Talking To Horses

“From The Ground Up” Training Technique

Hey! I am Sarah King, equestrian coach, competitor, clinician, and horse trainer.  In 2018, my stallion Bon Baloubet was the Stallion Performance Test Champion, largely because of his training and behavior during the test.  I have trained more horses than I can count and faced situations that have taught me that for a horse to trust us, we really need to be trustworthy, and for a horse to follow us, we need to connect in a way that makes sense to the way they see the world.

I work with a lot of horses with issues.  Horses that need someone to connect with them and understand the world in terms of their logic.  This means understanding that herd mentality and an in-depth knowledge of what makes the herd work and why. Until we understand this we cannot effectively help horses sort through their issues.

I teach an online course and clinics where we break down all the theories behind how horses see the world and why.  I teach you how to bridge the gap between you and your horse to establish an understanding that will

Because Talking To Horses training is about connection, there are some things we need to do before we get started.  As we go through each process I am going to give my own example with regards to training one of my horses, Jazz.  She’s a good example to show you as she was an extreme case in many ways.

Know Who You Are

It is important throughout this process to know how you are influencing the horse and what kind of energy you are projecting.

This may vary day to day depending on things going on in your life so it is important to check in with yourself before each session.

You will need a degree of self-awareness, specifically about your energy level, are you calm around your horse, or do you hold tension.  

Are you focused on getting your horse to obey you and do you get frustrated when things don’t seem to be happening the way you planned?  

All these things are important to know about yourself so that you can self evaluate and make adjustments if needed.

The first thing you need to do is get a piece of paper and write down the answers to the following questions:
  1. What kind of person are you?
  2. How do other people perceive you?
  3. How do you interact with other people?
  4. What is your normal level of energy?
  5. What is your horse’s level of energy?
  6. What is your normal level of energy when you interact with your horse?
  7. What type of horse do you have?
  8. When you lead your horse do you have to drag him, or does he drag you, or does it vary?
The following are my answers and my comments regarding Jazz at the beginning of our journey together:
  1. I am a very busy person, I rarely sit down as I am always looking for things to do.  I would say I am driven.
  2. Other people would perceive me as very friendly, but also on the go all the time.
  3. I find interacting with other people easy. 
  4. My normal level of energy is quite high, however, for some reason when dealing with horses I can immediately reduce it to low in order for them to feel relaxed around me.  I can adjust it as needed.
  5. Jazz had an incredibly high nervous level of energy when I first started working with her.  She was terrified of everything and lived on the edge of her flight response at all times
  6. My normal level of energy when I interact with my horse is low and very relaxed.  I am conscious that the horse senses my energy so I try to transmit how I feel to the horse to relax them.
  7. My horse is just plain terrified and that is the extent of her knowledge level right now. 
  8. My horse doesn’t understand how to be led, she doesn’t understand boundaries, or human contact at all. She may try to drag me, or fly sideways, she rushes forward with no regard for where I am.

As you answer the questions you should begin to get a basic outline of the real picture of you and your horse.  

If I were to summarize my own outline I would say I was a high energy person who has a high nervous energy horse.  

Given the horse’s herd mentality, this horse needs to find a calming leader she can trust.  If I were to bring high energy into our relationship it would not serve us well. 

Therefore, my ability to lower my energy to help her relax should enable me to connect with her when she is ready.

Try to summarize who you are and how you need to be with your horse given your horse’s energy level.  

Maybe you are too gentle and your horse has asserted the dominance in your relationship and pushes you around. Identify this and own it.  

By doing so, you can utilize the tools you are going to learn and assert a stronger energy so you can become the leader in your relationship.  

Perhaps your horse is too laid back and you need to assert a higher energy level! 

You need to be able to read yourself and your horse.  This is a great exercise to get you in tune with who you are around your horse.

Who Is Your Horse?

It is important to have an awareness of who your horse is and what their story is at the start point of your training.   

When training horses this awareness is crucial as it will help you decide how you will manage your energy to create a connection.

Write down the answers to the following questions about your horse:
  1. What is your horse’s history?
  2. How do you see your horse? (personality, fears, issues, bravery, go deep here)
  3. What are your horse’s specific issues?
  4. When you answered questions 2 and 3 did you describe the symptoms or the cause of the issues?
  5. If you described the symptoms can you identify the cause(s)?
  6. Can you identify solutions to the cause(s) of your horse’s issues?
My answers for Jazz are:

Jazz was is a 5-year old Dutch warmblood mare who was born with one eye.  She has been a part of the broodmare herd she was born into and knows nothing else.  She had almost no handling when I got her.  She is terrified of everything. She is very spooky and more spooky on her good eye side.  She has no understanding of humans and therefore has no connection, respect, or reason to respect us.

  • I see her as quite terrifying for people to handle as far as horses go.  Others don’t want to handle her because she is unpredictable and her lack of knowledge of personal space, combined with the fact she only has one eye, presents a day to day danger in handling her.
  • She is spooky, scared, nervous, feral, and hard to handle, dangerous.
  • I described all the symptoms, not the cause.
  • The cause of Jazz’s issues is a complete lack of understanding of human expectations of her.  She has had almost no contact, so can’t be expected to behave in a way that is consistent with another horse of her age that has been handled. 

She has had no exposure to the things that she is terrified of. There has never been a language communicated to her that she can understand when it comes to relating to us.

  • My solution for Jazz is to be consistent in exposing her to human contact. Giving her a daily routine of handling, turn out, bringing into the barn.  She will gradually get used to her new life.  Gradually introduce her to grooming etc.   Given her high nervous energy, my energy level will have to be very low and calming.  Training will start from day 1 with basic groundwork.  

Patience will be key as I am aware the process may take longer for her than other horses due to her lack of human contact, her age, and her herd instincts.

Additionally, she will need a slightly different approach than I use for other horses in that I must constantly be aware of the fact she is missing an eye.  I will need to be super aware of this and her reactions to see how she feels to touch and her other senses.

The ”From The Ground Up” horse training course will teach you who to effectively do these assessments and then put them together for a unique and personalized training plan that works for you and your horse. If you would like to try two of my most requested lessons click here.

Thank you to Sarah King of talkinghorses.com for kindly writing this article for us.