Listening is Acknowledgment: A Gray Mare’s Message

I pulled down the drive to a farm for a Calming Signal intensive. Meeting new horses and people who care about them is always special and honing our listening skills is the best gift we can give horses. I parked my trailer near a pen with three horses close to the barn. One of the … Read more

A Short List of Unfair Things to Ask a Horse

Old mares have a constant dilemma. They get stiff and stove-up. They’re stoic so they don’t whine about it, but they have small feet in proportion to their large body. They lose muscle over the years, their necks are arthritic, their joint fluid turns to sandpaper. The human said she should go for a walk … Read more

Brain Science and the Art of Play

It’s cold on the flat windy treeless prairie of Colorado. The next few months will be even colder but right now, we have no tolerance so forty degrees brings out the Elmer Fudd hat. By spring, we’ll be talking trash about a North Pole expedition because the horses are wooly enough and we’ve been wearing … Read more

How Horses Train Us

You are a horse trainer. It does not always give me joy to say so, but it’s true and other professional trainers agree. If you are holding the rope, you qualify whether you watch videos or not, take lessons or not, have already paid a trainer four times what you paid for the horse or … Read more

Homeschooling Your Horsemanship

  In one online class this week, a woman in Maine said it was 90 degrees that day and her black mare wasn’t coming out of the shelter. New York was no better. Two women in the class said the heat in Texas was just as high. Last month the mud ate their homework. Before … Read more

The Best Horse Conversations Start With “No”

Imagine that each time you climbed on your horse, he began to move in a slow canter, so rhythmic and balanced that you can just close your eyes. Never a wrong step, never a moment of confusion. Your horse knows the routine so well, you don’t need to cue him. You let yourself be lulled, … Read more

Horses and the Pain We Can’t Stop.

We’ve all done it. We look at that horse and just know he’s in pain. We watch his walk until the foot with the white stocking lands badly, crippled by its color. In the saddle, we close our eyes and wonder if he’s off. We scrutinize the horse’s calming signals until he freezes, stalked by … Read more

Calming Signals: How Do You Listen To a Horse?

What is your first memory of listening to a horse? Not standing next to a horse and being certain he loved you. Not daydreaming about galloping him on the beach or burying your tear-drenched face in his mane and hiding. None of these things are listening. They are moments we might feel a connection because … Read more

She Said Her Horse Was Pensive.

L. and her gelding, Andante, are boarders here. I always ask how the ride went as they return to the barn. One day L. tilted her head and said he’d complained about her hands. Horses are always right about hands. It’s frustrating when you listen to your horse and hear something you don’t like. Recently, … Read more

Can Horses Forgive Us?

The reader said that an essay I’d written “brought to mind how many times my involuntary predatory instincts have surfaced and expressed themselves over the years with my horses. It made me wonder about the horse’s capacity to forgive, and the time trajectory for establishing trust. …if a horse is capable of trusting humans in … Read more

Things My Dogs Don’t Care About.

I’m the kind of person who has big dogs. I always have been, not that my dogs care. I have no excuse for my current condition. I was trying to remember the last time I picked out a dog. That’s the thing about making friends with rescuers. Dogs just arrive somehow. Sure, you said yes … Read more

Calming Signals: Yoga Mind/Equine Reality

The Dude Rancher and I practice yoga. We started years ago; he was having way too many headaches and my back was killing me. We each thought the other person was the problem, but we went to a Yin Yoga class at a local rec center. Our teacher, Tracey, explained in a soft voice that … Read more

Calming Signals: Trust Above Training

It was my job to haul him to his new trainer. He was a bright young gelding, some would call him hot, as if having too much anxiety was just how some horses are naturally. I’d call him low on confidence, not a crime in a young horse. He pranced a bit on the lead, … Read more

Calming Signals: Do You Tease Your Horse?

There was a time that I had a basset hound named Agatha and a bunch of friends with toddlers. It was hell. See it from Agatha’s side. Toddlers are short and take uneven steps, moving more like a prey animal than a human. A tipsy bunny. And they are sticky-sweet, sometimes wearing a soiled diaper. … Read more

Calming Signals and Ambivalent Horses.

Humans are impatient worriers. On the high side, it means we care but we want to know everything immediately. Perhaps a predator way of thinking; we’re always on the hunt, stalking the perceptions that elude us. The more we chase, the more understanding hides. We crave control and we’re better at fighting than waiting. Gaining … Read more

Light Leading: The Invisible Rope

  She was born on a full moon so I named my Iberian filly Claro De Luna. She was so independent that she didn’t let me touch her the first day, but no worries. I body-talked to her dam, Windy, until little Clara couldn’t stand it. By day two, we had short conversations. We walked … Read more