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20 things your horse is trying to tell you

20 Things Your Horse is Trying to Tell You

This is a guest post from Maxie Heppell from Elite Equine. Please make sure you head over and check out their amazing range of supplements.

In the 2000 movie What Women Want, the main character gains the ability to hear what women are really thinking.

Have you ever just wished you could step into your horse’s thoughts for a while?

International speaker and professional coach Stacy Westfall shares her years of insight in this week’s post. Get ready for a rather interesting conversation…!


#1: Lunging on line, horse constantly picks up wrong lead

Your horse: “When I pick up this lead, they slow me down and I get a short break.”

Solution: Ask for more engaged lope which will cause a flying lead change.


#2: He has anxiety, is good one day and very anxious the next

Your horse: “Yesterday I was relaxed, and she tried a bunch of new things… what will she try new today?”

Solution: Build a solid foundation of predictable routines. When introducing new concepts always begin with the known and introduce small changes. If anxious, return to the known.


#3: Horse doesn’t move forward willingly under saddle

Your horse: “We go 2 laps and then stop… Let’s stop at 1. Or why go at all?”

Solution: Don’t fully stop as often as a reward. Create rewards that involve forward motion. Example: Trot, jog, trot, jog, trot, jog transitions for 10 laps around the arena.


#4: Jigging on trail rides

Your horse: “I wanna go, I wanna go, I wanna go!”

Solution: Bring the horse back to a walk and release. The horse will trot. Repeat until the horse realizes it is his responsibility to maintain the walk. (This is 20x more effective if you also hug with your legs when slowing him with reins).


#5: Not knowing what to do next

Your horse: “We do the same thing every day.” OR “I don’t know what my rider wants, I’ll try this… or this… or this…”

Solution: Look for someone who is further down the training path and try exercises in that direction. Or create a clear plan, even if it is simple and short. Example” Trot five, twenty-foot circles without breaking gait.


#6: When he gets uptight about a situation, he stops listening to me. Do I need to be more understanding or tougher in my ask?

Your horse: “When things get confusing, my rider becomes inconsistent… which makes me anxious. I wish I could ask questions!”

Solution: View your horse as asking questions. If he is not listening, he could be reporting; you’re scare, you’re boring, you’re confusing…


#7: Lunging, horse cross fires (correct lead in front, incorrect lead in hind).

Your horse: “I get to stop when I disengage my hip and turn in to face her. I want to disengage and go in.”

Solution: Slow horse from one gait down to the next without disengaging. Step back to invite horse to turn in with front end instead of disengaging.


#8: When you worry about getting hurt

Your horse: “My rider seems anxious and insecure… something must be wrong!”

Solution: Fear is real. What is it trying to tell you? Do you need more knowledge? More steps? Does your horse lack training? What is your fear pointing toward and what small steps can you build to reassure yourself that things are really okay?


#9: When mounting, my horse won’t stand still when I put my foot in the stirrup

Your horse: “She mounts. We go. Her I go!!!”

Solution: Train the horse to pick you up from a mounting block. When you do a mount, sit for the length of your favorite song before moving. If these seem too difficult, more groundwork is needed.


#10: No arena to ride in

Your horse: “We kinda wander around together…”

Solution: If your horse can walk, trot and lope in his pasture, there is a good chance you can also ride there. Get creative and be specific. 


#11: Walks like she’s drunk

Your horse: “She pulls on the left rein – I go left. She pulls on the right rein – I go right. I just want to go!”

Solution: No matter who started this, it takes two to play the game. Your horse is ready to learn how to spiral out, which is the beginning of true shoulder control… and cures the wobbly steering.


#12: He seems bored and tunes me out, but I don’t know what the next steps are to keep him mentally engaged

Your horse: “Day after day. Same thing. I can predict, yep, knew that was coming. I can do this half asleep. Ooh, pretty butterfly!”

Solution: Bored horses are great! They are reporting that they are ready to step up to the next level of difficulty. Are you ready?


#13: Lead departure isn’t smooth

Your horse: “What?! We are walking and you said… was that a lope cue?”

Solution: Prepare the horse with cues. Move to a collected walk and raise the energy level in the walk. Be consistent with the cue and reinforce it. Prepare, cue, reinforce.


#14: Not enough time to train my horse

Your horse: “I’m wild and free! With perks! Feed me now! Thanks, I’m gone!”

Solution: If you feed twice a day, can you add 15 minutes to each feeding? Use the time to move your horse and require small polite behaviours.


#15: Head tossing on trail rides

Your horse: “I’m doing fine without your interference; I pick this path around the mud.”

Solution: Double-check your hand position and the clarity of your cues. Head tossing can be the horse not understanding the proper response, the rider’s hands being inconsistent, or lack of practice in ‘good times’, i.e., not when crossing the mud.


#16: My horse doesn’t like the bit

Your horse: “I don’t understand what to do.”

Solution: If the equine dentist has seen him, it is likely he doesn’t understand how the bit communicates. It is your job to educate him with gentle confidence.


#17: Keeping my horse from cutting in on a 20m circle at a lope. I use my inside leg and my weight is more on the inside to push him out. What am I doing wrong?

Your horse: “When I lope, my rider leans to the inside, so I try to get under her by moving inside. Then she leans more… so I lean more.”

Solution: View the circle as a series of short, straight lines. Use both legs to drive the horse straight forward. This will keep you centered and encourage him to engage.


#18: Liberty lunging: he wants to be too close when he circles around me

Your horse: “When I get close to you, I get to stop and rest.”

Solution: Build a reward into being further away from you. Example: Teach him to stop on the circle without turning to face you while he is 5 feet (1,5m) away from you.


#19: Won’t stay in spin

Your horse: “Half the time we leave here and go out to a trot circle. That’s easier, let’s go out there.”

Solution: Reward the horse inside the spin by stopping in the spin. If you do leave to work on body position, be sure the trot circle requires as much engagement and effort, or more, than the spin itself.


#20: Me learning to teach lateral movement

Your horse: “Um, this is confusing… did you want this? Or this?”

Solution: Be forgiving with both of you. Think forward, slight left, forward, forward, forward, slight left… forward, forward, forward, slight left… repeat. Record yourself for 5 minutes and watch immediately. Repeat.


#21 (Bonus): Your horse wants what the other horses have

Your horse: “(whining) I want to a shine like Milly down the road too…”

Solution: Visit our online shop now! Your horse will not only find her shine in our Elite Equine 100% organic rosehip supplement. Its powerful anti-inflammatory action lends new life and protection to the joints of active and aging horses alike.