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

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for you, the horse, and the automobile.

7. Cows, goats and chickens can all strike

fear into a horses heart, so if at all possible

take the time to expose your horse to as

many animals as you can. Sometimes you

can borrow them from friends just to use

for a few hours in training. If a cow isn't

around take your horse to where there are

cows. I know it sounds silly, but a lot of

horses find cows to be something fearful,

in the movies they go hand in hand, but

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -107-pleasure horses not used in ranch work

may have little understanding of what a

cow is.

8. Flags and things that fly. Things that

flap in the wind can cause a horse to bolt.

Run through everything that you can find

that flaps or flies. Flags, bedsheets on the

line, kites, and helium filled balloons.

Tarps are also a huge concern to horses

and should be worked with from the

ground up. A horse will need to be able to

walk across a tarp on the ground, move

past one covering something like a car or a

woodpile and stand still while one is

flapped around it. Tarps are everywhere

and they are a scary object to a lot of


9. Balls. Things that roll or bounce or that

can fly through the air like balls or regular

balloons. I found this out the hard way in

the last parade I rode in. My horse is still

working on her training, but I consider her

pretty steadfast in most situations. It was a

4th of July parade and someone had

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -108-handed out red, white and blue balloons to

the children in the crowd. Not the helium

filled type, just blown up balloons. One of

the kids must have lost their balloon as it

was rolling and floating across the ground

out into the street we were riding on. My

horse didn't blow up but she was fixated

on the balloon to the point of sidestepping

into another horse and rider, if she wasn't

so steadfast it could have ended in her

bolting through a group of children to flee

the scary red balloon and that could have

been deadly.

10. Mailboxes and signs. Mailboxes that

are decorative or different from the

standard mailbox can throw a horse into a

state of nervousness, sometimes it can

help to expose your horse to mailboxes

and signs while on a walk. Signs seem to

be more of a problem than mailboxes.

Horses seem more afraid of things that are

up higher and are of weird shapes and

colors. Stop signs and yield signs have

been known to spook horses.

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -109-11. Garbage cans. This one should been

done using a dirty garbage can. Our

garbage stinks, it smells of decay and a

horse has learned to stay away from

anything that smells of decay. I think this

comes from the fact that as a prey animal,

the smell of decay signals of death. Where

there is a dead animal, there is usually a

predator. It is back to that primitive

instinct driven beast that will avoid death

and injury at all cost. Take your old

garbage can, if it has bags of garbage in it

even better and put it in the pen. DO NOT


Some horses may try to eat the plastic bag

or get into stuff in the garbage that could

harm them after they feel comfortable.

After smelling something, tasting is next

on the list to understanding it completely.

That should get you started on

desensitization of the basic problems a rider will

encounter while riding. There are also pot holes,

mud puddles, and drain grates. Look down, look

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -110-up, and look around always. There are so many

things to be aware of. You need to truly think like

the horse be looking everywhere anticipating

ANYTHING that may set off the flight instinct.

Be aware and see any problems BEFORE

your horse does. You can start talking her through

it and calming her down before she goes into alert


This is not to say you enter the saddle a

nervous wreck worried about every leaf dropping

from the tree. No, you need to be confident for

your horse. You need to be confident that even if

something does happen, you can make it through

it just fine. If you don't have that confidence, and

trust me if you figure that out when your horse is

blowing up and rearing all over the place, you

shouldn't go out riding alone. Riding a horse can

be dangerous – IT IS NOT LIKE IN THE

MOVIES. Horses are flighty, easily excitable

animals at times. Even gentle well mannered

horses can be set off in an instant. NEVER put

your wants above your safety, this is disaster

waiting to happen. If you feel even the slightest

apprehension about doing something alone on a

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -111-horse, one word, DON'T.

I do not want you to fear your horse, this

will only end in a disaster. I want you to have a

healthy respect for his size and power. A horse for

the most part is a docile, passive animal. When

you take the time to learn what he is saying

through body language you can co-exist with him

quiet enjoyably. There is the ever present danger

of being harmed by a horse if you act in haste or

overestimate your own abilities. Horsemanship is

all about being honest. You need to be really

honest about your own abilities. You need to

honestly evaluate your own skills and know your

strengths and weaknesses. Understand that your

horse knows them very well. Your horse can feel

your heart beating in your chest through your legs

when you are mounted on his back, that is how

sensitive his senses are. He can feel it speed up

when you are anxious about a situation. He can

hear how you are breathing. He can feel the

tension in your muscles when you are afraid. All

of these details he is processing for survival.

Lets say you have a fear of riding down a

certain steep hill. The second you start to tense up

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -112-and feel afraid, so will your horse. He is saying

inside something is the matter with this hill. My

rider is afraid of this hill and you will notice his

reluctance to go down it without your full

confidence. Where a more confident rider can ride

up to the hill on the same horse and go right over

the edge without any resistance from the animal.

The more relaxed and confident rider is telling the

horse there is nothing to be afraid of lets go and

the horse will follow suit easily.

That is why when people send a horse off to

a trainer to be worked with it rarely ends in a

result that is pleasing to the owner completely. A

trainer has had years of experience to build up a

certain confidence with horses in general. His

knowledge far surpasses that of the average horse

owner. He works with horses every day and has

had the bumps, bruises and broken bones to

prove it. He also has learned to speak the

language hopefully a little more fluently than the

average Joe who has a few horses he wants to ride

for pleasure.

So when Joe sends his horse off to the

trainer, the trainer gets the horse and might not

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -113-even get the experience of seeing the horse act out

the owners problem just because the trainer has

more confidence in dealing with the animal. The

horse may feel safe when being lead by the trainer

and never feel the need to act out of fear.

Lets say your horse gives you a fit when

loading into the trailer. This is a scary experience

for the novice horseman/horsewoman. Why?

Because someone who doesn't understand horses

and already has a preconceived notion that trailer

loading is a difficult situation will approach this

with that mindset and bring an anxious energy

into the environment. Some people are also afraid

of being in such tight quarters with an animal as

large as a horse. They have a fear of being crushed

along the inside of the trailer or kicked or

something else. So they bring a lot of nervous

energy to the whole situation from the get go.

They don't feel comfortable so the horse doesn't

feel comfortable. So they manage to get a friend

who will help them get this beast up in the trailer

and after much commotion they get him in and

lock the trailer door and off to the trainer he is


Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -114-The trainer unloads the horse and puts him

in a stall and listens to the owner as she describes

what a harrowing experience it was to get this

beast onto the trailer and he assures her he will do

everything possible to retrain this horse into

loading without any problems in the future. They

shake hands and part ways.

The next day the trainer goes out, pulls out

the horse, walks him up to his horse trailer,

swings open the door and walks the horse right up

in the trailer. The horse goes in just fine, not one

ounce of resistance at all. He does this same

activity for days to come and finds no problem

with the horse loading at all.

He calls up the owner explains that the

horse is loading just fine and he wants her to

come out and see for herself. She is elated to here

this and comes out the very next day.

The trainer goes out to the barn walks the

horse up to the trailer and in it goes without

flinching. She is so excited. The trainer explains

that the horse is such a good loader that even she

can do it now. He backs the horse out and hands

her the lead and she takes the horse right up in

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -115-the trailer. She is amazed at this trainers ability to

cure this problem so quickly and she thanks him

again and again as she writes the check for his


She gets the horse home, unloads it

without problem, and puts it back in the barn. A

week goes by and she needs to take the horse

down to the vet for his vaccinations. She goes out

to the barn and gets her horse and as she walks up

to the trailer. She starts to feel nervous without

the professional trainer there to help her. She

opens up the door and looks inside. She starts to

feel anxious about being alone with this animal up

in that tight space. She sucks it up a bit and

musters all she has and pulls on the lead rope and

the horse won't budge. He say huh uh lady, I feel

that nervousness, I am not moving.

So what happened? Nothing happened.

The horse didn't learn anything new from the

trainer and the lady probably paid several

hundred dollars to get back the same exact horse

she sent there. It isn't the horse that needs to be

trained, it's you. Without the strong confident

presence of the trainer there, she didn't feel

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -116-relaxed and confident in leading her own horse

into that space. Without that feeling in the

atmosphere , not only from the owner being more

relaxed but also the trainer directing the horse

through his confident body language, the horse

says no I do not feel comfortable with this at all.

A horse learns through repetition and so do

human beings. As your horse is learning to trust

you through coming through fearful situations

successfully, you are learning to trust him/her

too. It can take a very long time to build up that

confidence to be able to do anything you want to

with a horse. A professional trainer has had

several thousands of experiences to get it. You as

an average horse owner are lucky to get a few

hours a week. That is why time is so valuable

when spent getting to know the ins and the outs of

your animal. All of the training exercises that you

do are not only for the horse, you are in training


Everything you do with your horse helps

develop the horse and yourself. It is a very

satisfying feeling to work and learn alongside this

great animal. It is a series of desensitization

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -117-against all things fearful, for the horse and for


Let me walk you through the basics of what

desensitization means and what to expect in the

way of results.

You will introduce something new to your

horse and for explanation purposes lets use a

plastic grocery bag as the object. Whenever you

use these steps in the future just replace the

plastic grocery bag with whatever object you are

trying to desensitize your horse with.

You enter into the horses space carrying

the object out in front. Be honest with your

animal, don't hide it behind your back and then

pop it out in their face at last moment. At first just

carry it like you would anything, don't make a big

deal out of it, just carry it. Don't move slow and in

a stalking manner, again this just raises the horses

suspicions that you are doing a sneak attack. Just

act normal, feel confident and don't make a big

deal out of it.

If the horse takes off and tries to run away

let him, but DO NOT chase him. When a horse is

running in fear his flight instinct has kicked in.

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -118-Your job is to get him to be unafraid and that will

stop the running away. Attack the fear, not the


If you take off chasing him down he will

only have his beliefs confirmed that the bag is out

to get him. In fact walking in the opposite

direction will let him know it is not chasing him.

Walk and stay calm.

Some horses are like cats though, they are

curious as all get out. They will muster up enough

courage to come and check it out, the curiosity to

understand this new thing will drive them past

their fears, curiosity is a sign of intelligence.

You need to just stay relaxed, be aware of

your body, don't tense up in anticipation of the

horse fleeing you. Treat the new object just like

you would anything else that the horse is already

comfortable with. If the horse is comfortable with

the halter, imagine you are carrying a halter in

your hand. Stay relaxed in every situation. Stay

quietly confident in every situation. I know it is a

lot to be aware of but over time it becomes like

second nature. You will assume a certain attitude

and stance when dealing with your horses.

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -119-Do NOT push it on the horse unless you

feel this horse can handle you advancing him at a

faster pace. Certain horses you can take hold of by

the halter and work them through something a

little faster, some horses you can't. Some horses

will submit to working at a faster pace with just a

little resistance and some will blow up and be

uncontrollable. Work with your particular horse,

not against it.

This is where judgment and understanding

comes in. You will need to make educated

judgments based on your understanding of this

particular animal.

I like to move onto touching the animal on

the body and neck BEFORE I stick the object

anywhere near their head. By soothingly stroking

and petting the horse with an object he will start

to relax. Some horses who are curious will want to

smell the object first, that is OK too. If they make

the first move go ahead and let them. It is a good

sign that this desensitization of this particular

object is going to go smoothly and quickly. If they

don't offer to smell it, try the rubbing of the body

first. Wait till you see a physical sign of relaxation,

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -120-a heavy sigh, the head dropping, the eyes relaxing

to proceed further. Look at your horses body, see

what it is saying. If it is saying, OK this isn't that

bad, then move to the horses face. Offer to let him

smell it then gently touch his face all around.

If its something that makes noise like the

crinkling sound of the plastic bag, crinkle it in

your hands. Do this whole process till the horse is

as comfortable with this new object as he is with

old objects he has already been desensitized too.

You do this over and over with everything

you can think of that the horse will encounter in

his new unnatural world that man has made.

The basic thing to learn here is that

desensitizing a horse to various situations and

objects will produce an unnatural confidence in a

normally fearful animal.

The best thing about a horse is that once

something is repeated a few times without any ill

effects to him physically, he just moves on, totally

ignoring it as a fearful stimulus any longer. He

doesn't today accept the plastic bag, and

tomorrow see it and throw you off UNLESS he has

a bad experience later on that proves to be

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -121-harmful to him by the object.

So to the best of your ability be a strong

and successful leader by keeping your horse safe.

Double check everything that could harm him and

show him that you can competently lead him

through his life without allowing injury to inflict

him because of your poor judgments.

Think about it for a second, no one really

wants to harm their horses intentionally. It is the

little mistakes we make in our care of them that

can cost them severely.

Imagine if you failed to replace the boards

in your trailer after noting that they had a few soft

rot spots and your horses leg went through it

while loading, or worse while driving down the

highway. What if you put off fixing that broken

fence post and your horse impaled himself on it

while you were sleeping? What if you put off

removing that sharp old rusted machinery from

the barn and your horse cut its leg so badly he had

to be euthanized?

Just like when you have a baby crawling

around your house, everything low must be locked

or put up. They depend on you to provide them

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -122-with a safe environment that they can live in

without hurting themselves. The baby who gets

under the sink and gets into a toxic cleaning

product is far more tragic than the horse that gets

into the unlocked grain room and gorges itself

into a severe state of colic, but none the less it is

still tragic.

The worst part of tragedy when it happens

is that it usually always avoidable with a little

common sense and a little work.

Human Equine Relationship Development



Both Sides Are Equally Important

When doing ANY work with a horse be it

gentling, desensitizing, or training repeat it on

both the left and right sides of the horse. A horse

sees differently and processes information

differently than humans. You must always repeat

the behavior on both sides for them to fully

understand what you are trying to teach.. Try

leading, mounting, and dismounting from the

right side just as often as from the left.

Human Equine Relationship Development


H.E.R.D -124-Chapter 5

Up, Down, Back, Forward,

Side to Side

I want you to open your mind for a minute

and understand something about horses. Horses

already know how to move before we come into

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -125-their lives.

A horse can move forward at a walk, trot &

lope all by itself. It can go backwards, it can go up,

and it can go down all by itself. We are not

teaching them how to move when we are training,

we are teaching them cues that signal we want

them to move in a certain way.

When we approach this task we need to

learn how to communicate clearly with our horse.

I liken it to a human being taking directions from

another human being. It is much easier to accept

direction from a human who speaks in a clear

concise voice. If the person giving you directions

is mumbling his words and we can't really hear

him, we will become confused.

Horses are unique in the fact that they

learn many more details about a command than

just the command. They pay close attention to

every detail and they learn to anticipate what is

going to happen by little things that happen

BEFORE an actual event.

Every morning around 9:00 A.M I go out

to grain my horses. They greet me the second I

walk out my back door with the low, guttural

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -126-neighs that say “hey good morning it's breakfast

time”. No matter where they were at in the

pasture, they know to be somewhere near their

feeding spots at 9:00 in the morning. How do they

know it is time to be fed?

They hear the sound of the kids getting

ready for school. They hear the sound of the

kitchen door as it creaks open, and they hear the

slamming of the screen door as I come out to get

my boots. So long before I get there they know I

am coming.

Training is the same way. We know the

industry standards of a kick or a squeeze to make

them move, pull back and say whoa for a stop,

pull right to go right, pull left to go left. Move your

hips back in the seat and pull to go back. But your

horse is so much more capable than this.

Traditional riding methods do work and some say

if it ain't broke don't fix it. I say if you can improve

on it, then do.

So you have a horse who has been broke

and he goes faithfully in whatever direction you

want with ease only giving you a stubborn bone

every once in awhile. Why not try to spice it up a

Human Equine Relationship Development


H.E.R.D -127-bit. Teach an old horse new tricks so to speak.

Horses just like humans can get bored

easily. We need mental stimulation to stay happy

and so does a horse. A horse likes to learn. In fact

he is designed to learn quickly, he needs to

associate stimulation with responses to survive.

He is a very natural learner. We need to make

sure his mind is getting lots of exercise just like

we make sure his body is. I wanted to include

some bonding exercises you can try to develop

your communication skills and teach you just how

subtle you can be and still get results.

We use three main cues for conveying our

commands to a horse; verbal, physical, and focal

cues. Lets talk about how each one of these

methods can be fined tuned to get better results

with less energy. How we can speak clearly in all

three methods so the horse gets it the first time


Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -128-

Verbal Communication

When you speak to your horse it is more

important the tone that you speak in than the

words coming out of your mouth. Horses do not

speak English. English is a human language. It is

the sound rather than the actual word that

matters most. Horses hear high pitched sounds

better than low pitched sounds. In fact if you

speak too softly your voice may be drowned out by

all the background noise around you.

A high pitched whistle is more effective

than a low pitched whoa. Simple sounds work

best. One syllable words are better than longer

more complex words. And remember if you teach

your horse something out of the ordinary, other

than the “go” “whoa” commands, you will need to

teach it to the new owner if you should ever have

to sell your horse so try to make it sensible. You

wouldn't teach your horse to go forward on a

“whoa” command or to stand perfectly still and

stop on a “go” command.

They need to feel natural and be something

you can remember. Your verbal commands will

also need to convey the amount of energy you

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -129-wish it completed with. That is where tone comes

in but try to always keep the tone the same when

using the command. “Whoa” and “Slow” sound a

lot alike so try giving each word a different tone.

Next time you are riding try doing a whistle

for the trot. Don't do anything but whistle, then

squeeze to make her go faster. Soon you will find

the squeeze is not necessary, as soon as she hears

the whistle (keep it as uniform as possible) she

will move into a trot. Once you try this concept

you can be as creative as you like.

Physical Communication

We have talked a lot about how your body

language speaks louder to a horse above all else.

This is true even when in the saddle. My horse

will pick up pace the second she feels me shift my

weight forward a little bit into a trot. She knows

just by this little adjustment exactly what I want

her to do.

If you have ever ridden a well trained horse

you won't have to squeeze it to make it go, if you

just slightly move your legs out as if to start to

squeeze he will start moving. This is all like the

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -130-lead mare who keeps everyone away with the

anticipation of a kick if she slightly has her rear

leg cocked off the ground.

Horses are paying attention to every little

detail. They notice what happens directly before

something else happens.

We can see this clearly in the bad habits

they pick up along the road of life. Take for

instance the horse that paws at the ground before

feeding time. They will paw and paw and paw,

increasing intensity as the food gets closer and

closer, until they get what they want - the food.

Now it is an annoying habit but it is extremely

hard to break this one because the horse has a

strong connection in its head between the pawing

and the food. It thinks it is being fed because it

paws the ground. It would entail many many

empty buckets of food to instill that the response

of food is not because of the action of pawing.

Horses are also trained through the

absence of physical communication in the release

of pressure. You cannot pull a horse to make it

move, in fact the harder you pull, the more force

against your pulling will be applied by the horse.

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -131-If you want him to move you need to signal

to him you want him to move and when he even

starts to lean into moving you release all pressure

against him. The release of pressure says to the

horse he is responding correctly. The same time

rule for correction applies here too. You need to

be immediate in the release of pressure, just as

you need to be immediate in the correction of bad

behavior. You have less than a couple of seconds

to give them the reward of pressure release.

To put physical communication into play

try raising your right arm before you turn the

horse right with the reigns, much like a bicyclist

would when making a turn. Raise your arm first

then turn the horse with the reigns. Before long

you will see that if you raise your right arm, the

horse will turn right without the reign. This is just

another creative example to teach you how to

develop communication outside the box.

Focal Communication

If you study your horses you will find that

they can follow the attention path of their leader

quite well. It is important to know when a leader

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -132-is alerted and be aware of what they have been

alerted too. A horse will do the same for his

human partner. What you are focusing on will be

of interest to him too.

When you are in the saddle all you must do

is direct your belly button in the direction you

want him to go. This is such a simple rule of

thumb, but it is so effective. Point your belly

button straight forward and you will go straight.

And you will notice that before you turn your

horse through the use of reigns your body

naturally twists to point your belly button in the

direction you want to go. It is simple yet effective.

Focal communication needs focus. You

need to be a good strong focused leader. Imagine

your eyes are like your belly button, wherever they

point that is the direction you are heading. In

your mind you need to have a plan and turn it into

action. Your head can't be swimming with all

kinds of thoughts when you interact with your

horse. Like I said earlier, every single time you are

in their presence you are training a horse in some

way, shape or form.

So if you are out there thinking about what

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -133-you want to make for dinner, and did you wash

your sons practice pants for football, and do you

need to get an oil change in your car, while you

are trying to get your horse to stop bucking on the

canter command, you will be less that productive.

This can be so hard to do because we live

such busy lives, but after you learn to shut

everything else off, you will look forward to your

time spent with your horse even more. It will give

you an escape from all of the other things that

often wear us down. It is rather relaxing in fact, if

you enjoy working with horses, to concentrate

solely on them for an hour or so. And then you

find that even the “work” part of horses becomes


I have a saying that I go over in my own

head to remind me of how I need to focus on the

tasks at hand for that day with that horse –

mentally I just say “leave it at the gate”. That

means that once I enter into the world of my

horses everything else gets left back at the gate.

Trust me its all there when you return.

Focus is one of the best skills you will

develop and as you develop it along with your

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -134-horse you will be amazed at just how in tune to

you your horse will become. Sometimes you will

think he is reading your mind.

Next time you are leading your horse just

focus on where you want her to go while standing

at her shoulder. Focus on something off to your

left like a fence post, or a tree, focus with all of

your attention. Look at that object and focus,

concentrate, watch how the horse will

instinctively turn to the left when you finally


An interesting note about focal

communication is that it can also be used in

reverse. A horse that is in the follower position

will ignore things that it's leader also ignores. So if

something scary is on the horizon and you make

an effort to not focus any attention on it, the horse

will also pay no attention to it.

Of the three types of communication I feel

physical and focal communication are used the

most. Verbal communication does not really exist

in the horse world. They do call out to each other

especially if they feel they have some how been

left out of a herd activity. And yes they whinny

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -135-and neigh when they see you coming with food, or

see an old or new friend. But they don't really

communicate all day long chatting up a storm in

the pasture. For the most part they are pretty

quiet and they rely on the non-verbal

communication methods to do their talking.

Therefore it makes sense that “when in

Rome, do as the Roman's do” and you will find

them reacting to you much more efficiently.

Remember they already know how to do

exactly everything you could ask them to do. It is

learning how to communicate what you want

them to do and then leading them confidently

through it. If you lead and speak in a way they

understand, they will listen and obey.

Human Equine Relationship Development


H.E.R.D -136-Chapter 6

Ground Control

I personally enjoy the time spent on the

ground as much as I do in the saddle. I feel a

closeness sometimes from the ground I do not feel

in the saddle. If something happened to me

tomorrow that I could never ride again, I would

still own horses just because I enjoy being in their

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -137-presence so greatly because of ground work.

In the horse world riding gets all the glory

and ground control gets the backseat. It is of the

two, the more important in turning out a well

mannered and balanced horse. It is what makes

getting in the saddle even possible and it connects

you and your horse in a completely different way.

Call me crazy but I love spending time on the

ground working with my horses.

When you are working a horse on the

ground you don't share his attention with

anything else. When you are in the saddle he is

busy taking in information from around him as

you move through new environments. His

attention is split. Working on the ground

demands he pay full attention to you.

There are many exercises one can use on

the ground to establish leadership and supply the

horse with some needed exercise. The one that

most people think of when talking about ground

work is lunging. Now lunging is much more fun

for the trainer than the horse. It has its place but

it cannot be the only source of ground work you


Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -138-Recent research says that a horse is not

naturally built to run in such a tight circle with his

weight leaned in at an angle on the feet as lunging

forces him to do. These studies have found that it

may do more harm than good. What lunging does

accomplish is your ability to send down the line

the fact that you want the horse to move forward

while paying attention to you. In a way lunging

lets you control the flight instinct for the first


The horse could really easily just take off

running in a straight line and rip all of the lunge

rope right out of your hands if he didn't submit

his head to you and obey your command for him

to move around you. Lunging also teaches you

how to control the pressure you are sending him.

You learn how to increase pressure with just a

stare at his shoulder. You learn that staying

slightly to the rear of the shoulder will drive

him/her forward. You learn that a relaxed lunge

whip decreases the force and slows the horse and

a raised whip increases the horses speed and

forces it to move faster.

You learn all kinds of focal power as does

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -139-the horse. When a horse has been worked on the

lunge making contact with the whip is rarely

necessary. He anticipates what will happen by just

raising or lowering it.

But isn't it funny that you have 1400

pounds of pure power tied to the end of a rope

and you can make it move faster or slower with

only your eyes. I want you to understand just how

perceptive a horse can be.

If you can move all of this weight into a

circle using this line, what else can you do? Well

use your imagination and come up with new ways

to move your horse, it really isn't that hard.

My favorite is the snaking method of

snaking the rope and making him move

backwards. This feels fun for me.

I also like to imagine myself as a brick wall

coming at the horse. I imagine that I am as heavy

and strong as a brick wall and when I come at him

from the shoulder he must turn out of my way. I

of course repeat it from both sides. You start to

understand using your mind to move mountains.

This will ultimately filter out into your

outside life. Working with horses gives you a

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -140-clearer more focused outlook. You start to feel

more powerful and more self aware. You may talk

a little less and listen a little more. Your senses

become more fine tuned. You are more confident.

It is a life changing feeling and it is easy to see

why the horse makes such a great therapeutic

animal, used in work with handicapped children

to abused women. The horse has an ability to

effect you, train you if you will, to be a more

powerful person inwardly and outwardly.

Ground control is one of the best ways to

develop your equine relationship. Remember it is

a two way street, the horse is learning, but so are

you. Through repetition of your interactions you

will both be learning what to expect from each


Ground exercises are also the best way to

learn about space. We talked about the 2 foot

bubble earlier and how important it is to enforce

and reinforce that space. People have a really

good perception of personal space. Take for

instance your home. You know where your

property line is and you will protect it from being

invaded by your neighbor. We even build

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -141-expensive fences to protect and define our

properties boundaries.

We often feel uncomfortable when we go

into someone elses' space. You wouldn't go over

into your neighbors yard without permission and

you wouldn't want them in your yard without

your permission. When we go out to eat we sit at a

table with our families. It would be socially

unacceptable for a complete stranger to come over

pull up a chair and start eating our food.

We have whole legal agencies dedicated to

protecting our space. In human society if someone

invades our space without permission it is a

punishable crime. Law enforcement officers must

attain a search warrant to come into our space.

We have legal rights to protect our space.

In the city building you can find book upon

book of huge maps, drawing up what space

belongs to who.

We are very conscious of space and when

we invite someone into our space it is a sign of

friendship. We invite people into our homes. We

invite them to sit at our tables. In fact sharing

space with someone is a sign of affection and

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -142-friendship to a human being.

Unfortunately we try to repeat this

affection with our animals and expect them to

show us the same sort of respect other humans

show us for sharing space.

It doesn't work that way with animals. It is

the same problem you see with canines that are

allowed to sleep in our beds. This causes them to

be confused as to where the boundaries are in the

relationship. For animals sharing of space means

you are more submissive than they are and they

react in a way that is totally natural to them, they

take over. A dog that is allowed to sleep in the

master's bed will decide he is now the boss. The

same as a horse that is allowed to crowd in on you

decides you need to follow him, not the other way


When we get to work on the ground,

maintaining that personal space is rule number

one. Imagine a circle about two feet in diameter

floating on the ground around you. Do not let

your horse come into this space.

It is a pet peeve of mine when a horse

crowds me. Some people love it because they are

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -143-thinking the horse is showing the human

affectionate act of wanting to be close to them. I

know it is far from affection. I hate walking a

horse that is constantly crowding me. I use my

elbow as a guide. If I stick my elbow out to the

side and it runs into the horse, it is too close. I

then bump him with the elbow till he backs off. I

have had my toes smashed too many times by a

crowding horse. I would rather he get bumped,

than my toes get smashed.

You will often notice that a horse that is

crowding you will follow up the crowding with

dragging you along. Well why not? He feels like he

is now the leader, you need to follow him. If you

heed anything I say, this one bit of information

will make everything you do on the ground easier

and safer. Keep your space sacred. If you respect

your space, so will the horse.

Through ground control you will be able to

do something that is often overlooked. You will be

working on the gentling aspect of horse training.

Too often when a horse becomes tame

enough to be haltered, the gentling stops and the

training begins. Gentling a horse means that a

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -144-horse becomes comfortable with having every part

of its body touched and doesn't offer an adverse

reaction to the touch. A gentled horse can be

touched under the tail head. A gentled horse can

have your finger stuck down in it's ear, up its

nostril, and in its mouth. It will tolerate just about

anything you will do to it.

Gentling a horse sometimes stops when the

horse can be successfully haltered because

training it's useable skills starts. There are many

horses who are “broke” to ride that have not fully

been gentled. Because of this you have lots of

problems down the road when handling the horse.

Gentling a horse to the human touch can

help not only you but also your farrier, vet, and

anyone else who makes a living out of caring for

horses and their health. Gentling a horse can be a

slow process or it can be a speedy one depending

on the personality of the horse. But no matter how

long it takes, you must do it. Once you have

reached a level that allows you to touch even the

horses most sensitive parts (under the tail head,

the nose, ears, teats, mouth) you will find the

horse becomes a much calmer animal during

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -145-human interaction.

I am including this in the ground work

section because it goes hand in hand with what we

are establishing on the ground through the use of

halters, cavessons, and ropes – trust & control.

You start gentling a horse by touching him

in a way that is firm yet comfortable. Just like a

human, horses don't like to be man handled.

Firm, steady hands are more comforting to a

horse than soft, anxious hands.

Use your hands to explore the horse

looking always for signs of agitation. Start at the

shoulder area going with the hair, stroke your

horses torso and neck, in a soothing voice tell her

“good girl” as she stands relaxed.

Watch her ears and her tail for any

agitation brought on by a certain area being

touched. Pinning of the ears or a twitching of the

tail is her warning that she doesn't like being

touched there and is the alert that she could kick

or bite so be aware. If you see this agitation

brewing tell her in a firm tone “knock it off” or

“quit it” or correct her with a tap to tell her your

displeased but continue to touch the area and tell

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -146-her good girl if she accepts it. Use caution and


Correct any negative behavior associated

with touching any area but do not give up just

because she is agitated. Go right back to petting

her there. A gentle but firm, persistant approach

is necessary.

I had a 12 year old Leopard Appaloosa who

was totally broke but had never been gentled. He

could not stand being touched and grooming him

was a nightmare. You had to tie him as he would

try and bite you and even with his head tied he

would try to cow kick you.

I would walk up to him while he was eating

and he always pinned his ears flat. I often pet my horses while they are eating, just as if to say hi. Its

just a little pat on the head or neck. Well he would

have none of that and I noticed his right side was

worse off then his left. I would yell at him when I

saw the ears back and continue to pet him with

firm hands. He got over some of his issues but

continued to be a fierce biter, more so towards

other people than me .

My daughter became rather attached to

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -147-him and tried to befriend him. On one instance he

came after her while she was playing near the

fence and tried to bite her in the face. I sold him

shortly afterward because no horse is worth my

daughters safety.

Everything else was fine with the horse. He

was great looking, in good health, and a nice ride.

But he was never gentled to a point of safe

handling. He serves as an example of why we

must take care to turn out a well mannered and

balanced animal, because some bad habits, can be

very dangerous. Maybe he could have been

retrained but I just didn't feel the risk was worth

it. My children will always come first.

Gentling is also important because it is a

way in which we can see that something may be

wrong physically with a horse. If they all of a

sudden show agitation to being handled in a

certain area, that they never reacted to before,

chances are something is painful in that spot.

If all of a sudden a touch to a horses flank

area or belly results in a cow kick then your horse

may be getting ready to colic. If you run your

hands down her legs and all of a sudden your

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -148-mare jerks her leg away, maybe she has some pain

in that leg. Being able to touch her body will help

you understand when something physical is

askew or starting to go wrong.

Start out with gentling your horse

completely and do little refresher lessons here and

there. The more you touch her body, the more

relaxed she will become with it.

Ground control exercises start out with the

act of haltering a horse. Haltering a horse allows

us to have control of it's head. The horse

understands the halter so well that even a horse

who would normally put up a fuss without the

halter on will immediately act submissive the

moment it goes on. Once you have the head, the

horses body will follow.

Haltering a horse should be easy and

smooth. If your horse runs away from you when

he sees you coming with halter and lead rope,

don't be discouraged. This bad behavior is fairly

common but it does need to be dealt with.

You need to deal with it by being

persistent. Chances are that somewhere in this

horses past he learned he could stay with his herd

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -149-if he just wore down the person who was coming

for him with the halter. In this case he learned

that he was rewarded with the release of the

humans pressure. The human gave up, pressure is

released, he can go back to grazing. The human

beings presence should not result in pressure so

much so the horse wants to flee, if the horse has

been successfully desensitized to humans. The

horse should not see being haltered as a frightful

experience. The horse that flees at being caught is

afraid of either the human or the halter.

To determine which, simply walk into the

pasture without the halter. Does the horse still

flee? If so he needs further gentling and

desensitization work done towards humans. If he

stands fine and doesn't flee it is the halter. And

somewhere down the road the halter has either

not been worked with enough, lead him into a bad

experience that he doesn't want to repeat, or has

caused him physical pain itself by improper use.

Sometimes it is not the wearing of the

halter that has produced the fear, but the way the

animal is handled while having it put on. Maybe

this horse needs more gentling to the ears or the

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -150-face. Like I said before, gentling a horse will allow

you to reap untold advantages in the future.

Maybe in the past someone was really rough while

putting it on and it caused the horse pain. Maybe

they practiced the unsafe habit of leaving the

halter on and it rubbed the horse till there was a

sore. Or maybe the horse was beaten with a halter

out of frustration from someone who just couldn't

stand the horses fussing about over it. Who

knows, but it could be any of these reasons.

It is rarely the reason most people think of

first, the horse is lazy and doesn't want to work. A

horse will work until it drops over dead. Sure they

prefer their idle time of grazing but they don't flee

from work if work is presented correctly from the

start. In a way you must even desensitize a horse

to work. If a horse is handled regularly from the

start and is asked to complete tasks, work

becomes just another part of life.

If a horse is left for years to become set in

its ways, then work may pose a problem. But it is

a problem easily fixed by introducing work as a

way of life. You must desensitize them to working

with humans on a regular basis. Training in a way

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -151-is just the series of desensitizing a horse to work.

I have also seen a horse that is hard to

catch be the lowest member of the herd. In a herd

the low man always flees the more confident

members. Their first response is to move out of

the way, even if it is a human rather than a horse,

coming towards them.

Be diligent, be determined, and don't give

up on the hard to catch horse. But don't chase it

around either. Chasing a horse is never a good

idea with the exception of working them in the

round pen and then it isn't really chasing. One

way to outsmart him is to interact with the other

members of the herd first. If you walk out into the

field with the halter in plain sight, (never try to

hide it behind your back) and start paying

attention to the other animals in a pleasurable

way, he will want to come to you. He may be

hesitant but he is watching the other horses and

seeing how they react. He may not come the very

first time, you may have to repeat it a few times.

He will start to relax around you because the

other herd members do. This is his natural

instincts kicking in.

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -152-Always reach out and pet first. Make

contact with him first by touch not treat. Keep

your hand steady and confident. When he is

standing there relaxed slip a lead rope across his

neck and hold him with just that. Pet him and

relax him and then try haltering him. When the

halter is on and he is relaxed then give him his

share. And go on about your business like nothing

was ever wrong.

Do this a couple of times and then try it

again without the help of the herd. Be confident,

walk right up to him. Never sneak around. Try to

look at him without making to much eye contact.

A shy horse sees this as too much pressure, it will

make him move. If he starts to move, just release

pressure by standing still and looking at the

ground or turning away. If you approach from the

rear you will also have more of a chance of making

him flee. Try to direct your approach from the

front slightly off to the side. Put the lead rope over

his neck, give him a little rub down and halter


After a few sessions of nothing bad

happening to him, he will start to accept this

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -153-activity as routine. You can reward this good

behavior with a treat but only after he successfully

complies. Don't hold out a carrot and grab him

when he comes for it. This is bribery, and bribery

only gets you so far. You want to be able to

complete any task without the use of treats. You

won't always have them on hand. The treat comes

afterward and try to make this a “surprise” treat.

Sometimes they get it, sometimes they don't.

Now lets talk about halters because they

are not all the same. I prefer a rope halter with

knots for pressure. This halter will give you better

control and it can be used for correction the horse

understands promptly. A quick jerk down

provides pressure to the sensitive area of the

horses nose/face and he understands it as a

correction. Flat nylon halters do nothing. Rope

halters are inexpensive and are invaluable.

If you have a horse that likes to back up

and throw its head when you want it tied, this

halter will solve that. Every time the horse throws

itself backwards the knots provide a little pain and

pressure. The horse learns quickly that it is

hurting only itself by doing this behavior.

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -154-Get a rope halter and just try it, once you

do you will never own a nylon halter for training.

With your halter on, you will snap on a lead

rope and set off on the many tasks of working a

horse from the ground.

I want you to learn that from the ground

you are teaching the horse to yield to pressure.

Pressure comes in two forms, from physical

applied pressure, and the anticipation of physical

applied pressure.

A horse will move out of my way if I walk

directly towards his shoulder with confidence

even if I never make contact with him if he has

successfully been trained. That is because he

anticipates the pressure and he is moving away

from it, releasing himself from it.

I want to teach you more about the attitude

and the mindset you need to have while

performing these fundamental tasks. It is so

simple it is too simple for a human to accept.

Working a horse on the ground is teaching

him to communicate with you. You are holding a

conversation through moving your bodies. The

animal who is moving his feet the most is the

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -155-more submissive of the two. The leader is

applying the pressure, the submissive is moving

away from the pressure, and the leader is

releasing the pressure.

That is the easiest way to assess who is

control in your equine relationship. If you are

constantly moving out of the way of your horse, he

is in control. If when you enter the pasture with a

feed bucket you have to run away to dump it

before being trampled, well your horse has

successfully just controlled you. If when you have

him on the lead he is jerking you across the road

to get at some grass, he has moved you in the way

he wanted you too. He is leading, you are


This is why lunging works to establish

control. You stay stationary in the center and

apply pressure to move the horse. His feet are

constantly moving, where as you are barely

moving around in the same spot.

People don't seem to get the fact that a

horse who gets away with even the slightest

infraction will believe he is now in control. Every

little detail of his training must be taken seriously.

Human Equine Relationship Development

H.E.R.D -156-Even if it is something so tiny as him eating grass

while you are trying to lead him. Correct even the

smallest bypass of the leader/follower role.

Ground control is just that, control

displayed from the ground. It will help you in

riding your horse but let's face facts, most people

spend more hours out of the saddle than it it with

their horses. Having an animal that respects your

space and follows your lead will enable you to

handle him with ease in every day situations.

Feeding, grooming, leading, trailering, having him

stand for the vet or farrier, cleaning out his stalls,

working in his area, all become safer and easier


Human Equine Relationship Development


H.E.R.D -157-Chapter 7

Ride With Me, Not Against Me

No book about horses would be complete

without the inclusion of riding. In all honesty that

is what makes the horse most useful to humans.

And that is probably the sole reason the horse

still remains a source of pleasure, rather than a

source of food for humans.

There are many different ways in which

humans do use horses besides riding. There are