is that most horses will submit to a beating

but that doesn't make it right. Most problems can

be resolved with consistant, humane correction,

faster and easier. The sad truth is that most of the

old time correction methods may have

temporarily solved one issue but in it's place left

several new problems.

A firm approach is needed when dealing

with an animal of this size and strength but

crossing over into abusive beatings with boards

and sticks just crosses the line from correction to

abuse. It is really important to note that before

any of this you must take each behavior and

examine it.

Most of the time reluctance to do

something is fear based. When disobedience

comes from fear you must lead your horse

through the situation without increasing the

anxiety by your behavior

Lets take for instance a situation in which

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -69-you are riding along on a trail ride. The sun is

shining, the birds are chirping, and your horse is

just walking along. All the world seems beautiful.

Then all of a sudden up goes the head and the ears

as you approach a pile of logs left alongside the


Your horse is on high alert, she starts

stepping to the side rather than moving forward.

She trys with all her might to turn you around

from the woodpile. You try comforting her by

talking to her. You reach down and pet her neck

but she stops dead in her tracks and just stares.

Her whole body is tense. You keep talking trying

to soothe her but it has no effect. She is positive

this is a bad situation and that the wood is going

to jump up and eat her alive.

This problem could be the wood, it could

be a smell being given off by the wood or it could

be a snake she hears deep down inside the pile.

Who knows exactly what it is about it but she is

afraid. You try to move her forward giving her a

little sqeeze to the sides but she doesn't budge.

You give a sharper more direct kick and she

budges only a few steps. She moves her head up

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -70-and down. Her eyes are wide and she is trying to

smell as she sucks in the air, she is checking it out

easing into it. You continue to talk to her and she

reluctantly moves forward bit by bit. Just as you

think you are going to get her through it, she

whirls around and trots away as you are pulling

back saying whoa.

You get her straightened out again and try

to get her to make the pass one more time, still to

know avail. Now you could kick the crap out of

her sides, and whip her rear in an effort to prove

you are the boss, or you can do what I would do.

Get off and walk her through it.

That is right get off. Now here I can hear

the chatter, never get off the horse, ride them

through it at all cost. I get off and start to pet her

neck and she will instantly relax. You can almost

hear a sigh of relief as she exhales. I take the

reigns in my hand and I walk before her. Talking

to her all the while and consoling her with a voice

that lets her know I am not afraid. I walk slowly

and confidently never even really paying any

attention to the pile. I look straight ahead and

keep her moving. She trusts me as her leader so

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -71-she falls in right behind me. I can hear her behind

me trying to smell the pile. I can feel her turn her

head to look at it as we pass, but I don't. I look

straight ahead and keep on going.

When we get past the pile we walk for a

little more distance and we turn around. I repeat

the process staring straight ahead, talking to her,

but not even looking at her. I just keep moving

forward. This time there is less smelling and her

head stays straight. We pass the pile in the

opposite direction and we stop right in front of it.

And there we stand. I am looking straight ahead

still. If she trys to look behind her, I will repeat

the pass again. If she doesn't look back we will

walk a couple of steps up and I will remount her

and this time ride her past, once again paying no

attention to the pile. And there in a few minutes of

my time I have lead her through a fear. I could

have forced her to pass the pile but I didn't need

to force her. I took the time to lovingly teach her

that there was nothing to be afraid of after all.

By doing it this way she learned her lesson

and I have reinforced my status as a competent

leader. Everyone has won. Some people do not

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -72-understand my way of doing things and I do not

understand theirs. Quite honestly I doubt I ever

will. I am confident in what I am doing and it


I have been at a few horse shows and

witnessed people flipping out on their horses

because the horse does something like refuses to

go around a barrel. I have sat and watched as the

human would kick with spurs, whip and try to

force the horse to move on around it. It always

seemed to me though this was more of an effort

on proving something to the crowd about their

horse skills than teaching the horse anything.

If you ever find yourself in this mindset of

putting other peoples opinions of you above the

welfare of your horse, it is time to take a breather

and think about what will be in the best interest of

the relationship.

Human Equine Relationship Development


H.E.R.D -73-

Good Leadership Qualities


A good leader is confident in his ability to get a job done. He has an inner awareness of the personal strength he

possesses and is able to put trust in his own ability. In other words, he knows he can do anything he puts his mind too.


A leader is able to lead others because they feel safe in following his directions . His strong decision making skills have proved wise in the past. The horse is watching you and evaluating your abilities to make smart decisions on his

behalf. He wants to know his trust is in good hands that will keep him safe.

Have A Vision and Stay Focused

A good leader has a vision in his head that he can focus on and direct a clear path towards his ultimate goals. He is

focused and direct in his actions. It is easy to follow and trust someone who has clarity of mind and action.

Communicate Clearly

A good leader speaks clearly in a way that communicates his directives so that others understand them. In the case of

communicating with horses, a good leader makes the extra

effort to make sure his student hears and digests what he is saying through his body language.

Human Equine Relationship Development


H.E.R.D -74-Chapter 3

Touch Me, Teach Me Trust

Sometimes in the mornings, before the

kids get out of bed, I will sit on the back porch and

drink my coffee. Our pasture and barn are just

about 100 feet away and I sit quietly watching our

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -75-horses as they enjoy the morning. It is in this

quiet still time that I think a lot about them. I

watch them observing their quiet natures and I

think of all the places and people who have

entered and left their lives. Each new person and

each new situation have left their hand print on

my horses. I think of all the good and all of the

bad they must have experienced.

When you get a new horse you sometimes

get lucky and know a little about their pasts but

normally you don't know very much at all. It takes

a good bit of time to get to know them as an

individual. So as they quietly forage for breakfast I

wonder about the people who have crossed their

paths. Some I know have had rather rough times

in their lives.

The scar on Maggie's front pastern is from

an injury she received from a hog who nearly

ripped her hoof off and then wasn't cared for by a

vet and it left a misshapen growth on her leg. I

think about what a disappointment these people

were for her. A couple of our horses had been

starved to the point of bones when they arrived. I

see how fat and round their bellies and backs have

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -76-grown and I wonder if they remember the long

cold nights of winter without food.

I look at Becky at her ripe old age of 26 and

I wonder if there is a young lady out there who

misses her. Maybe she loved that horse with all

her heart in her youth and had to reluctantly let

her go to go onto school or marriage or

somewhere else life may have led her. Every horse

has a history, some parts good and some parts

bad. Sometimes you can see the scars on the

outside and sometimes the scars are all on the


A horses memory is excellent. They

remember people, places, smells, and everything

in between. Their ability to remember so much is

one of the reasons they are so useful to man

because it makes them highly trainable. This is

also the downside to a horse. Behavior that is

learned can be good and it can be bad. And

unfortunately when a horse has been treated

abusively or neglected by people they will base

their future experiences with people on those

human failures at leadership.

It is a long road for a foal. They come into

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -77-the world all wobbly and fresh, a clean slate if you

will. Their mother is there to teach and direct

them to grow and survive. The herd is like their

school. Everyone teaches them to understand the

language. They grow to understand their place in

it's confines. It is a slow process but a natural one.

Left in the wild this horse would grow, reproduce,

and die. But more often than not he will be

introduced to man, his partner if he is too survive.

And he will be watching man just as he watches

his mother and how she reacts to man.

Every horse living in captivity will have

that moment, the "man moment" as I like to call

it. He experiences a human for the first time. I

wonder what they think of this strange creature

that rears at all times, and walks on its hind legs.

He sees how his mother submits, coming in close

to receive her grain. He watches as the horses run

away from the gate as the new being waves his

hand. He is instinctively weary of this creature.

He will hurt him until proven otherwise. That is

one of the characteristics of a horse given to him

at birth. Everything new has the potential to hurt

even kill him till proven safe.

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -78-Horses are usually curious animals but

they are also extremely cautious. The flight

instinct that he has pumping in his veins is there

for a good purpose. A horse is a prey animal and

that means that they live in a constant state of

worrying about being eaten. The wilder the horse

is (less domesticated) the stronger that inner urge is to run away from anything they fear.

Domesticated horses that have lived in

captivity for several generations have lost some of

this drive. But deep within them there is a

reaction of flight when confronted with a situation

they believe will result in harm or death.

A horses timidity is a force to be reckoned

with. I find the best way to deal with it is with

slow constant pressure and reassurance. I am a

mother and I liken it to a child’s timidity. When a

child is afraid of something imagined, like a

monster in the closet, you deal with it with

patience, understanding and firmness.

You are reassuring him by taking the time

to turn on the light and open up the closet door,

showing him that there really isn't anything inside

other than clothes and toys. When you sit on the

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -79-bed and explain to him that monsters don't exist

you are showing him understanding and this

instantly will give him some comfort. Being firm

comes in when you leave him and turn out the

light without giving in to his wishes of sleeping in

your bed. Then he is left to face his fear and get

over it. Eventually a few nights of no monster

coming after him and he falls asleep without any


If you give into his fears and let him climb

in bed with you, you will create a new problem.

The child will not want to sleep by himself . The monster will still be in his closet when he returns

to his own room and you will still have to help

him face that original fear.

A horse is the same way, showing

understanding towards a problem he is having

instead of just forcing him through it will allow

him to get over it without any traumatic after

effects. And once something has been shown non-

threatening to your horses life he will just ignore

it from that point on. Also you have not created a

new problem by not dealing with the first


Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -80-This is the whole training process when

dealing with a horse. It starts with the very first

touch from a human being. This can be a very

scary experience to a horse. He will run wildly

away from you unsure of what to do. The older he

is when this happens the more wildly he will


You look scary, you smell scary, you sound

scary, and you act scary. The first touch from any

human will be one that the horse remembers

forever. You have to prove yourself to be a non-

threatening being. Move gently but confidently

and again be persistent. The ideal situation is to

let him become so comfortable with your presence

that he will first come to you. This can take a few

minutes, this can take a few days, this could take a

few weeks, but the wait is worth the result.

The biggest drawback to natural training

methods is the time it takes to do them correctly

but they are worth every single second of that

extra time and effort.

We live in a now society. We want

everything now. We drive up to a window and

want our food now. We can't wait for food to cook

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -81-on a stove anymore we need it cooked in the

microwave right now. We can't wait to talk to

people when we are home, we need cell phones so

we can talk to them now. In fact life is so fast

paced we do everything in fast forward.

Horse training is a time consuming process

and to get quality results you need time. You need

the cell phone turned off. In fact you need to turn

time and the rest of the world off. When you are

in the training mode it is just you and the horse

and time should not be a distraction. Your goal

should be one thing and one thing only, teaching

the horse whatever you have set about to teach it.

You must have that kind of focus in your head and

then you just do it and give that particular horse

all the time he or she needs to fully understand it.

You will see ads for horses in the paper all

the time about how the horse has received 30 days

of professional training. This seems to be the

industry standard for getting a horse green broke,

halter broke, etc. This is the time frame many

trainers put on getting certain results. This is just

too constraining to my way of doing things. What

if it doesn't take a full 30 days because the horse is

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -82-exceptionally trusting from the get go? What if it

takes 60 days because the horse is exceptionally

timid? What if it takes 6 months? What if it takes

1 year? Why force this time limit on any horse?

Why not train them and get them to where they

need to be no matter what the amount of time it


Horses can't be mass produced into cookie

cutter molds, each one has its own personality

and its own complications, just train the horse for

quality results and don't put a time limit on how

long it takes.

If you can get to the horse and use your

body language to convey that you are a non-life

threatening being he will give you the honor of

being the first person to ever touch him. You need

to savor that sweet moment, it is the beginning on

the very long road to bringing forth a safe and

dependable horse. And that moment where trust

has been given by the horse, the foundation you

will need to teach him everything from halter

breaking to accepting a rider has been laid. It is

the truth that if you can touch a horse, you can

ride it. But it also true that in how you touch him,

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -83-will dictate how you must ride him.

Your hands are you first extension of that

quiet confidence. Your hands are to be sure and

steady, comforting but stern. When you raise

them high they are threatening but when kept at

your sides they are comfortable.

They provide the horse sensations she has

never experienced. She can feel just a fingertip

gently tapping against her skin. She will find

comfort in the security your hands can provide as

they lead her fearlessly through danger. Your

hands are your next most important tool after

confidence. They are what you will use to

communicate to your horse the most.

The is the sole reason that you must make

a conscious effort to never let your hands act

hastily in a situation. They can be a tool of

correction but must not become an object the

horse fears. Your hands must be kept under

steady control because they are an instrument of

control. Imagine if your steering wheel of your car

was loose and wobbly, you would be a little afraid

of driving a car that had a shaky steering wheel. A

horse feels the same, a shaky unsure hand tells

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -84-the horse you are not in control.

Work on your hands. Practice your

touches. Start by trying to have the lightest touch

you can to get results from your horse. Try a

feather light stroke from your finger tips down

her face, notice how this pacifies her. Watch as

that gentle touch turns her eyes soft and brings

her head into a relaxed state.

Imagine all of the relaxed confident

feelings inside of your body are flowing out

through your fingertips and into her skin down

into her muscles. Close your eyes and just spend

some time touching your horse with relaxed

energy and you will see how you can communicate

without words. Focus on that feeling of being

relaxed and she will instantly start to be relaxed.

Your hands will be teaching her many

things. They will be something she is paying

particular attention too. I think it is amazing how

much we are unaware of that horses are aware of.

They see how you hold your hands when you are

relaxed, and they see how you hold your hands

when you are tense. Every little detail matters,

even though at times the horse seems to be paying

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -85-attention to nothing at all, she still is picking up

on everything happening around her.

Make the effort to assure her that your

hands are something she can put her full trust in

and never use them to abuse her. Once the line

has been crossed and a horse has been abused by

human hands it takes a lot of effort to show them

that those hands can be trusted again.

Human Equine Relationship Development


H.E.R.D -86-Chapter 4

Lead Me Through MY Fears

Understanding the timid nature of the

horse is hard for us because to humans size

equates strength. A horse is a large, massive

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -87-animal therefore in the human mind we tend to

see them as something they are not – naturally


It is much like the analogy of the elephant

running away from a tiny little mouse, a horse will

flee from anything it finds frightening. If I could

break down training I would say training a horse

is just simply desensitizing him to a multitude of

objects, situations and experiences.

Let me explain what I mean by

desensitizing, some may already know what this

is, others may not. Desensitizing a horse is

exposing him to a new object in a controlled way

that allows him to naturally overcome his fear of it

through repetition. Horses learn through

repetition. Repeating something over and over

makes it a learned behavior that the horse just

accepts as truth.

The first thing to realize about

desensitization is that it is based on a few factors.

The first determining factor is the mind set of the

horse, his/hers particular “personality”. If a horse

is a spooky horse you will be doing a lot of

desensitizing in their training. They have a high

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -88-flight drive. On the other hand you may have a

horse who is natural curious and confident and

sails through new situations with ease. The first

step is determining your horses particular level of

flight drive.

The next factor to consider is how to calm

that particular horses nerves down. This is

different for every horse. You may have a flighty

horse who needs to be dealt with in a very strong

manner to feel comfortable. He must be

dominated through the situation to get results.

But then again you may have a flighty horse who

needs to be soothed through his fear. Soothing

through a fear is not bribing through a fear and I

will explain more about that a little later. You

have to know the horse you are working with to

get results that are reached quickly. This will

result in less stress placed on the horse and


This would be a good time to talk about the

importance of knowing the horse you are working

with. It would be unfair to say all horses are the

same, they are not. What works for this one, will

only terrify that one. So it is important that you

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -89-take your time to get to know the horse from the

inside out. Is he the low man on the totem pole?

Is this one dominant or submissive by nature?

Does he respond to any sort of pressure? Does he

respect your space instinctively?

Here is a little scenario about the

importance of taking the time to know your horse.

I have heard people describe certain horses as just

plain “crazy”. These horses could have a few

different things happening in their head that we

misinterpret as being “crazy”, which is rarely the


The first conclusion people make is that the

horse is somehow super confident. Men will often

try to beat this horses' will out of it. The first

conclusion is more than likely the wrong one. It is

more often the case that the horse is super afraid

where gentling would be the more appropriate

plan of action. What if you take a horse that is

extremely afraid of everything and you try to use

excessive force to bring it into submission? You

will just make the situation a lot worse. Now you

have an extremely scared horse who once only

believed that people were threatening and now

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -90-he is at a point of knowing people are horrible

scary creatures who will hurt him. They may lead

through a fearful situation out of fear of the

human controlling them, but at the moment

something happens they fear more than the

human, the horse will flee. He will not have the

trust and safety of a true leader to keep him

following through the fear.

I have heard stories of horses that were just

so mean and cantankerous that no man could ever

break them. They were cunning and overpowered

every attempt of man taming the primitive wild

beast within. They are what legends and movies

are based on.

Usually these horses, the ones that are

right at the edge of craziness, will make the best

horses. It takes an effort to reach them correctly

and lots of time.

We had a horse named Bella. Bella was an

Arabian. She was brought to our farm after the

purchase of a stallion fell through, on trade out for

the value of the stallion. She was dropped off in a

stall while no one was around. She was infested

with lice and had green discharge in her nostrils.

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -91-Her feet were severely overgrown and the vet said

she had shipping fever. He didn't think she would

survive the week, but she did. Bella was a

survivor. And by everyone's description she was

also “crazy”.

She would rear up in her stall if a human

entered. She would kick and buck if you tried to

halter her. She would always give you the butt at

the fence as if to say...nanny nanny boo boo I am

better than you. She had to be tranquilized to

have her feet trimmed. She ran off two trainers

who said that she was just beyond help. She was

terrified of bicycles, lawn mowers, tractors, dogs,

four wheelers, weed eaters and everything else

that made any noise. But boy could she could run,

she looked like a strong wind picked her up and

just blew her past you. I loved to watch her run.

Still to this day it remains one of the most

beautiful sights my eyes have ever had the

privilege of seeing. She was just extreme at all she


Bella lived most of her life in solitary

confinement. She had a couple of horses across

the road that were pastured to keep her company.

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -92-She spent most of her days along her fence trying

so hard to connect with those three horses.

Gentling Bella started when she was 6

years old and it was a slow process. It started with

simple touches while sitting close to her as she ate

her grain. Gobs and gobs of grass fed to her by

myself and the kids always stealing a touch here

and there until she accepted the touches without

the grass. Haltering her at first was a chore until

finally through patience it became easy. It took

nearly 9 months to get to the point where you

could stand next to her, brush her completely out,

touch under her tail and put a halter and lead

rope on her without any fusses.

She was slowly introduced to pasture

mates, one by one, who at first she reacted very

violently to. Chasing them like a stallion would,

kicking and squealing. Overtime more were added

and she slowly calmed down her response to a

new friend. She learned so much over that year,

but it was at a slow, steady and compassionate

pace that she responded well too.

The horse that once ran whenever you

entered her pasture now walked right up to you

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -93-and rubbed her head against your chest and belly.

She went from fearing me to totally accepting me.

She trusted me so much I could do most anything

with her. She was still flighty and when removed

from her familiar settings would at times react

fearfully. Raring up was her favorite fear tactic

but she always came down away from me. And

once she was settled down she was fine.

One day she took a fall and we had the vet

out and he said she suffered from a genetic

disease that Arabians carry called Cerebrum

Abiotrophy. It is a degeneration of brain cells in

the cerebrum which gives a horse its balance and

control over movements. Many things started to

make sense; the head bobbing, the trouble

walking on a lead sometimes, all of her balance


She wasn't crazy at all. She was aware she

had a physical problem that made her very

vulnerable in surviving. All of those fears she had

were all very justifiable. The world through her

eyes was off kilter and she reacted to that.

It took nearly a full year for her to be

totally gentled. After learning of her disorder

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -94-plans of breaking her went on hold. She would

never be a dependable ride, she could stumble too

easily with her balance issues. A decision was

made that Bella would live out her years as a

pasture ornament and friend.

One of my favorite times in my life was

playing with her at sunset. I would take off

running though the pasture and she would run by

me as if I was standing still. She loved to have her

butt scratched too, she was almost like a huge dog

as she would squat down her rear end really low

on which ever side you were scratching.

Bella went from being a fear filled basket

case that no human could touch, to being a gentle

loving animal that provided me with the

experience of seeing into the heart and soul of a


Bella suffered a fall over a hill and impaled

her rear end on a log and was euthanized due to

the injuries being too severe. The saddest part of

this story is that I had to lead her to her final

resting spot. She followed along faithfully by my

side even though she had to be in excruciating

pain. One of the last things she did in her life was

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -95-rub her face against the belly of the beast she had

feared for most of her life, as if to say, I


I carry a lock of her mane, the mane I had

watched so many times blowing in the wind, as a

reminder of her spirit. She taught me about what

it takes to communicate with a horse.

As the leader of the herd you must show

confidence and intelligence in your ability to get

your follower through a situation that it finds

fearful competently. That is your job and you

must succeed, for if you fail, you will not be

accepted as leader. A horse knows enough to

understand that a leader who leads him into

danger and allows harm to befall him doesn't

possess the skills to have the job as leader.

So along the journey of training you will

have many obstacles to overcome and you have to

lead your horse through them safely. We have

already discussed having the confidence to make

the animal move, and the steady hands you will

need to lead, but you will need to establish a

successful record of getting the job done correctly.

So day in and day out as you face new situations,

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -96-experiences, and objects thought to be frightening

by the horse, you must get him/her through

them with no true harm befalling your horse


He will faithfully do his part by following

you but he expects to come through the situation

unharmed. If he does he will trust you even more

as a leader. If he doesn't he will look at you as

unreliable and his trust will have been shaken in

your abilities.

This is just basic survival skills inbred into

him dictating his need for a strong and intelligent

leader who makes good decisions about his

welfare. Horses as a species wouldn't be as

successful as they are without this awareness of

good leadership. If a horses sense of following

anything more confident than it lead it over a cliff,

or into a bears den, the species wouldn't have

survived very long at all. They are looking for you

to have some intelligence in matters of physical


A good example of this is when you are out

trail riding and you come to a gravel road. If your

horse has been shod and has on his shoes you can

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -97-safely proceed. If he is going barefoot that day and

you make him go along despite his tiptoeing

around the gravel and his feet become bruised you

have failed him. The horse knows this is going to

hurt his feet, and so should you. If you force him

to proceed and you see him hobbling around for a

week with stone bruises you should feel bad. You

lead him were he got hurt and as the leader you

should have known more than him. You let harm

come his way through your decision and he will

remember that. It will effect his confidence in

your abilities. He will not be as trusting as he was

before he was harmed. You will yet again have to

prove your ability to lead him safely without any

harm befalling him physically.

This is basic horse sense. If I know more

about staying safe, I can't let myself be harmed by

following you. When trail riding you will often see

a horse without shoes clinging to the grassy, softer

sides of the road. He isn't stupid. The second he

sees and feels the gravel he knows he needs to get

out of it or he will suffer injury to his feet. I have

witnessed people forcing their horse to ride it out

and stay in the gravel to prove they are the

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -98-ultimate in control. This selfish way of thinking

does not equal a partnership, it equals a tyranny

and it will result in injury to your horse.

Sometimes if you just watch him, take the time to

truly observe every little detail, you will see his

amazing intelligence.

Let's go back to the beginning, way back to

the very first experience you have with your horse.

From the instant you walk into that animals life

and assert yourself as leader, the responsibility to

keep him safe starts then and there. In human

society more is expected from the leader and

horse society isn't much different. We expect

leadership, and that is an action, not just a title.

It will be your responsibility to keep this

animal well fed and cared for. You must provide

good clean water and the other necessities to keep

his mind and body satisfied and healthy. The

survival instinct dictates that a leader will lead

him to all of these things and you must keep him

safe from harm. That is what a horse in it's

natural setting is looking for and if you can do

that you will be a respected, easily followed


Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -99-Once you start building the trust in your

abilities to keep this animal safe, the repetition of

that safety through fearful situations, will allow

you a different kind of control over him/her. It

will be a deep control. One that will allow you to

more quickly and easily control the flight instinct

and more dependably move him through his


There is a fear factor to all new objects and

situations for a horse. We talked about that

earlier. It is a form of socialization in a way,

taking an animal into a very unnatural

environment and getting him to let go of

everything that nature provided for him for

survival and relax. Everything inside a horse says

run the second you feel afraid. If he can't escape

his last shot of survival may be to strike out in

fear, through a kick, rearing or a charge. To him

every situation seems to be a life or death matter

when his flight instinct has been engaged by fear.

He is operating in a totally different mode at that

time. At the moment this is engaged, it doesn't

matter how many carrots you brought him

yesterday, it only matters how confident he is in

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -100-you as a leader. He must trust you will control the

situation for him and he will come through it


A horse that trusts you will stay still in a

situation that would normally make him flee. If

you are calm, confident, and trustworthy he will

follow your lead instead of the instinct of flight.

How much trust he has in you is based on his

experiences with you, this is the true work in

working with horses. You must be aware that all

of your actions have consequences, either good or

bad. Your judgments must be made clearly and

concisely in the best interest of the horse. Safety is

the number one thing on a horses mind. When a

horse feels safe, he is relaxed, and when he is

relaxed he is safer to handle and more apt to be


This flight instinct that gets engaged by a

new experience is very powerful. When you have a

1400 pound animal ready to flee at full force your

physical might is not going to stop it. You have to

be careful in engaging this mechanism. Be

constantly aware of it being there, understand

that it gets put into motion in an instant.

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -101-In a controlled environment like a round

pen used for training you can be in control of

engaging it, and disabling it through

desensitization. That will be your only job in

training, introducing something new to the horse

and working him through his fear of it. The first

object is you yourself. The next object is your

hands. Then there is a long list of ropes, halters,

blankets, saddles, and all the other tools of the

trade we need to ride the horse. But it is a great

idea to take the objects from outside the round

pen and try to introduce them to him while in a

controlled environment.

You will encounter many things along the

road of horseback riding. There will be dogs,

chickens, plastic bags, tarps, culverts, big rocks,

old broken down trucks, 4 wheelers, kids with

balloons and fire trucks. There will be wild

animals, like deer and turkeys, that just seem to

pop out from nowhere at the worst possible

moments. Some of these things can be brought

into the round pen, others can not. As many as

you can bring in, please do. Here is a list of things

everyone should bring in:

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -102-1. Plastic grocery bags. Try the bag alone

at first, then place it on the end of a stick.

There is something really scary about

plastic bags and horses. I am not sure if it

is the sound, or the way that it smells, or

the way that it moves. If you ever plan on

doing parades with your horse desensitize

him/her to the bags. Where we live at the

streets are lined with little kids holding

these bags to collect candy thrown out by

the people in the parade. This is a

nightmare to a horse who has not been

desensitized to plastic bags.

2. Dogs. A dog is a predator animal. A bad

dog on a ride that comes bearing teeth to a

horse unfamiliar with dogs can be

disastrous. My youngest son was almost

thrown last summer over a dog while

riding a new pony we had just purchased.

It will take a special dog to do this

desensitization, one that is calm and

passive to the horse. The easy way to do it

is just put the dog in the round pen with

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -103-you at first and work the horse as if the

dog isn't even there. Start taking the dog

with you on rides too. My dog tags along a

lot on rides.

3. Bicycles. I am not sure what is about a

bicycle that is so threatening to a horse but

it is a fear that many horses have. Start out

by just laying the bike down on the ground

in the middle of the pen. When things are

left just lying down they are less

threatening to the horse. She will either

ignore it or her curiosity will compel her to

smell it and sometimes taste it. After she is

comfortable with its presence, do the same

thing again, but this time place it on its

kickstand erect. After she works through

that issue, try riding it around, then lay it

down. Work the horse with it in the pen a

few times and then have someone ride

along with you as you ride in the pen.

4. Things that go vroom. I live in the

country and whenever I go riding I

encounter at least one person on a 4

wheeler, dirt bike, or some other

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -104-recreational vehicle. They are louder and

more aggressive to a horse than a car. And

unfortunately not all people are

considerate when encountering someone

on horseback. Walk them through it like

the bicycle. First park it in the center of the

pen and just walk away. You can even try

sitting on it and showing her it doesn't

harm you. Once she is comfortable with its

presence try starting it up but be cautious

here. The noise may drive her berserk at

first. Be ready to turn it off if she looks

like she will harm herself in fear or like she

will attack the 4 wheeler as last resort. Do

this over and over until you see her calm

down. It is also best if you place the 4

wheeler in the pen before putting the

horse in there with it.

5. Lawnmowers & weed-eaters. I am

placing these two together but they will

need to be worked out separately. They

are loud and throw clippings around. They

can be very frightening to a horse. They

also release a funny smell through their

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -105-gasoline that the horse finds offensive.

Same thing as the others, take baby steps

in introducing them. First they are just

there, let them soak up the smells and get

comfortable with the sight. Then start

them up and see what happens. After you

get them comfortable in the pen, start

riding them in the yard while the grass is

being mowed.

6. Cars & Trucks. This one can't really be

done in the round pen because of the issue

of the size of a car. This is something you

need a partner to help with. Walk your

horse around parked cars. Let them see

there is no danger. Start a car up and let it

idol and walk your horse around it. When

this step is comfortable to the horse get in

the saddle and ride around the car while it

idols. Next have a buddy move the car a

little while you sit on the horse. Feel her

body for any flinching. Talk to her in a

soothing voice. Follow behind the car

down the driveway a few times before

taking it to the street level. There is a

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -106-special note here on making a horse traffic

safe. Even a horse that has been ridden

successfully in and around traffic can be

spooked by automobiles that are larger

than normal, emit a different type of smell,

or make a different kind of noise than

what they have been exposed too. I had a

horse who was around traffic for most of

its riding life but the neighbors truck bed

made a squeaky sound when he went

down a bumpy road that terrified that

horse. Just ALWAYS be alert in traffic

because this is a very dangerous situation