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Barging Horses: Are You Moving Your Horses Feet? Or Is He Moving Yours?

Updated: Jan 5, 2021

Keys to Connection Vol: 1

The importance of moving the feet to create focus, trust and connection in horse training.

Finding the right training with so many different options available can be confusing. The quick fix option which is often most appealing can have short lived results and often not address the root cause for the horse.

With so many methods explaining the ‘right’ way to achieve your perfect horse with special ropes, head collars and gadgets the communication we need between us and our horse can get lost along the way.

While I definitely do not think there is just one answer to our horses behavioural and training issues I do believe that there is one thing to consider; a starting point which could be kept in mind throughout any training you do.

And that is...

‘’who ever moves the feet, controls the situation’’.

Think of the herd environment…

Within the herd there is a lead or boss horse, the one horse that can move the other horses away with a swish of a tail or a grumpy face. This horse moves and controls the feet and therefore controls the situation it is in at any one time. For instance, moving horses away from the biggest pile of hay or feed bucket. Herds of horses most definitely have a hierarchy system, but it is not as simple as just that. They are a community of individuals with interchangeable dynamics depending on the situation.

Some observations suggest that the ‘lead’ horse controls the feet of a ‘subordinate’ horse, while the ‘subordinate’ horse may control the feet of a horse of lower standing in the herd. It is a fluid situation over time. They synchronise together brilliantly through each other’s intention, knowing where they fit into the herd and who controls their feet and who does not. As a result, they have trust in each other which lowers anxiety and creates a bond through connection and focus. There is security in structure, and horses like structure.

So, we all know how it feels to have the barging strong horse lead us to the paddock or push us out of the stable or refuse to load into the trailer…

That horse is controlling your feet and is therefore not under your control and is potentially – though unintentionally – creating a dangerous situation for you and for the horse.

Think of it from the horse’s point of view, in his mind he is calling the shots and making the decisions because he feels no one else is. This is making him anxious and behave in a way we prefer he did not. This in turn creates anxiety for us too which can result in frustration, confusion and sometimes anger which only makes the horse more anxious.

As I have said nothing is ever a one answer solution, but if you begin to control the direction and speed of your horses feet you begin a journey resulting in lowered anxiety, focus, trust and connection with your horse just like in the herd environment.

This starts with remembering every interaction with your horse counts! He will be reading your intention and body language all the time; the brilliance of horses is how they have adapted to include us in their world and learn to read us like their herd members. The very least we can do for them in our world is to communicate using them as our teacher, learning their language and becoming a trusted connected member of the herd.

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