Monday, December 20, 2010

How Do Horses Think?

Equine Musings 

I have a little book called, “Horse Miracles,” by Brad Steiger and Sherry Hansen Steiger.  It’s a great collection of inspirational and otherwise horse stories, mostly true.

Thinking of my last post and the comment about “not a care in the world,” I recalled a passage I thought I’d like to share. 

It’s from a chapter in the book on horse whisperers and communicators.  In it, a horseman and communicator named Bill Northern  gave his perspective on what horses think of humans. 

He says that, “in general, horses think that humans are around the provide services for them.  If a horse’s owner is late bringing its oats for dinner, the horse thinks, ‘What’s wrong with so-and-so? Why is my dinner late.”  A dog, in a similar situation thinks, ‘What have I done wrong to deserve a late meal? I’ll try to do better.’  And a cat grouses, ‘The chow is late. I’m going to go kill something.’” 

Perfect!! *LOL*

Northern goes on to say that horses have great pride and will often misbehave when they feel insulted or demeaned.   So, if you are having trouble with your horse, perhaps you need to apologize for having called him/her a bad name.

The story goes on, “A horse’s pride tells it that it is smarter than its owner, Northern advises horse owners, ‘If he can understand you , and you can’t understand him, he’s probably correct.’ “

Knowing my Boys, I am learning to believe this more and more. I have always found that if I treat them with respect, they generally return the favor. 

I’m sure some people might find it silly, but when I have to get one of my horses to move out of my way, I usually say, “Excuse me.”    I can still remember one time tapping my PJ lightly with a dressage whip to get him to quickly step out of the way of another horse in the barn aisle.  The look he gave me as he moved out of the way was so obviously insulted that I never did that again.  Of course, I apologized, but that expression still affects me when I think of it.

So maybe, just maybe, when we are thinking of training, we need to think more of “asking” our horses to work instead of “telling.”  We might get farther.

Unless you are riding Tucker—in which case he’s the one doing the “telling. “  *G* 


  1. Anonymous4:50 PM

    I think treating your horse with courtesy and respect is only good sense - why else should they want to do anything with us?

  2. I agree with you and the animal communicator. If you don't treat them with respect you can't expect any in return. They have a lot of pride and I can pick out a few in my barn who really do think they are waaaay smarter than me. And now that I'm thinking of it, they are, after all I'm doing all the work and they get all the benefits. Sometimes you'd think I asked for the hugest favor if they are ridden for a half and hour here and there.I feel I should apologize for putting them out and interrupting their grazing for a few minutes once in a while.

  3. I with the others on this. If we want them to trust us we need to treat them with respect.