Horse Behavior – An Introduction

The subject of behavior is fascinating to me because we all usually are interacting with a captive horse.  Their behavior has adapted to what they know from being handled by humans from their first moment on this earth.  They have never been free.  Yet deep in their minds are the instructions to survive as free animals.  Conflicts arise when primal instincts are juxtaposed with current knowledge and beliefs of what they are experiencing.

For example, all horses should be afraid of humans as in the past they were hunted and eaten by other animals.  Some were captured and tamed for riding and pulling our things around.  It must be realized by all owners that the brain of the horse is very similar to ours.  When we touch a hot stove as a child we remember and avoid touching hot stoves forever.  When we are embraced by our mothers after a bad dream we remember that too.  The good and the bad memories are kept in the neocortex and their associated emotions are connected with in the amygdala.  This emotion area of the brain is directly connected to the motor cortex causing movement.  When afraid, the horse will run.  When afraid and no where to run, the horse will fight.  This is their most basic survival behavior.

In between “normal” behavior and survival behavior lies the complexities of owning a horse.  What drives them to pleasure (mutual grooming)?  What drives them to chew the barn down?  What makes them curl their upper lip?  What is causing food aggression, bad riding behavior and shutting down?  Surprisingly, the causes are simple and similar to our own thoughts.  Unfortunately some of these behaviors may be impossible to correct if we continue to cause them.  With some really aggressive and dangerous horses, euthanasia occurs.  But I have found one thing that seems to really work.  Let them know you are listening.  Some just need to know you are listening.

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Who Is Responsible? (part 2)

Part 2 – The skills of leadership. We relate with horses only when we understand who they are adjusting ourselves to meet their expectations. Listen first then speak.

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Who Is Responsible? (part 1)

Part 1 – Who is responsible for your horses’ behavior? After removing physical reasons (teeth, ulcers, etc) the responsibility rests on the person changing, not the horse. The horse is a mirror of you.

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Horse Behavior – Weaving Behavior

Weaving is when a horse swings their head sideways in a pendulous motion while usually rocking back and forth from one front hoof to the other. In my experience, they are trying to tell somebody something.

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WARNING – This horse may kill you!

Remember Law 1, “A horse can kill you.” Never be afraid as this is reflected in the horse. Follow a few guidelines and know that this can be achieved if YOU are willing to change yourself.

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