Horseback Riding

Is Your Horse Listening?

January 4, 2010

How to tell if your horse is paying attention to you.

Communication between horse and rider is very important.

Communication between horse and rider is very important.

By Dennis Brouse

One of the most important elements of effectively training your horse is communication. Whether you’re working with your horse in the round pen, riding on the trails or loading your horse in a trailer, it’s critical to have good communication with your horse – for both your safety and the horse’s. In order to communicate effectively, your horse needs to pay attention to you.

We’ve all seen horses who don’t pay attention to their owners. And there are all types of “not paying attention” behavior. Some horses “check out” mentally and won’t respond to your cues without a lot of work on your part. Others pay attention to everything else around them except you – carrying their head high, never looking at you and acting spooky about everything around them. And of course, there are horses that “snub” you – turn their rears toward you and ignore you completely.

So, how can you tell if you have your horse’s attention? While every horse has a different personality, there are signs that you can watch for in every horse to know if he or she is paying attention to you.

Do you enjoy learning about Quarter Horse history? Check out our FREE Gospel According to Peter (McCue) report. You’ll learn about one of the breed’s most important sires – of 5.3 million horses, 5.1 trace back to Peter McCue.

In the Round Pen

When you’re working with your horse in the round pen, watch closely for these signs:

  • Inner ear turned toward you.
  • Lowered head, licking lips, chewing
  • Turning in toward you

While Riding

Whether you’re out on the trail, riding around the farm or in an arena, it’s critical to have your horse’s attention. Here’s what to look for:

  • Lowered head. If the horse’s head is high and he’s nervous or skittish, he’s paying attention to everything around him, not you.
  • Quick responses to light cues. If you have to kick your horse constantly or pull hard on the reins, he’s not paying attention.
  • Ear turned toward you.

On the Ground

Whether you’re leading your horse, loading him in a trailer or just grooming him, watch for these signs that you have his attention:

  • Respects your space
  • Lowered head
  • Eyes and ears on you

Remember, until you establish leadership, very few horses will pay attention to you or listen to you. That’s why I recommend the first step in training any horse is to work with him in a round pen to establish your leadership and get his respect. Once your horse recognizes you as the leader, you’ll find he is much more willing to pay attention to you. An improved bond with your horse enhances communication and, ultimately, creates a better relationship.

Dennis Brouse is the host of the TV show “Saddle Up With Dennis Brouse.” For more information, visit Dennis’ Web site.

If you’re interested in bloodlines, you should check out our FREE Gospel According to Peter (McCue) report. Read the story of one of the most influential sires in Quarter Horse history.

To learn even more about great Quarter Horses and people in the Quarter Horse industry, visit the “People and Horses” channel on America’s Horse TV.