The Art of Natural Dressage

Working with the Horse's Initiative
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 2:15 pm 

Joined: Sun Mar 24, 2013 5:00 pm
Posts: 2
Hi to everyone here :smile:

Some background info: I normally ride my horse in a bitless bridle. I can do very basic things with a cordeo, just walk, trot, canter.

My grey horse does something which I am very curious about. He will turn to look at my foot when we are riding (this is independant of whether he is ridden with a bitless bride or with a cordeo). The interpretation that I have put on it is that he looks at me when he has had enough of something, or something is bothering him.

I read a thread on another forum about this. The conclusion reached there seemed to be that this was a form of evasion, and nothing more. Maybe I am a little mad - but I feel that there is a level of communication here that is more than a simple evasion.

Has anyone else here had this experience with their horse? I registered on this foum specifically to ask this question, because people here seem to have a deeper understanding of horses than is found elsewhere.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2013 5:46 pm 
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Joined: Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:42 am
Posts: 2147
Location: Vienna, Austria
Welcome Evi! :f:

I am curious, how long has your horse been under saddle and since when are you experiencing this?

I sat on my horse for the first time about 1.5 years ago and have ridden him sparingly since then. From the beginning, my horse was very interested in other horses carrying riders and especially interested when I climbed on his back. He investigated repeatedly my feet, sniffing them, even biting them. All the time I had the impression that he was doing that in a very curious manner. It seemed like he wanted to understand what was happening with him, how it was possible that I was on top of him and he carrying me around. It culminated in a very special session, when I was riding him on a sunny day and the sun was throwing our joint shadows on the arena wall. My horse stopped frequently and it took me a while to figure out what he was doing. He was actually tilting his head to watch our common outline sketched on the wall - he was watching while we stopped and also slowly walked on to see us in motion. If I am not completely mistaken, he was really trying to unravel the puzzle of a human riding a horse.

What I am trying to say is that I think we are often not giving our horses enough credit for trying to cooperate and to understand our human ways. It is a common believe that horses will always first try to evade from what we ask from them, but that stands in contrast to my own experience of so many curious, open minded horses, that are willing to please and work together with a human on a common goal.

Having said that, I am certain that in some occasions a look to the foot of the rider can also mean that something is bothering the horse - the weight of the rider, an uncomfortable saddle, or maybe just the length of a riding session. I also have seen that with my horse. Usually the horse's expression is different then. If the horse looks worried or uneasy I would always check if there are good reasons for it - maybe physical problems, or unfitting equipment, has the horse been properly prepared for carrying a rider?
If the horse is at liberty and has learned to voice concerns without fear of retribution, you can be sure that you'll get the best feedback from the horse. That's still the best safety check you can find, if you ask me ;)


The horse owes us nothing.

PostPosted: Wed Mar 27, 2013 12:07 pm 

Joined: Sun Mar 24, 2013 5:00 pm
Posts: 2
Hi Houyhnhnm :)

Thanks for your reply :) I wrote a long post in return, but then the computer monster ate it.

Your thoughts on your horse looking at your shadow when you where on his back was very interesting. We have a wall at my stable yard on which is painted life-sized images of horses running around. When a new horse arrives at the stable, he will always spend a few minutes sniffing and looking at one of the painted horses in particular. Both a shadow and a painting are quite abstract (compared to the other things in a horse's life), and is very exciting to see that they have the depth of intelligence to understand them.

I don't think that he is looking at me because of ill fitting tack or tiredness. When he has had enough of riding, he stops and stands completly still. Then I know that it is time to get off :) A few times, he has not wanted to walk to the arena at all, so I took it to mean that he really didn't feel like riding on that day.

My horse is 13 years old (he is an OTTB), and had a tough time before I got him. The last rider rode him with running reins in a kimblewick bit, with some contraption to tie his mouth together so that he could not evade the bit. The only way that my poor boy will let people ride him is if you take the time to figure out what is going through his head, and if you respect his right to have an opinion about things, and you listen to it.

MFor example, my instructor took him out for a ride a while ago without asking me!! :( My horse would not cross a ditch, and my instructor ended up fighting with him. Afterwards he told me that he has never ever been so scared on a horse before (he has been instructing for over 50 years). He never got the horse over that ditch. The horse fought him and nothing would make him do what he did not want to do.

I feel that my horse is starting to realise that not only am I trying to figure out what he is thinking, but that I respect his right to have an opinion and to act on it. That is why I am so thrilled and intregued that he is giving me these very deliberate looks. I feel that it is the start of a deeper understanding between us, and that he is starting to trust me more.

"I think we are often not giving our horses enough credit for trying to cooperate and to understand our human ways" That is such an amazing statement, thank you very much! It rings so much more true than the horse trying to evade, etc. I think that we have so often killed their curiosity about humans in the way that we treat them, and expect them to react like automatons to every single thing that we want them to do, every minute that we are around them!

PostPosted: Sat Jun 29, 2013 12:21 pm 

Joined: Sat Jun 29, 2013 8:38 am
Posts: 1
Well it is quite interesting and admiring too..I am just merely amazed by the incident you mentioned in the post.. :smile: :smile:

horseback riding trips

PostPosted: Fri Jan 10, 2014 9:03 am 
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Joined: Tue May 15, 2007 2:40 pm
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Location: Belgium
Owen does it when he wants me to get off. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't :)


PostPosted: Sun Dec 07, 2014 4:35 pm 
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Joined: Thu Dec 04, 2014 3:19 am
Posts: 94
Location: America
Rose looks at me, but I get from it that she's just sayin' hey. Occasionally she'll give me this "are you kidding" look, but mostly she's just checking me out.

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