Category Archives: Horses

Feet In His Hands

“When I am working with a person and his horse, I can help him get in a position so the horse can find the response we are working for. Trying to put this into words so a reader can get a picture of what is taking place is not easy for me. Some of the terminology may cause a problem, like the rider who didn’t have much idea what was meant by the expression, “the horse’s feet are stuck.” There are a lot of things that way, it seems. The expression “hunting up spot” is sometimes a new expression to a rider, but as we work on things together the rider begins to recognize this stage in the horses learning process. The rider needs to experience this as well as the horse.
In Nevada one fall a fellow was riding a colt. The weather warmed up, and this fellow decided to shed is coat. This caused the colt to want to shed the rider. The fellow wasn’t very bothered so I told him he could use the horse’s little bothered spot to get the horse used to moving with him. He just took the colt in a circle, and when the colt let down you could see the horse soften. The horse got so the curve of his body was fitting the curve the person was traveling. It wasn’t bent one way while the rider was traveling the other way.
The rider could feel the horse soften. The horse felt good to the rider and lightened up on the head. His feet were alive and they were responsive. It almost looked like the rider had the horses feet in his hands.”

Tom Dorrance

Photo by: Camille Vivier (as written on Pinterest) I own no rights to this photo.

Photo by: Camille Vivier
(as written on Pinterest)
I own no rights to this photo.

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Filed under Animals, Horses, Human & Animal Interactions, Inspiration and Idols, Quotes

… What are you really saying?

Most of the time our bodies say one thing and our emotions another.

You ask a horse to go over a higher jump than you’re used to. You try to convince your horse (and anyone watching) that you’re very confident and relaxed about the whole thing. But inside your thoughts and feelings are a whirlwind. Nervousness, whether physically expressed or not, is still nervousness.

There’s nothing bad about it! About a year ago I wrote an article about fear and how sometimes it can be a really good thing to listen to. So it’s not about not being nervous. It’s about working with that until you can truly be confident for yourself and your animal. So maybe don’t take that huge jump until you’ve worked yourself up to it and can take it confidently.

Our animals can sense our nervousness or other emotions we may be “hiding” and naturally think, “If she’s nervous… how nervous should I be?? Is there something dangerous about this?”

Trying to hide feelings around animals is useless. It doesn’t make a difference, so you might as well be upfront about it. They can sense and smell everything. When you feel an unwanted emotion, take a break and ponder why you feel that way before continuing your training.

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Unknown photographer.
I own no rights to this photo.

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Filed under Dogs, Handling Emotions, Horses, Human & Animal Interactions, Humans

Guts & Determination

“You have to have guts and determination if you want to look for what I’m talking about. If you don’t, that don’t make you wrong. 
What do you want to do or accomplish and what are you capable of accomplishing? 
It’s your concentration, your coordination and your reflexes in that order. But the concentration isn’t near deep enough.
You say ‘Oh he might spook, he might buck, he might fall down, he might rear.’ 
So look at what he’s working with!
He knows you can’t handle it and that don’t make him wrong to know that you can’t handle it. 
He might do any of those things because something might scare him or he might slip and fall at any time and yet the people can’t handle that……..but they want to go on with their horse. 
If he turns around quick, they fall off!
So confidence is knowing that you are prepared for the unthinkable and I don’t know how you are going to get that without experience……..that still don’t make you wrong. 
You know where you’re at, you should know your capabilities. That’s no sin and no crime. 
You’re being honest with your fellow man. 
You’re being honest with your horse; you’re trying to keep him out of trouble.”

- Ray Hunt.

From an article that appeared in The Eclectic Horseman Magazine ‘Words of Wisdom from Ray Hunt’ -

Unknown Photographer I own no rights to this Photo

Unknown Photographer
I own no rights to this Photo

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Filed under Handling Emotions, Horses, Human & Animal Interactions, Humans, Inspiration and Idols, Quotes

Do You Want To Be Even More Comfortable?

Hey everyone! At the moment I’m looking around for a new horse here in Germany – gender doesn’t matter, should be at least 1,50 tall and between 1.5-5 years old. If you hear of anything good let me know!

Speaking of young horses, I’ve played around with a neat concept with the young Arabians I’m starting. So if you know about Parelli’s method or you practice some form of Horsemanship, you’re familiar with the idea that your horse should learn to release to the slightest amount of pressure.

To ask a horse to lower his head while you’re on the ground, the Parelli Program would have you put pressure behind the horse’s ears on the poll. When the horse puts his head down even the tiniest bit, you release (remove your hand).

With some horses this can take a while, and you’re standing with them out in the pasture or arena with a sore arm thinking… When is he just going to lower his head??? It is negative reinforcement.

And I thought to myself, how could I cause my horse to lower his head because he wants to feel even better? I’m not putting pressure on him, which doesn’t feel good, so he would move his head down to get “away from me”. Instead I make him feel good and relaxed so that he practically can’t keep his head up.

And what makes people and horse’s muscles relax? Massage!

I tried it out and massaged this gelding’s poll and his head just dropped to the ground (this was a horse that I could rarely get to lower his head with a light feel). So… that worked! I moved my fingers in deep, slow and soothing circular motions. His muscles were so stiff from having his head high constantly that he physically couldn’t stay stiff when I gave him a kind of neck massage.

The second time I tried it I hadn’t even touched his head and he lowered it on his own. Now I’m playing around to see what other techniques I could alter a bit to make the horse more comfortable.


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Filed under Behavioral musings, Horses

Your Idea, His Idea

“The horse knows. He knows the human twenty to one. It’s amazing how much he’ll get out of things, how he’ll fill in for as little as the human knows about him. 
How that horse can handle it has always been a mystery to me. Put yourself in his shoes to live your whole life where no one knows who you really are. Well, I haven’t met a human yet who compares to a horse. A human couldn’t take it. 
See, you can get a horse to do something if you’re tough enough, just like you can with a human. 
But a willing communication is a different matter. 
You fix it so the horse can try, then you allow him to work it out. You have to give him that dignity. You make your idea his idea.
I believe these colts, I trust them. 
I always trust they can buck too. Don’t think they won’t.
Just keep fixing it up and let them find it. Don’t try to make it happen. 
Prepare to position for the transition. The transition is the last thing that happens. And don’t try to be boss.”

- Ray’s words are from an article ‘Ray Hunt: The Cowboy Sage’ written by Gretel Ehrlich and appeared in the Shambhala Sun, July 1998.

500px / Photo "look" by Yevgeniy Zhenikov

500px / Photo “look” by Yevgeniy Zhenikov

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Filed under Horses, Human & Animal Interactions, Inspiration and Idols, Quotes

Using Grass as a Tool

Some people complain about their horse always diving down to eat grass instead of listening to them.

How can we turn that behavior into something that will benefit us? For starters, you won’t have to spend money on horse treats – just bend over and pack a fist-full of fresh stems! Much healthier for your horse, anyways…

But why not get rid of your horse’s habit and gain their interest in what you’re asking of them at the same time? I start out by making a “rule” between me and a horse that I don’t want them pulling me towards the grass or going down to eat it whenever they have the tiniest opportunity (you know how some horses are…).

I put a lot of pressure on my horse when they want to go down to eat grass while we’re doing something. When they come to me or do what I had asked for, we take a break and I give them a huge handful of grass or allow them to graze for a moment. That way I become their doorway to eating. Through working with me and paying attention, they get what they want!

You’d be surprised how fast horses get the hang of this “game”. Right when they notice how they can get to their treat, they’ll act fast!

Unknown Photographer I own no rights to this Photograph.

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Filed under Behavioral musings, Food, Horses

Who’s Yielding?

“Wait for his feet. No matter if you miss your lunch, just hang in there. He is trying to push and get you to yield. He is on his own pressure; you are just fixing it. Don’t try to move his feet. Leave that to him.”

- Tom Dorrance

Unknown Photographer I own no rights to this picture

Unknown Photographer
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Filed under Animals, Horses

Holding Vs. Pulling

I once had a teacher tell me that, when a horse pulls on a lead rope, to become a tree.

This meant a few things. I should be rooted and centered (not go flying off after the horse, but to “hold my ground”, in a way) and not to pull back on the horse. If the horse pulls, I just hold the rope but not pull or lean on it. So that when the horse stops pulling there is immediately some slack in that rope. If I pulled, I would consciously have to release the rope when the horse releases and my timing would be off. It would not be as fast as the instant release the horse would get if I simply held the rope. Even if that time difference is a mere few seconds – it makes a difference.

This concept came back to me in the form of a fence post while reading Zen Mind, Zen Horse by Hamilton MD, Allan J. On page 58 he wrote:

“For me, the fence post is the perfect symbol of impeccability because the post never gets angry or impatient. Many horsemen have pointed out that a fence post exerts pressure only when the horse exerts pressure upon it. It pulls back with precisely the amount of force the horse applies. If the horse relents the slightest bit – pulls a fraction of a gram less – the post “responds” and releases. It rewards the horse for his slightest attempt.

In its responses, the fence post represents total clarity, perfection and detachment. The simple fence post will therefore serve as our inspirational symbol of an impeccable teacher. The post’s responses are merely natural reflections of the horse’s actions. So, in a Zen-like fashion, we should endeavor to become fence posts and challenge ourselves to be as quiet, detached, and proficient as they are.”

Fence Post at Sunset Kansas Scott Bean Photography

Fence Post at Sunset Kansas Scott Bean Photography

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Filed under Behavioral musings, Handling Emotions, Horses, Human & Animal Interactions, Humans, Inspiration and Idols, Quotes

A Horse’s Center

“On my horses I am continually fixing and releasing. You can’t hold them in the center. I have been teaching clinics for 20 years, so my observations are based on fact; the least centered horses that I come into contact with are dressage horses. (Now don’t think for a minute that I am bad-mouthing dressage, because when it is done correctly by a good hand, it’s beautiful, it doesn’t get any better.) I am talking about the rider who does not let their horse find center and choose to be there; I am talking about the one who over confines the horse and tries to hold him in the right spot. Their horses blow right through the front line, and if it’s an oppressive enough rider, they go right through the line in back and get their horse dull to the leg. It can happen with any horse in any type of gear with an oppressive rider.

Where riders get into trouble is that they don’t give their horse enough room to find the center. They are going to make him do it, by being oppressive in the way that they ride. They think they can force the horse to the center and then hold him there. But the horse has to hunt it, you can’t make him be there. It doesn’t matter how you dress a horse up, it’s all the same. Getting a horse organized and on the spot is the same no matter what you are doing.”

- Buck Brannaman

From an article written by Buck titled ‘Centering Your Horse’ which appeared in the ‘Eclectic Horseman Magazine’ issue number 7 -


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Filed under Horses, Quotes

The Alphabet

“A boy is a long time before he knows his alphabet, longer still before he has learned to spell, and perhaps several years before he can read clearly; and yet there are people who, as soon as they get on a young horse, entirely undressed and untaught, fancy that by beating and spurring they will make him a dressed horse in one day only. I would fain ask such stupid people whether by beating a boy, they would teach him to read without first showing him the alphabet? They would beat him to death before they would make him read.”

 Duke of Newcastle.

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Unknown Photographer
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Filed under Horses, Quotes, Teaching Tricks