Understanding horses

Does following a pattern help in understanding your horse?

Waiting for someone to come

Waiting for someone

A well-thought-out pattern will help you in understanding your horse.

Every day is a new day when we greet our horse and we will have a better time if we begin immediately to study how our horse greets us.

It’s very important for us to recognize our horse’s normal behavior and to recognize any change, no matter how subtle. He is trying to tell us something with everything from the look in his eyes to his body movements.

Have you noticed how we usually follow a pattern beginning when we greet our horse and then saddling up? Horses do well with patterns. They know what’s next and what they should do. It’s here in a pattern that it’s easy to see a change in our horse’s attitude and it’s important we DO see it. This is your opportunity to be a true horseman and more than just a rider. It’s the little things that count!

Following a pattern of grooming, saddling, mounting, or washing is a smart way to give your horse confidence and keep both of you happy with each other. This is especially true if you are working with a young horse or a horse new to you and it is completely true if you are working with a nervous horse.

Do you follow a pattern with your horse? Has it helped? I would like to know if you agree.

Posted by JGC in Horse body language, Learning to understand, Understanding horse care, Understanding horses, 0 comments

Pretty Thoroughbred mare with very odd skin problem



Learning new ways to understand better horse care never ends. I had a pretty Thoroughbred mare in my care a couple of years ago while her owner was away for four months. The mare lives in a cool stall in an old, well kept wooden barn with swamp coolers, large overhead fans and overhead bug sprayers. It is usually more than ten degrees cooler inside the barn than outside on 100+ degrees days.

Imagine my unhappy surprise to see her one morning with a palm-sized, blood-red sore on her side just back of where the square dressage pad covered. She had been fine, absolutely fine, when I left her the day before. She was not rubbing herself or acting itchy, but the sore just appeared.

I washed her with shampoo that day, dried her in the sun (very, very hot by now in the summer), and applied some prescription skin ointment that I had from my veterinarian. Two more spots appeared in the next three days, smaller but very blood-red and raw looking, despite what I was doing. Nothing was healing, so I called my vet. Her advice turned out to be perfect.

First, thoroughly wash the mare ALL over with any anti-dandruff shampoo found at a drugstore, being sure to lather the mare all over, head to tail, and let the suds stay on for at least five minutes.

Then, rinse her thoroughly, dry out in the sun and apply my horse prescription skin cream which includes a steroid, an anti-fungal and an anti-inflammatory. My vet stressed that I was to look carefully for a dark ring just around the edge of a wound because this would be fungal and the skin cream would not be strong enough for this. She advised me to buy any athlete’s foot cream I wanted and to use that around the edges of the wound.

With this regimen, in three days all the wounds were almost gone and hair was growing in five days. In three weeks you couldn’t see where they had been. I thought to myself that this was certainly a wonderfully inexpensive way to treat these disgusting-looking skin wounds. Friends told me the mare was having a very good summer with me. I did get teased about how long it took me to bathe her, but I was very pleased to have the mare looking unblemished when her owner returned.

Posted by JGC in Learning to understand, Understanding horse care, Understanding horses, 0 comments

The horse’s eye is our window

horse's eye, horse's eye is a key

Calm horse, calm eye

The horse’s eye is a key to our understanding him. Horses have beautiful, large and expressive eyes and their eyes are an open window into their mood and thinking. The horse’s eye will show us immediately whether he is nervous, anxious, angry or just content to be with us. He can’t hide this. A horse is very open about his emotions. It is up to us to be observant and notice this because our horse is trying to tell us something about how he is feeling. This very placid horse is just looking at us without much of anything else on his mind. He is paying attention but not trying too hard. His eye is lovely.

horse's eye, horse's eye is a key

I see more than you do!

This horse’s eye is quite plainly asking, “Can’t you see I’m a bit nervous?” Something has caught his attention and he is definitely becoming concerned about it. With his head held high he is seeing much farther than you and over a wider area, including behind himself. Now is the time for a person to reassure him before he reacts. Often all that is needed is to have him return his attention to us and to turn his eye back to us.

Another thing to keep in mind is remembering how far a horse’s eye can see when we are mounted! With their head up, most horses are considerably taller than we are and are seeing much farther and wider than we do.  When we are working around a horse in a barn and his head suddenly goes up, he is seeing all or almost all the whole barn area and can see across the tops of stalls and out windows and we have no idea what is concerning him. When we are mounted, horses’ long necks allow them to see around a corner before we get there and they may be startled by something we haven’t even seen yet. Their depth perception is not particularly good and a puddle in a road can look very deep and may require some patient urging to go through. Sudden movements of any kind can startle them, which can make riding on a windy day quite exciting. A horse is just naturally mistrustful about almost anything new and this is only natural considering his history is that of a prey animal who lived by his wits and speed.

We need to remember that horses can see behind themselves but not directly in front. Mother Nature gave them this ability so they could get a head start on a predator. However, a horse has to turn his head very slightly to see right in front. It’s a very interesting fact, I think. If you want to pet your horse in the center area between his eyes, he will lose sight of your hand a short ways before you touch him there. Of course, if he trusts you he won’t move.

horse's eye, horse's eye is a key

Moments of closeness

I greet all my horses with a pat and/or rub between the eyes and if they start off being shy about this they soon seem to like it. Treats are always helpful 😉

Posted by JGC in Horse body language, Understanding horses, 6 comments