Horsemanship Questions

Who was the first natural horseman?

Simon of Athens, whose work is sadly lost was considered by Xenophon some twenty three centuries ago to have been such a person. Read my book (available shortly by download) to find out what I think about people who had read his works in antiquity, then adopted the secrets contained therein as demonstrated by their successful horsemanship and lives.

What is the most important emotion which humanity shares with equines, at the same level?

Fairness is I believe the only one. It is also my secret to the patterned control that is the physical element giving horses something to depend on about humanity. It’s only then through this emotionality that they can associate fairness into our relationship with them - to help them see their world through our eyes.

Why do horses learn from repetition?

Horses love patterns as much as we appear to do and I often think they show a natural autism in their natures as prey animals as a result, if things go wrong. The different gaits of horses are perhaps their best audible communication; when the rhythm breaks as one horse slips, every horse that hears it becomes unsettled.

What is your biggest secret of training horses?

Young horses get bored easily, so humans must be aware that through repetition, normally minded horses learn quicker than we could ever possibly imagine. Every moment I see any horse anticipate my repetition in training, I determine from this body language that a neural connection has been made and it makes me stop instantly, to nurture and hold its development. I instantly reward the horse by getting off and giving praise, to imaginatively stabilise the synapses. I will then leave any such training manoeuvre well alone. When the horse has responded in such a way for up to a week or even longer, I allow the horse to digest or pass the concept into its long-term memory.The beauty of this training development is that the horse relates to such an activity so naturally and passively, allowing the manoeuvre to be passed with no further persecution into its long term memory. The next time I train the manoeuvre, I’ll perceive, a dramatic improvement.

If you have all the answers, why aren’t you demonstrating your horsemanship as a showman and earning lots of money from so doing?

Strangely my most powerful realisations don’t lend themselves to dramatic displays of horsemanship, because they rely on horses reflecting about how they should react to humanity over time. Watching someone stimulating a horse in such a way, is so transient that such a demonstration would be over very quickly, and the proof that it worked will often be some days away. Even the primary reaction is so transient that the slightest try is so easily missed by most people, even when they are sitting on the horse. Certainly it would not be considered very entertaining or believable if I leapt off and declared it had happened, then asking the audience to come back a week later to see the improvement! Most equine showman will probably be aware anyway of what I’m explaining here, and as they know that its use in demonstrations is unusable; it is of no interest to them. Once I have explained the logic “of the slightest try” to students whose horses you may only see once a week, its use can soon demonstrate dramatic improvements.

Can you use passive horsemanship to start horses? 

Prevention is always better than any cure, so I believe that when starting horses use of the ‘slightest try’ is more affective than at any other time of a horse’s life. This is because at this point it is a case of teaching horses how to learn. From the time a horse is born right up until he is big enough to be ridden is absolutely the best time to prepare them for life. The beauty is that this phase happens so quickly that they’ll never realise anything has happened. Sadly however, working horses in hand is something that many people are not interested in perfecting with an instructor although it’s truthfully the most important thing to get right. Being clever enough to see a colt allow someone to put their hand on its back and then have the confidence to know it was a good lesson is simply the most important knowledge to acquire for any aspiring horseman. This is because the hand was only taken away when the colt was relaxed and can then be sent off happily with time to think about it. When the horse is finally ‘backed’, the biggest lesson I can impart is strangely to get off it again, just as soon as the horse accepts the situation passively.

What is the biggest mistake people make with young horsess?

They get greedy. Just because the animal let someone sit on him, doesn’t mean they can school him for an hour. Rather, it just means that the horse will allow them to do it unconcernedly again next week. He will tell you when it’s time to do something else.

How will I know when to do more?

You must be prepared to see the difference between anxiety and boredom. For example, when the horse gets bored and starts yawning he is learning. Then, is the time to open the gate and ride to his field and get off to let him go. You will have achieved more than you can possibly imagine. Anxiety is often shown when a horse paws the ground and it’s often the time to use the emotion as a valuable asset to the horses’ education. Simply leave the animal tied up to get over it on its own, so you can come back later and finally relieve the situation. This way a horse will learn to value your company.

Are some horses mentally disturbed?

Yes, they are sadly much more common than most horse breeders will readily admit to. This is due to inbreeding techniques as an unavoidable by-product of selective breeding. Although the industry has sought to minimise the destructive elements of inbreeding, the situation is unlikely to change because it works. However, for many of us who love horses in-breeding is a distasteful pass time. The issue is complex - and we must realistically consider that all of us ride horses subjected to selective inbreeding through their long centuries of domestication. Read my book for more revelations of how to recognise such animals - an important skill for any aspiring horseman.

How do you know when your competition horse has reached its full genetic potential?

You sadly only ever imagine you do, when your training or environmental information, becomes obviously detrimental to the horse’s continuing good health. Race horses with weak legs can physically break down under such strain. Likewise, reining horses with nervous temperaments, often leads to a mental burn out. All these problems could be mitigated, by those who train or compete with them, because the end product is subject to the trainers own genetic potential to become affective horsemen. One can never be sure that it wasn’t human input, which certainly could have caused such break downs, or on the other hand might have inspired a horse to become a winner. However there are other elements, which add significantly more strain to the combined human and equine potentiality.

A good example is historically where horses were once used in warfare for thousands of years, the main criteria being to breed horses on mass to create massed cavalry. In those days they needed horses that matured quickly, obeying even rough handling unquestionably and even when injured, literally battled on. Equine competition was invented in piece time to mimic such strains artificially, and this effort has left us dependably with the same old breeding criteria, still firmly in place today. Now-a-days, in a time where horses are no longer used in modern warfare, breed societies have purposely retained trials of all kinds, essentially because they worked in the past and still do today.Now-a-days, in a time where horses are no longer used in modern warfare, breed societies have purposely retained trials of all kinds, essentially because they worked in the past and still do today. The efforts to produce early maturing breeds have always been contentious, but this element still survives as a fundamental consideration, of selective breeding. Life in this respect is a gamble, for you and your horse but the most reliable way to influence success, is to compete or breed from such animals, which have genetically secured these qualities over many generations. Through the records of their forbears, you can consider realistically that they have great potential or that they have the ability to pass it forwards into their offspring. This was once particularly the case in Europe, where the art of defending a domain and overseeing such horse breeding activities became the work of generals and kings.

Today, it does not necessarily make you a horseman - if you breed horses then it just makes you a horse breeder. Even if you ride them it doesn’t automatically make you become a particularly talented equestrian or even less likely a potentially affluent sportsman.In practice for most of us in the UK, where superiorly western bred horses are still generally rare and very expensive, it is going to be much harder to succeed in competition without this strong advantage, because an elitist minority have embraced the obvious advantage very avidly. If you aren’t willing to mortgage your home to buy such animals, you must carefully consider the sanity of competing against such people who have obtained such horses, very carefully. There are those who just like to do so, to enjoy the general experience of competing, but in truth, they aren’t really competing because they are unlikely to be competitive. Not surprisingly those who compete on such unequal terms find the whole situation frustrating because the insinuation is often that it is their equestrian abilities, which are lacking.

Such people who do become successful often become elevated to positions of power, because they have the ability to offer their time and patronage freely. In truth they are usually sincere in believing that their success in competition was much easier to achieve than it really was, due to their ability to afford expensive horses. Not unsurprisingly this often convinces them of their superior equitational abilities. They are sadly very unlikely to accept the truth of what I have voiced here, that humanity has successfully selectively bred horses for thousands of years into vastly superior specimens. The ownership of such horses has always been a very alluring advantage, so much so that whole nations have been decimated many times to acquire superiorly bred horses in the past - just because their superior skill could even keep an inept equestrian alive.

Do horses have the ability to read our minds?

Yes, we undoubtedly feel they do, and probably instinctively, by using their advanced scenting abilities. It is considered that horses can smell water at a mile distance or a stallion a mare in season somewhat further. They probably differentiate our hormones and neural transmitters, by minutely sampling our breath and perspiration on a molecular level. While humanity as a species evolved speech, equines evolved this communicative ability to read each others status, as automatically as we determine depth and perspective; which they have little ability to do. They also learn from us at an incredible rate in ways that we never sadly imagine, while our perceived deductive superiority in the animal world has instinctually made us believe we have domain over them all.

However because ‘nature’ has to be balanced to work affectively, it appears to have purposely evolved this increasing inability deliberately to keep us in check. The natural world has always had its own safety systems, essentially to allow the natural diversity of all species to have survived a natural dependency on each other, and so to make everything work. It could well be that what we have already witnessed over the last five thousand years or so, is nature attempting to rebalance our superior evolution, and we are beginning to see it happening now at a faster rate than ever before. We can perhaps now see this process, as I believe humanity is increasingly losing its ability to communicate with animals generally and particularly equines, because of our technological advances. We no longer need to associate with them to survive, so our evolution in this respect has started to become increasingly diverted. Whilst you may not realise why this has happened or if the realisation will help you personally with your horsemanship, consider that putting your mind to such a realisation, might help us save the world.

Is it possible to invent new ways to communicate with horses?

No, because the communication must potentially already exist for you to have used it and so although you could have discovered it for yourself, you have not invented it. Everyone who thinks they have invented a new way should consider because of humanities’ long association with horses that someone somewhere, will have done it this way before. They may not have publicised such ability, but it’s almost certain that it’s been tried before.

How do I know if my horse loves me?

Horses do have very similar emotions to us, but they are aware of them at very different levels. It would seem that there are a few human emotions which horses don’t have at all; pity being the most notable. Affection is not one of them because happily some horses easily show it while others hardly seem to ever register affection at all. One of the problems with humanity is that we’re capable of unrequited love or affection and horses will eagerly accept such one-way relationships themselves. This means they instantly feel this mentality in us, and they naturally learn from it, using it to their own advantage too. The way you make a horse love you, is something that weak minded people have great problems with and it can cause them much speculation, because their affections are invariably unconditional. So the best way to make horses show affection is to ask them to do something for you, and reserve your affection for them when they do so. Strictly by this definition you must make them always earn it. The biggest problems occur when animal lovers feed horses unconditionally by hand; this is why it is often prohibited at professional equestrian establishments. If you feel the need to pet a horse, the animal must learn to accept the affection or it becomes a learning curve that it can resist you and some horses eagerly take it up. If a horse rubs off your affections to stroke its face, you should immediately insist that the horse allows you to do so by gripping its halter firmly, while holding your hand on perhaps its neck. Then, through an advance and retreat technique, work up to its head until it relaxes, before removing your hand the instant you feel it does so. Most people might feel that you have forced your affections on an unwilling animal; however you must understand that this isn’t because the horse dislikes you, rather, it is designed by nature to act in such a way. The animal may well have learnt from your reactions that this is the only situation when you will allow the horse to resist you, so it has become its only resort of showing you individuality freely in your presence. Such things are as emotionally important to horses, just as it is equally for lonely people to feel that their horse loves them, in so much as they have at least made a friend of their horse.

Is it wrong, for a riding instructor, to physically help a novice rider control their horse?

The simple answer is that it is not, when done correctly, to pass over the technique of control as a dextrous ability into the mind of the pupil. The problem is that the horse is engineered by nature, to learn from the pupil’s inabilities that it is possible to resist their effort. Horses will of course learn instantly, so if you are ineffective a riding instructor must sometimes help. Otherwise it often becomes impossible to stop a horse escalating a resistance to a higher level, because it has learnt through their release that they can prevail.

I’m often amazed to see how quickly horses learn from what I like to call ‘real situations’. And they do so to overcome the unsuspecting pupil as they also increase their effort afterwards, to repeat this ability. The horse will have learnt that a certain pupil will give up easily, so even when the pupil gets progressively better, usually at putting their body cues together, so does the horse try harder to ignore them. The horse is instantly remembering its initial success and increases its resistance. It is at this point that a pupil can easily decide that horse riding is not for them. This is not a situation that any riding instructor should allow to happen. So if a horse has been trained in hand to the extent that the instructor can take over in such a situation, they should do so or they will easily find themselves teaching increasingly aggressive physical aids, at a stage where they should play no part in the early stages of equitation. This is however a situation that can be explained in that the horse has done so because the pupil gave up. The trainer was forced to take over as the pupil has in affect taught the horse to resist. Giving up with any horse is plainly not a good idea; likewise it’s true that for the pupil experiencing success this is a very useful learning curve. If you help them too much, without a sufficient explanation, they’re not experiencing failure and so they don’t make the correct assumption about the nature of horses. Convincing any nervous novice horse rider that sentimentality has no place in equitation is also plainly wrong. This is because it does have a place, and teaching its correct use is as important to such people as knowing the true meaning of discipline.

Passing passive cues into aggressive physical aids, is best carried out in a way that doesn’t give the impression you’re entering into what the old horsemen used to refer to as, “running into a passion”. This means that you should escalate aids slowly and in a continuous form – thus giving the impression of a relentless quality in that your physical aid is slowly increasing in well defined increments of pressure. It is useful to think of it happening in ten stages from your least aggressive effort, to your most severely imagined activity. In truth you must understand that for a novice a well trained horse is essential and that what you may have imagined was the most severe aid, is something that will never in reality take place. According to a horse’s nature or temperament, there are many scenarios to your success; these are opportunities that should be properly explained, rather than initially experienced.

Horses might not be as intelligent as humans but their minds work very quickly and they also forget so quickly that we find it hard to equate their mentality with our own. For instance, you might best hold an aid at level one almost indefinitely, if the horse had an aggressive mentality. This is often considered as being too quick for a novice rider who might be better off with an animal that is slow to react. The logic being that it is usually better to play the waiting game if the horse is quick, because if you escalate an activity too quickly, your physical ability to apply it constantly, through the physical effort of an increasing fatigue, is that you will be inclined to give up easily or increase your pressure in desperation. It is also to your advantage, to know that the horse is probably playing the fear game with you, to see if it can make you give up quickly. So it’s important at this stage to control your aid at a level where the horse knows that you will not increase your activity exponentially, in line with its ability to do so. When it realises the implication it will still be confronted by your continuing activity.

Horses look for a way out of any physical bind instinctively, and they must learn to trust your passive mentality, because of its predictability and relentless nature. When the horse makes the slightest try, you must always instantly return through the passive cue to an instant release, in one step and cease the activity completely. Do not repeat the activity, make the horse stand up quietly for up to a minute to contemplate the activity, and then do something entirely different. Most human educators are obsessed with such activities as having become sporting activities, while their response to sporting equipment is predictable in that it doesn’t usually have a brain. In this case we must convince a pupil that their most powerful muscle is in fact their brain, and they must learn to rely on its effectiveness to make their riding style as its ‘rationale’, thus becoming as firm as necessary but as gentle as possible.

Is it possible to change a genetic potentiality?

No, because it remains with us throughout our lives as the unchanging genetic code, which makes us all unique as individuals. Environmental information is something that’s reflected through a genetic potentiality. It throws an infinitely different patterned ability or shadow, which is expressed accordingly to our genetic template. As an analogy; it’s like shining a light through a stencil that becomes reflected into our personal reaction to any given situation. The sorry fact remains that you’ll never know for sure if you have potentially gained it. This is because becoming the full potentiality of what any horse offers you personally (or if others can achieve it), is that you could also learn the ability. The desire to find out if we have or could, often leads us to have a horse professionally trained. A potentiality considers that an emotional determination or physical ability is only something that it’s possible to obtain environmentally, as opposed to a genetic situation at a certain moment in time - as becoming a potentiality of the horsemanship or equitation of anyone who rides the horse in the future. Horse trainers, who consider they can demonstrate such ability, only allow horses to obtain what is potentially already in existence, by their efforts to release it passively. Or they increasingly destroy the potentiality, in their efforts to obtain it by force. Obtaining a trainer that will help you come to terms with your emotionality and physical dexterity, and which will make you and your horse a successful team, must for the vast majority of equestrians become afterwards, a self supporting ‘unity’. It’s often reliant on your ability to choose a good trainer, to learn from them and to accept their advice. As such the ability is for you personally both a genetic and environmentally activated ability, and a measure of your own temperament to do so.