My SECRET to understanding what your horse is saying...

When a horse feels good about something they will show this in their bodies. Often, when we are busy focusing on a task or specific outcome when we’re with our horses, we don’t take the time to pause and try and read how our horses are feeling about what they’re doing.

When I began slowing things down and taking the time to interpret my horse's body language in our sessions, I am able to respond to them in a way that creates harmony and desire between us.

I would love for you to take a journey with me to study three horses below and their body language

Photo 1

Can you spot something in this photo that shows the horse is not happy in her body? You can’t see the human, but she is to the right of the horse on the inside of the circle.

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Photo 1 continued...

This mare is not embracing her training. Maybe you can see that she is bent away from the human. This posture will not make her feel good because it is hard for her to balance. She doesn’t look happy at all.

Your horse needs to agree with what you are asking them to do to feel happy. Many horses are taught to be obedient, that means they are taught to do what they are told. You need to be careful not to confuse obedience with the horse agreeing to what you say. Your horse’s body and face will help to tell you if they have a positive attitude to what you are asking!

Photo 2

Can you spot 2 things in this photo that shows this young mare is feeling good in her body?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Photo 2 continued...

When a horse moves with pride it’s body becomes alive and the beauty radiates from the inside out. In this photo you can see a happy engaged horse, round in her body. Her neck is arched like a swan and she moves lightly on her feet.

We often try and read facial expressions as they tell us a lot about how the horse feels, but we need to combine the face with the body to get the full picture. This mare is concentrating. She is connected to how her body feels and the humans support.

Photo 3

Everything you are learning on the ground with your horse can be applied to riding on the horse’s back.

For this photo, I want you to imagine you are the rider. Look at the photo and then also imagine you are on this horse's back and ask yourself 3 questions:

1. How does the horse look?

2. What do you think the horse is feeling?

3. How is the horse moving?

Share your answers in the comments section below.

Photo 3 continued...

In this photo you can see the horse looks relaxed throughout her body, including her topline. Her body is round and you can feel that she is happy. She is walking freely with her head held confidently.

Sometimes you might not be sure if the horse seems unhappy or uncomfortable in their body? or are they just unsure? Either way you need to make a change. I always accept a no from a horse unless it is a safety issue. An example of a safety issue would be if we were out on a busy road and I have no choice if I am to keep us safe. If this happens it’s important to review that activity before doing it again.

Horses can be very subtle when they are telling us how they feel or they can be very obvious. We need to read and respond to the subtle feedback they are giving us so that our horse doesn’t need to get loud & reactive with us.

So, next time you are with your horse I invite you to create some moments where you stop and try and read your horse's body language. Remember, this can be looking at their body, but also getting a feel for how they’re feeling. You can ask yourself:

  • Question 1: How are they feeling with what I am doing?
  • Question 2: Are they braced against me / bent away from me or are they curved towards me?
  • Question 3: Are their movements light and free or stiff and inflexible?

Now it’s your turn to take the above 3 questions to your horse. Give this a go and then come back to this page and let me know how you went!

It is easy to do this and it will create many moments where you get to stop and pause and look at your horse. Even this simple slowing down will make a big difference to your horse. Let me know what happens!

If you are enjoying all of the free training we are offering, I ask that you share our work with everyone you can so together we can create great change for horses and humans 🙂

  1. Thanks Paulette, this has given me a few new ideas to explore with my horse. I have a new horse, a filly, who is 18 mos. and I “need” to get her used to the barn and a stall as it’s winter here and one of these coming days/nights she will need to stay in her stall for the night to avoid snow and weather. (since her arrival she has been in a pasture close to the house and so she hasn’t been introduced to the barn yet. I have been taking her and one other horse up to the barn to eat a bit of hay in the introduction process – but I after watching this I am noticing that I have been “pushing” and forcing this excursion a bit. I say that because she stops MANY times on her way to the barn, and I haven’t been good at pausing with her at those moments and listening. After watching this I am thinking that I will lead two horses to the barn to eat breakfast, then take her and the last horse to the barn together. That way, there are no horses left back for her to want to hang back with, and also, then once we get to the barn, this will simulate the coming experience more accurately. I can then take my time and add some pauses and listen as we go. Anyway, this is an idea that popped into my head as I watched this clip. Thank you for sharing with us and for lending us your eyes, ears, and Heart ; )

    1. I’m looking forward to hearing what happens! One word of caution. If all the horses leave the field then her adrenalin might come up and make it even harder for her to be mindful to walk to the barn. Is it possible to let her follow the last horse a liberty and maybe put a feed bucket or two (or 3) along the way to have some nice long breaks for you all?

      1. Hey Paulette, as it turns out – I did what you were suggesting – before I got this reply. I haltered and led two horses and let the other two – one of which was my little filly, walk along with us at liberty. They all did Great, and my filly followed along and even “hooked on” to me for part of the walk to the barn. She was so sweet, coming up behind me, walking with me for a ways, then fading back a bit – then approaching and walking with me. It felt like she looked to me for some security and support when she came close, then she naturally just faded back and took in the new experience and environment, etc. I was very pleased with it all. I put the other horses into their stalls and then eased her into her stall to eat. She went outside and “called” to where the other horses usually were when we visited the barn – down in the pens we had just left, so at one point I opened her stall and let her walk across the lane and over to the other horses who were eating in their stalls, so that she could see and smell them In the Barn. She then wandered around until I eased her back into her stall where she set to quietly eating. She spend most of the day in the barn with the other horses – so it feels to me like it won’t be a huge next step for her to spend the night in there with the other horses next time the weather goes south on us. So grateful to be learning with you… I think in the past I would have “rushed” the process more and would have tried to force an outcome. This felt so much more natural and easy – for all of us ; )

  2. I depends on where we are, and if there are other horses present with us.
    If we are out in the open, taking a walk on the roads or ind the woods, Niclas is happy, joyfull, walking next to me in a very energetic tempo, nudging me fre from behind, and suggesting us to trot (me running)
    This scenario is almost the same, when we take a walk in the Arena together with others. Most others are in the saddle, while we are walking together.
    He os not as joufull, and energetic as when we are alone out ind the open. He seems more alert and observative towards other horses, and now and then he claims our space against others when he thinks they gets to close.
    When we are alone, and working in Liberty – he will follow me around willingly. But any suggestion from me, usually result in a counter suggestion from Niclas – “Lets leave this, and get out of here” expressed by him trotting to the gate, and in a stoic posture sanding there looking out at the pastures and open roads just outside the Arena ?
    Thats where we are right now in our Liberty work ?

  3. I haven’t had time lately to ride my gelding so I took him for a walk around the field, just for a chat. He followed me all around with the leadrope draped over his neck, free to run off if he chose. I then took him to the roundpen for some free-lunging and he circled me exuberantly at a trot and canter, his body curved inward, neck arched and sometimes swirling toward me as though to invite me to play. He was extremely happy to be with me.

Comments are closed.