Horses are a magnificent and majestic animal that have a strength and beauty
that is second to none. If you are new to horses, perhaps just taking up riding
or owning a horse, it is important that you have a thorough understanding of
A horse's strength is certainly no match for your own so you need to
understand your horse's physiology and psychology in order to get your horse to
act or perform in the manner you desire and in a way that is beneficial to both
you and your horse.
Let's start by looking at your horse's vision. Apparently horses never ate
enough carrots in their youth because almost all horses have poor vision.
Because of their poor vision horses will raise and lower their head to adjust
their range of vision. Perhaps a pair of trifocals would be helpful. This method works for grazing but it isn't that great when a horse is jumping
or trying to judge distance. The next time you are riding and approaching a jump
watch what your horse does. First he'll lower his head, then he'll raise it to
try to calculate the height of the jump.
Horses also have trouble adjusting to light changes and they are color blind.
Movement instantly is seen by a horse but objects that do not move are not
easily visible to your horse. When training your horse remember that his vision is poor so you need to
instill confidence into your horse and let them become familiar with routines.
Never approach your horse from the rear because you will be in their blind spot
and they could spook, and always speak to your horse if you are passing behind
him. Horses have a mind of their own so you'll need to give them time to think.
Don't interrupt them when they are concentrating and don't constantly make
corrections. A horse can focus on only one task at a time and by giving to many
commands too quickly you can confuse your horse.
You can avoid many situations by reading your horse's emotional state. If his
ears are pinned back he is angry or bluffing. This is a warning that you could
get bit. Ears forward is a sign of interest or suspicion depending on the
situation. Dilated nostrils show curiosity and sometimes apprehension. When your
horse flashes his eyes while dilating his nostrils and tensing his muscles you
can expect your horse to react in some way. If your horse is frightened it may
indicate he is going to bolt. By understanding the body language of your horse
you will better be able to calm and control your horse.
You've heard the phrase 'a memory like a horse,' well it's because horses
have a huge memory capability. The only animal with a larger memory is the
elephant. A young horse never forgets it's training good or bad so it's
important to correct bad habits when your horse is young. Horses will never forget. If a certain location has spooked them or caused
distress returning to that location even years later will cause the same
Horses have several sensitive areas which you need to understand in order to
correctly train your horse. The horse's mouth is sensitive to pain so use care
with the bit and reins. The flank of some horses is so sensitive that heel
contact will cause a buck. You need to use the whip with smartly because over
use or ill use of the whip can ruin your horse. Your job is to learn to communicate effectively with your horse using your
voice, legs, and hands. Voice cues are easily understood by your horse. Rein
cues and leg cues take some work so that you and your horse understand each
other. Practice makes perfect.
Horses are very sensitive so your horse will pick up on your insecurities or
your confidence and respond accordingly. If you are unsure your horse will be
insecure and his performance will reflect that. Horses are a strong and powerful animal and man and horse have learned to
co-exist fairly well over the years. Understanding horses will make your time
with your horse much more enjoyable and your riding experiences exhilarating and
Back to Articles main page