KBR Horse Training Information

Exercising Body AND Mind

Horse Training Mythbusters


The English language is full of words that have multiple meanings. For example:

  • Right - A direction, opposite from left.

  • Right - Free from error, correct.

  • Right - A vested privilege.

  • Right - Conforming to justice, law or morality.

  • Right - In proper or satisfactory working order.

The word used in this example is a simple one however it can have distinctively different meanings according to the context in which it is used. We can only accurately decode the meaning of this word when it is considered in the context of a complete sentence or conversation.

"Do I turn left here?"

"Right. ... No, not right, left! I mean, 'Correct.' You turn left here."

OK, so even when used in a sentence the true meaning can be confusing so we really have to follow the entire communication process.

This same issue applies with horses. Misunderstanding the horse's communication, which is usually physical instead of verbal, can negatively impact training, behavior and the relationship between horse and handler. Furthermore, misreading a horse in a stressed state of mind can lead (and has led) to some incredibly serious accidents, and in a few instances, fatalities.

The reason we take the time to prepare these horse training and behavior web features is to help make horse activities safer and more pleasurable for both our readers and their horses. Understanding what the horse is telling us is a necessary component to maintaining safety and pleasure.


A matter of perspective.

We are a predator species. We communicate primarily verbally. Our instincts are to lock onto our "targets" and go straight for our objectives. Horses (and other equids) are prey species. They communicate through body language and they are very sensitive to each others' body language. They are extremely sensitive to the body language of predators.

To understand why a prey species needs to be good at "reading" predators, picture a herd of African antelope. Lions are often close by. If the antelope were constantly stressed by the presence of the big, lazy cats, the herd would be made up of nervous wrecks, a condition that could impede the antelopes' success. However the placid herd can instantly come to a distinctive state of alert and defense once the big cats get hungry and restless and start to exhibit predator-like behaviors.

What is the horse trying to express with his body language?

We always must remember that we are a predator species and to be successful around horses we must control our predator-like body language in order not to make the horse overly sensitive (and reactive) to our presence, and also not to distract the horse from our intended cues.

We also must remember that the horse communicates primarily via body language. Ideally this feedback from the horse remains subtle. If the horse has to "turn up the volume" (visa vis engage in overt avoidance, flight, aggressive behavior, etc.) we've probably somehow missed the horse's more subtle feedback. If we don't correct such perceptive mistakes on our part, the horse could well become conditioned to rely on extreme behavior on his part to get his point across.

If we constantly "shout" at the horse (with our body language and aids) it will be difficult for the horse to respond to a whisper. Similarly if we constantly require the horse to "shout" at us to get our attention, he's not likely to whisper to us, either. Since most horses outweigh most handlers by around 800 Lbs., it's best to keep the conversation polite, quiet and respectful.

The same horse once communications were back "in synch."

The point being made here is that it is in our best interests as handlers and trainers to pay attention to what the horse is trying to communicate to us, and we need to have some understanding as to the horse's message. Otherwise that message could eventually be, "Talk to the hoof."

Please continue to Part Two, "Specific Myths"

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