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Finding out what makes your horse tick Part 1

The beginning of this article might look familiar. At our last Fun Horse Day Ben demonstrated and talked about ‘Finding out what makes your horse tick’. For everyone who missed out on the talk or would like more details, this is the first part of his talk.


When I first came across the concept of horsemanship and understanding horse behaviour, I was amazed at how much it helped me understand the horses that I worked with. Suddenly a lot of the things that really frustrated, me about horses, made perfect sense and I had many light bulb moments. It changed my world and I looked at horses in a completely different light.

If I look back at all that I’ve learned over the years, the one thing that made the biggest difference was finding out what makes horses tick. As I developed my ability to understand and read horse behaviour, I was able to achieve a greater degree of communication, harmony and connection with horses.

The most important thing that we can get from horse behaviour is information. All behaviour is the horse’s way of giving us feedback about where they are at on a mental, emotional and physical level. The more we are able to read and understand what the horse is telling us the more we can improve the way we respond and the better our relationship and communication with our horse will be.



Understanding what drives your horse’s behaviour

Horses can display lots of behaviours that can be confusing and dangerous to us and we can become disconnected, fearful and even angry, because we don’t understand their behaviour. The key to understanding horses and dissolving unwanted behaviour, doesn’t lie in addressing the behaviour but rather in addressing the cause of the behaviour. All horse behaviour is caused by the horses’ emotions. Horses’ emotions are caused by the way they perceive things. Therefore, if we can change the way horses see something we can also change their response to it.

Let’s take bucking, which is a very common behavioural symptom that horses display. Horses can buck for lots of different reasons. Some of the common causes of bucking are:

  • Fear; horses can buck as a flight reflex to having a saddle or rider on their back. Horses can also buck as a result of feeling scared and overwhelmed by pressure.
  • Exuberance; horses can buck because they are feeling exuberant or because they have lots of supressed exuberance and energy.
  • Laziness; horses can also buck because they are lazy and unwilling to go forwards and therefore buck as a protest.

Although a horse might display the behaviour of bucking, the cause of the bucking can be many different things. Finding the cause is the first step, which means identifying the emotion that is driving the horse’s bucking behaviour and finding out what is triggering the horse to feel that way.

If the horse is bucking out of fear because it doesn’t like the feel of the saddle, then addressing the horse’s fear of the saddle by doing more specific groundwork exercises will dissolve the horse’s fear about the saddle and therefore dissolve the bucking.

If the horse is bucking because it’s feeling exuberant, then by giving the horse a way to express its exuberance in a safe and productive way, the horse will no longer feel the need to express its exuberance in inconvenient situations. Once we understand what causes the horse’s behaviour, we can have a more empowered response to the behaviour and prevent it rather than trying to fix it.

Keep an eye out for the second part of this article, it’s coming soon…

If you have problems with your horse and are not sure what drives your horse’s behaviour, then our assessments might be for you.

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