Waiting for Your Horse to Ask the Question

We forget sometimes that it is important to keep the spirit of the horse a part of our training.  I’ve heard people say, “My horse is really spirited I need him to settle down.  I would just like him to listen to me.”  I agree a well trained, trusting and respectful steed is what everyone is looking for.  Yet there comes a place in the training where a person can get to repetitious and drown out the spirit, replacing it with a numbness.

A horse will become perfect in his own abilities as we steadily move forward consistently with our training.   One of the most valuable training tools we possess is patience.  A trainer can get a lot further with a horse if he asks for less and quits when he gets more then what he asked for.  It’s important to be satisfied with what our horse can give us each training session.  It will amaze you how much faster your horse learns when you say, “Yes. That was what I wanted”, in answer to the horses question, “Is this what you wanted?”  Yes, the horse will ask the question if you give him enough time.  Some of you are saying,  “My horse never asks me anything, it just does what it wants or maybe you can say my horse does what I want him to do.  Either way, how many horse men and women out there listen to your horses questions?  We are constantly trying to understand the horse and the horse is trying to understand us.  A language is formed in order to communicate but what a lot of us humans forget with the horse is that language goes both ways.  That is what makes conversations.

If you watch horse in the wild,  one horse might come up to another a slowly through body language and head tipping and a few sounds ask another horse if it is ok to approach, share a grassing area or find time for some mutual grooming.  All this is a conversation between horses in a language they have learned from one another.  So yes we can have those conversations too.

There are times we get so rapped up in the training of our horses that it is hard to see what’s happening in the horse.  Mainly because we haven’t been listening.  Suddenly we realize our horse is pinning it’s ears down every time we pick up a lead rope,  they may be avoiding the halter or retreat to the back of the stall.  These are all signs that let us know that there is something we are not bringing to this partnership.  The communication needs to go both ways.  This is when it becomes crucial to listen to your horse and allow him to think, discover and ask questions.  When our release response is too slow, maybe not timely enough or the sessions go too long, then the continued pressure becomes too much for the horse and they start tuning out or getting mad.

We all tend to work toward perfection.  This is what creates good work habits and focus.  All very good qualities that I also strive for each day and admire in those that possess them. Yet in a horse, depending on his or her personality, it would be best not to push to hard for perfection to fast.  Don’t micro manage your horses spirit, macro manage it instead.

horse communicationWhen I work with young horses I try to wait for them to ask the question, “Is this what you want?”, or “Is this what your asking me to do?”.  This takes a lot of time and patience but the intelligent curious side of the horse gets developed as well as the spirited side gets manageable.  As they move into more serious training they find a nice balance between spirited and curiosity which develops into responsive rather than reaction in good time.

Wait for the question and let them know with every step they take it’s ok to ask.  Let your horse come to realize there will be an answer waiting if they ask.  Keep the positive in every effort.  Do your best to see they are trying their best.  It’s important to keep the discipline as clean and clear, so they can understand.  Not always, but more times then not, wait to see how they react.  Waiting will give you a lot of insight into your horses personality.  The smart trainer uses all these tools in conjunction with the horses personality to bring out the best in the horse.  Plant the seed and wait for your horse to ask the question.  This is one of the keys to success with your horse.

If you have any questions or would like to respond, please feel free.




  1. Ann Bastin

    What an insightful article about the mind of the horse and the partnershp we constantly seek. I can’t wait to hear more about this topic as Michaella works with and trains our young horse. The dialogue of questions and snswers is beginning and I can’t wait to get feedback about how that goes. A learning experience for us all!

  2. After the lesson where Star and I learned how to have fun again, I have really noticed what you are talking about here. I knew she was not happy, but did not understand why. I saw a HUGE change in her at the lesson. She started to be her curious self again. I have done these activities at home and have realized that she has started seeing the arena as a “bad” place. She is a different horse when she is worked in there. She loses her curiosity and stops questioning. I am starting to really realize that she is a baby inside of an adult horse. She is starting to see that we can have fun in the arena again – thanks to the games we learned at the lesson. We have both grown since that clinic and I am now aware of what I need to look for in my horses to make sure they are enjoying themselves and questioning instead of waiting to be told what to do. It makes for a much more enjoyable time. I cannot thank you enough for how much you have taught Star and I so far!

  3. Colt Robert Downs

    This has to be one of the more insightful reads I have ever came through. Horses are by far one of the most magnificent creatures I have ever met. However, most horse training programs tend to drown out that free-spirited nature they have. In as much as I want a top-performing horse, I want them doing so as if this is what they have wanted in their life.
    Proper care along with training is thus Crucial. Hopefully, I can bring out the best in my horse with this perspective.

  4. Colt Robert Downs

    This is perhaps one of the most insightful articles I have ever read. My horse, Blueberry, was always in high spirits until I was training her to be ridden. Then, she all got depressed and scared at times.
    This article just highlights what I may be doing wrong with her. In our drive to make them responsive towards us, we might have repressed their free-spirited nature.
    I always believe that horse riding is developing a friendship with the horse and not telling them who’s boss.
    Maybe this strategy can bring her back to her usual self.
    Looking forward to reading more of your blogs!

    • Michaella

      Don’t hesitate to ask any questions if you need some guidance. Looking forward to hearing from you.

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