Thursday, March 9, 2017

9th March, 2017 From my Head to Yours - and Your Horse's

As promised, I am going to share some notes and thoughts with you which have worked for me, my customers, and their horses over the years. Here is the beginning of my general notes on training...but remember, it is your energy and intent that is of critical importance. Be friend not foe, always.

"This is your horse and you can do what you like with your own horse. The following are just suggestions or recommendations of how you could approach things. I will only tell you what to try and not what to do. I also endeavour to be very clear about current debate about different methods and different pieces of equipment. If you are looking for black and white answers, you might get grey ones from me.

These suggestions do not form a complete ‘how to do’ manual; they are simply an aide-memoire to refer to.

The methods I describe do not provide a whole new system of working. The whole essence of Intelligent Horsemanship is to tailor make the training to suit you and your horse and it’s great to keep an open mind. I will never advocate the use of violence in training.

In general, keep your sessions short and sweet and try to end on a good note. On the other hand beware of your horse joining a union and wearing a wristwatch and make sure that you vary the time for which you work so that your horse doesn’t go on strike once 20 minutes is over."

E – explain well
A – ask nicely
T – thank graciously
Recommended Books 

Perfect Manners, Perfect Partners and Perfect Confidence by Kelly Marks 

The Essence of Good Horsemanship by Ross Jacobs 

A Good Horse is Never a Bad Colour, Horses Never Lie, Considering the Horse, Life Lessons from a Ranch Horse and Horsemanship Through life by Mark Rashid. 

Be With your Horse by Tom Widdecombe 

No Fear, No Force by Sarah Weston (available at 

Clicker Training for Horses by Ben Hart 

Train Your Young Horse by Richard and Sam Maxwell 

The 100% Horse by Michael Peace and Lesley Bayley 

The BHS book of the Natural Horse by Sarah Widdicombe 

Brain, Pain or Training? by Sue Palmer (book or DVD)

Details of demonstrations can be found at

Human to horse relationships 

Narrow focus
Unaware of own body language
Attack the most vulnerable
Attack when challenged
Eyes very close together
Use power to attack


Wide focus
Extremely aware of body language
Hide injury
Run when afraid
Eyes on side of head (near 360 degree vision)
Use power to run away

Safety notice

I advise that all work, including groundwork, is carried out wearing a proper riding hat, sturdy boots, long trousers, long sleeves and gloves. You should always work in a safe area and with someone else present where appropriate. I recommend always leading a horse with a 12’ rope – it gives you more thinking time if the horse decides to leave! Where horses are inclined to say no or are strong or bargey then it may well be appropriate to work with a training halter (such as a Monty Robert’s Dually or a knotted halter) although I like to keep a horse in an ordinary headcollar wherever possible. Like any piece of equipment, it is the hands that use it that can make the difference between whether it is a soft or a hard piece of equipment.

Duallys and Rope Halters
The Monty Robert’s Dually is a training halter which uses pressure across and around the nose to give a clearer signal to the horse of pressure and release. The halter itself is broad across the poll and therefore is no more likely to cause pain in the poll area than any other halter. I find the Dually extremely useful for loading horses and strong and bargey horses where the horse has learned that it is stronger than a human. The Dually should be fitted snugly and so that the rope noseband is in the position that a normal noseband should be (and no lower). The normal noseband is therefore higher up on the nose. The training rings should never be used to tie a horse up as the rope noseband would continue to tighten if the horse went into pressure and this could cause damage to the horse. I’d always be wary of leaving a child or someone who is inexperienced with a pony in a Dually. It is important to understand the concepts of pressure and release before using a Dually. The red Dually is for ponies and small cobs; black for cobs and horses and blue for very big horses. Duallys can be purchased at

Knotted rope halters are very convenient as they can fit a variety of horses. They should be fitted snugly around the face and certainly so that the noseband cannot slip over the chin. It should be noted that the thinner the rope the more the potential for pain and in some cases the thin rope going over the poll can induce a horse to rear or may release endorphins which temporarily sedate the horse. Once again it is very important to understand the concept of pressure and release before using a knotted halter and horses should never be tied up to something that won’t break in one of these halters. Physiotherapists report severe damage to the poll in cases where a horse has gone into pressure in these circumstances. I tend not to use them for loading with a horse that has the potential to rear. There is also some controversy about the position of the knots over the nose. When used with a clip, the clip will continue to swing long after you have given the horse a signal and therefore continue to irritate and confuse the horse and possibly desensitise him to subtle signals. Be aware also that if you use a strong signal with a Parelli type knotted halter and clip, the clip will hit your horse in the jawbone and has been designed to do that.

Rope halter which needs to be fitted more snugly.
Postscript: I am aware that there is a lot of conjecture about the use of training halters at all...and would say that a well trained horse wouldn't need one, certainly not all the time. However, over the years I have been out to horses that have learned strategies which can be dangerous, and those horses do have to be controlled in order to keep them safe and their owner.