Nube. Dark Clouds and Questions With No Answers

Nube (Nu-bay) was particular. He required my undivided attention in the saddle and on the ground. My focus had to be laser sharp. Most advanced horses require it and it was something I’d learned to do. Odd for such a young horse, but I decided it was good. It meant he would be a sharp … Read more

Horse Training Means Affirmative Waiting

Humans, aren’t we swell? Compared to horses, we have dim, frail senses, we’re seven times slower in our response time, and we have the focus of a toddler in a toy store. Horses might give us a paternalistic nod at this point, except for our biggest failing. We have that pesky prefrontal cortex. So, we … Read more

The Difference Between Peaceful Persistence and Nagging.

Today, I’d like to use you as a human demo horse. Please, play along with me. Let’s say you come to me for a riding lesson. It’s the first time and you’re on my horse. He’s tall and athletic and you don’t know him. And let’s say I’m a total idiot. I tell you to … Read more

Human Calming Signals: Actions Louder than Words

“Anna, after reading this piece I realized that I know how to do this; just not with horses. As a nurse, when I approach a frightened child or anxious adult who needs a potentially painful procedure, I change form. The angle of my head descends slightly, my gaze softens, my shoulders drop. I lower my … Read more

Calming Signals: What If Horses Are Meant to be a Mystery?

I’m not sure when I started sitting on horses, but I hadn’t started school. You couldn’t really call it riding. When my parents needed me out of the way, they put me on the back of a tall gray mare named Lady. We were in a pen, and she wandered about grazing. They left and … Read more

Training Tip: Improving Your Eye

Sometimes we look back at how we kept horses as kids, and it seemed so simple then. None of them had any of the complex problems that we deal with today. But it isn’t possible that all of these issues materialized after I got my first horse after leaving home. Horses didn’t wait to invent … Read more

“How do I stop my horse from doing this?”

“How do I stop my horse from doing this?” An oversimplified version of the most common question a horse trainer is asked. The question comes with a backstory, a theory, and a recitation of everything they have tried. The first resistance is small, we might think it’s a cute affectation even, but if we don’t … Read more

Silent Night: The Truest Words Aren’t Words At All.

I was standing outside of a hotel at five in the morning waiting for my limo. Obviously, several things had gone wrong and it wasn’t even dawn yet. I was pacing, wondering if the limo would cost more than my flight home when I saw a horse sculpture. It was not quite abstract or realistic. … Read more

When Impatience and Cruelty are Normalized

Sometimes I find myself standing in front of people talking about horses’ feelings. I’m almost embarrassed; I was raised to be tough. Yes, I cite scientific research. Inside, I still hear my father curse me for spoiling horses, but most people didn’t think horses had feelings in his day. Except I think part of us … Read more

How to Stop Taking Your Horse Personally

Bhim is a one-of-a-kind, I surely hope. People might say he’s still with me ten years after he came for halter training because I couldn’t get it done. Does he look cute? Tell that to the humans he’s taken out. And to be clear, he’s here because Edgar Rice Burro asked if he could have … Read more

Reverse Anthropormophism: Building A Better Relationship

Do you ever go to the barn and pretend to be a cowboy? You’d wear the shirt that matched your saddle pad and put on a Hell Hat. You’d take a deep seat and a faraway look, you’d make out over the land for the herd, whether you have one or not. Horses can like … Read more

Horses Are Like Bad Boyfriends (Or Why the Wrong Answer Might Be Better)

Horses are like bad boyfriends because they only want to talk about themselves. Wait, let me explain. First of all, it isn’t a pejorative term. I’ve had enough bad boyfriends to know that I prefer them, for many of the same reasons I like bad dogs. Sure, we have to give up having “relationship talks” … Read more

Affirmative Training: Response Time and a Hail Mary Pass

My client and I were having an online meeting. We’d been working on a systematic process of getting her and Bradley, her gelding, back to riding. It’s a process that I’ve developed that has space for horses and riders to be individuals, and more than traditional training, we focus on listening to calming signals and … 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

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

Take a Cue from Your Horse

He was a bright young gelding. Alert, athletic, and so willing. One day he would become the kind of breathtaking dressage horse that his sire was, I hoped. It would be years before he’d be started under saddle, but it was the perfect time to start arena work. Did you just seize up a bit? … 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