Horse Problems Australia
Post Office Box 1361,
Victor Harbor, SA. 5211




Do horses love us ?

 John O'Leary


Well I don't think they do. I certainly love them but I am fairly sure they only respect me.

I often notice that when people enter the Horse Industry, they try desperately to win the love of their new horse. I feel that their belief that one can achieve this is brought about by the thousands of horse books that have come onto the market, mostly from England, where horse ownership is talked about in "touchy feely", almost fairytale terms. I have rarely seen a book that tells it like it really is.

Among the large number of "Problem Horses" that come through my hands, I notice that many of them just have a lack of respect for their owner. When that respect is gained by re-educating the owner a lot and the horse a little, behavioral problems seem to disappear.

I feel the answer lies within the world of horses and if you go and sit in a paddock and watch them for a reasonable period of time, you will see what I mean. Yes, Horses may love other Horses but I don't think they love Humans. I will stand corrected of course.

You may love your horse all you want providing you have a set of rules that govern it. You may reward your horse all you like but again, have a set of rules. Here are some suggestions:

  • Never reward your horse when working unless it is for a job well done.

  • Whilst working your horse, be it under saddle or on the ground, only ever reward with voice or stroking once or "reward and relief" as in taking the pressure off the horse because it completed the task set satisfactorily.

  • Verbal and stroking reward for a try is good Horse Training.

  • Food rewards should only ever be given after riding. Never during.

  • Never allow a horse to be searching your pockets for carrots. This is bad behavior that may lead to very bad behavior.

  • Never use bribery and corruption to get your horse to do anything.

  • You may reward with food if the horse is tied up and cannot invade you, after you finish working it.

  • You may reward with a feed in its yard or stable but never sit next to the feed bin or interfere with the horse whilst eating. That is the horse's quality time and nothing to do with you ever. I know of a buck jumper down the road caused by that sort of behaviour by the owner.

  • Don't reward your horse by letting it eat grass whilst you are riding it. This can become a real problem for learner riders. Horses start to rip the reins out of the riders hand and plunge their heads to the ground refusing to go forward or anywhere else. All of these  things can lead to bigger problems down the track.

As I said in the article on "discipline of the horse", I don't believe that horses love anything but food but they do come close through respect. In fact, the word "respect" may mean "love" to a horse as they certainly act as if they are loosing a loved one when you remove the boss horse from their paddock all of a sudden. No matter how hard the boss horse kicks them, bites them or even injures them, take it away and the others will run around in panic, screaming out for its return.

Can a Horse act as if it hates you? Yes. The more they lack direction and leadership, the more they are likely to appear to 'hate' you. You have heard the saying, "The Horse has people problems, not Horse problems" That is an extremely accurate observation. The majority of Horses that come through the hands of Trainers', have 'people problems'

So if you want your horse to come near to loving you, gain it's respect and you may come close. Be a strong assertive owner, handler and rider but above all, be fair. That is the road to respect. I can guarantee  you that if you are a weak handler or rider, your horse certainly will have a low opinion of you and like so many people, suffer the long list of bad behaviour symptoms that are exhibited by frustrated Horses. Frustrated due to a lack of 'Leadership' From being all over you on the ground, manipulating you, jamming you against the tie up rail, walking past you and taking your course, moving your feet and taking your space, kicking out at you on the lunge, snaking the head and neck on the lunge, charging you on the lunge, threatening you at feed time or all the way to bucking you off because you don't deserve the privilage.

This article is dedicated to the Novice Horse Owners everwhere.

John O'Leary

"Listen to your Horses"



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