“Be The Boss”

Image may contain: one or more people, ocean, sky, outdoor and waterHave you ever heard someone tell you “be the boss” or “show him who’s boss” when it comes to working with your horse? There’s a lot of methods and techniques out there that instruct you to be the boss, be the alpha, don’t let him get away with ______, etc. Tag lines like “teach your horse to respect you” and don’t allow your horse to be disrespectful, stuff like that.

Now imagine you have a job, and you probably do… what’s your boss like? Is your boss a “boss” or is he/she a more of a leader? If you’re self employed, how do you feel about you, yourself as a boss? The difference between a job you love and a job you hate, isn’t actually about the job you do… but rather who you do if for. A work environment that is productive, positive and rewarding, will yield more employees who enjoy the work they do regardless of the task they get paid for. On the other hand, you may love the work you do, but hate your job simply because the people you work with are dragging you down. In an unhappy workplace, often the worst part is the mentality that because you are being paid, means you should do your job, with the highest quality regardless of how the environment treats you. In my training business, all it takes is a client who demands the most for their money and they wanted it done yesterday. It takes a passion I love and quickly throws it in the category of I’d rather go work fast food or retail or something.

The deeper I go down my horsemanship path, the more I realize the power in working with the horse and for the horse rather than having the horse work for me. I used to have to get pretty tough on horses to establish that “respect”. Basically when the horse showed resistance to the work, I took it as an insult and therefore the horse needed to be shown that I was calling the shots and he needed to follow suit. I basically focused more on having the horse be obedient over anything else. That pattern caused me to have to work really hard, especially when dealing with the tougher cases. I used to be in pretty good physical shape as a result, I had the arms of a body builder. lol

When dealing with a horse labeled as “disrespectful”, lazy, stubborn, etc. we tend to want to fix the attitude they have. I used to be big on fixing the attitude… I’d get after them for pinning their ears, kicking at me, running away when I wanted to catch them, rearing, bucking, etc. Not to say I don’t anymore, but it’s very few and far between and its usually a light bulb for me to change my approach. When a horse acts disrespectful, pushy, mouthy, etc., we tend to look at that as a problem to fix rather than a symptom leading to valuable information. Often times, a horse is trying their very best to do what you ask as long as its the path of least resistance. When our expectations are high and we micromanage the horse while ignoring their concerns, you start to get the negative behavior. In all honesty, I don’t know how to fix a lot of the problems I get, but I do find the problems take care of themselves when I follow a process. Bad behavior is usually a horse trying to communicate that he’s unhappy, fearful, anxious, frustrated, etc. about the life he’s living.

The fun part about horses is they lack a developed frontal cortex in the brain. The frontal cortex is the part of the brain responsible for rationalizing behavior, long term planning, premeditated actions, and “doing the right thing, even when it’s the harder thing to do” along with a other things. So in people we can achieve these things, but horses can’t… they can’t premeditate their behavior and they do NOT have the capacity to do the harder thing even when it’s the right thing to do. Often times the need to “be the boss” comes in when we are asking the horse to perform a task that we see as the right thing, but the horse sees as the harder thing. Often times you hear people say “don’t let him get away with that!” You can make a horse do the harder thing, by making not doing the harder thing a lot harder. This creates a spiral of needing to be a step ahead of the horse to keep him from ducking out of the task. The down side is when you pass the horse to someone else and that person isn’t on top of everything, the horse will start unraveling and behaving badly.

So when it comes to working with my horses, more and more I learn to seek to be a partner rather than a boss. I want to be the partner they can count on and not one that dominates and tells them how life works. Not to say I never say “hey! Pay attention” but when I do, I’ve given them plenty of opportunities to connect. The more mindful I am with recognizing when they see my task as too hard, I figure out how to break that task down in pieces for the horse. Once they learn the pieces, you can glue the whole picture together… and in the horses eyes, it’s the easy thing. A task is easy to a horse, when they know it and can execute it without much, if any discomfort. The trick is to treat your training program like learning the ABC’s. Everyday, you start at A, get A better, more rehearsed and get the horse confident in A and he’ll start performing A willingly without resistance. Follow that pattern with everything you do and you soon get a horse that is happy to perform without needing to cut him off from evading.

The down side… is working on taking our ego out of the picture. The stronger our ego, the more we want to show the horse who’s boss when he becomes resistant. Resistance is greater when the human upholds the ego. Start peeling back your ego, and your horse will begin to try harder and harder for you because now you are acting like a partner and not a dictator. 🙂


Image may contain: sky, horse, outdoor and natureHave you ever had someone imply that you have issues and you need to change your behaviors, habits, etc.? We see it on TV all the time where talk show hosts have guests that have issues and their family/friends brought them to the show so someone could help them. Most times you see arguments, fights, and strong emotions when the people are confronted about their bad habits. If you’ve ever had that happen on some level, how does it make you feel? Let me guess… excited, thrilled, and overly enthusiastic that someone wants to see you change your ways for the better? Ha ha, kidding! When it comes to this topic, whether referring to horses/animals or people, the response when someone comes in insisting on changing us, we tend to get defensive on some level and so do animals.

I had a new trainer start to help me a while back. Great guy, very nice but I always felt uneasy, insecure and slightly depressed as well as anxious, when he’d help me. I couldn’t really figure out what it was until after I stopped working with him. I realize now that the feelings I had were because he was always saying he’d help me fix all the things I was doing wrong with the horses. Initially, I felt like an idiot that I must be so inept at working with horses that he needed to fix all this stuff about me and my training program. I felt like maybe I had no business training horses if I was that off base and needed that much help. lol. That insecurity just nagged at me because I felt like I wasn’t accepted and recognized for the way I was but rather I should have been someone better than I was. Well, long story short, once I saw the results he created, as well as the way he behaved in life, I wasn’t convinced that I was needing so much help after all. lol. I accepted that I was doing just fine where I was and that my current circle of mentors accepted me for who I was and always pushed me to dream bigger and do better but not in a belittling or criticizing sort of way.

When it comes to working with horses, I find the same responses in horses when the owners want to change them. Most people want to change a horse who is lazy, spooky, hard to catch, won’t load in the trailer, herd bound, ect. Often, in the beginning for sure, the horses get defensive about all the new rules the owner learns. The owners get discouraged by this and often get tougher on the horse or quit trying all together. I used to be in the business of “fixing” problem horses until I realized this phenomenon. It’s not about fixing anything in all honesty… its about having empathy and understanding for the behavior or actions of the horse and then self reflecting and acting in a way that is going to change how horses respond. Basically, when we change our approach, the horses change their responses. When we get firm or hard, horses get braced and tense. When we slow down and soften our approach, or adjust our cues and use of pressure, the horses soften and respond smoother.

The big 3 problems people want to fix in my practice are bucking, rearing or bolting. All three of these are flight/fight responses in the horse. The problem with trying to fix any of the 3, is you miss so many little things that caused the big things to happen. Without looking at all the little signs, and addressing those, you can’t fix the big problems. I have seen people punish horses for bucking, rearing or bolting, by going to extremes but usually that just causes a horse to shut down and not respond, we then assume we fixed it. The interesting thing with this is what happens when someone new and less experienced comes into the picture… when a horse is truly confident and understands the work being asked, they don’t behave badly…

Understanding that these 3 things are the result of a horse going into self preservation mode helps the overall approach. Once an animal is in this zone, they don’t rationally think or learn anything positive, and typically it just further adds to the trauma and damage to their confidence as well as ingraining more learned behaviors. By getting after a horse that bucks, rears or bolts, you only add more pressure to an already overly pressurized situation. Seeing the big 3 as valuable information rather than a problem to fix, will allow you to investigate the reasons why the horse feels threatened enough to self preserve for their safety.

The most common mistake I see and hear people make is saying the horses does the actions on purpose. They may call the horse stubborn, bad minded, counterfeit, etc. because they seem to behave so irrationally and at times its programmed for them to behave badly. Instead I look at how a horse acts as valuable information. Learning to read/feel body language and facial expressions really puts a damper on all the things we label horses being. When we miss the signs from the actions, body language and facial expressions, we only see the most obvious things which we label as the “problem”. But when you learn to read the subtle cues the horses give, you can slow down and help fill in the gaps. Same goes with people who struggle with major issues, look at all the little things that lead to the big thing. The nice thing about horses, is they are very honest. People only show you the stuff they want you to see and they can hide the rest inside. People are great at hiding how they really feel in order to be politically correct. Horses don’t fear judgement, therefore, when you slow down and listen, they’ll lay it on the table for you to see.

The more I learn to read horses, the more I see just how gentle they are even with all the baggage they carry. When we learn how to slow down and learn to understand what they are saying, the better we will get along. You don’t have to use harsh or forceful tactics to make a horse behave when you slow down, listen and understand what the horse is trying to convey. The more you slow down, listen to the horse, the horse will soften because he now knows, that you know, he’s struggling to cope with something. My goal is work with horses the way I would want someone working with me. Accept me for who I am, teach me new things, allow me to learn and process, encourage me to try even if I get it wrong and don’t punish me for struggling.

The difference between a job you love and a job you hate, isn’t about the job you do, but its who you do it for. Great leaders, encourage, accept and reward actions of willingly trying to do your best and as a result they bring everyone with them because they want to be there, they want to be in a positive and rewarding enviroment. 🙂



Spooking and Desensitizing

Image may contain: horse, sky and outdoorA very common problem I’m faced with is owners wanting to fix their horses spooking issues. I can’t blame them because spooking can be one of the most annoying habits a horse develops. In this blog I hope to shed some light on why horses spook.

A few years ago I took a lesson with one of my favorite horseman. I took my horse who developed an aversion to both the big ball and the mechanical cow little stuffed cow. When he’d see either of these 2 things he’d panic, become shaky, jumpy and would often feel on the verge of exploding if I pressed him on. As I went for my lesson, ball and cow in hand, my favorite horseman asked me what I’d like help with. I said “my horse has an aversion to these two things and I want him to get over it.” He looked at me and said “ok but we don’t need the ball or the cow.” I was baffled, confused and honestly a little upset that he wasn’t taking my concern seriously. I don’t think he understood just how bad my horse was about these 2 things!!! In hindsight, now I know why…

Horses, first and foremost are prey animals. They are wired to be sensitive to danger and in a fraction of a moments notice, can be seen in fight or flight, fleeing from perceived danger. It’s the very reason they have survived as long as they have and have developed the quickest reaction time of any prey animal. I think we often forget how gentle horses really are given the world we ask them to live in…

The most common fix I hear for horses that are spooky is lots of “desensitization”. You have methods like tying the object they spook at to the fence or having them eat off a tarp or tying things to their bodies or using tools, sounds or objects during training. I’m not saying its wrong, but it’s not the whole fix and often times, desensitizing can do more harm than good. When we flood the horse with stimulus, we can overwhelm his senses and cause them to be chronically explosive or the opposite, which is shut down. Both states actually leave a horse in a state of self preservation and over time it changes their natural way of being. Tying things to a horse or to their pen or having it be part of their environment can be damaging if the horse also lives in a constant state of anxiety and tension which again is self preservation. Finally, using desensitizing in training can damage the confidence of a horse when they basically either learn to stand still and tolerate something or the person will continue to use the tool. I did this method for a long time and usually would hit a road block with almost every horse at a certain point because once in motion or doing a task that object would cause the worry and possibly, the meltdown.

Why doesn’t this sort of work, work? Short answer… Confidence. Some horses are just born confident, quiet and agreeable with horses and people. These horses are the 1 in a million because they don’t seem to have much reason to protect themselves and therefore are very safe to be around. They rarely get bothered and when they do, there is usually good reason. This has always baffled me until I started to learn why my desensitizing efforts weren’t as effective as I thought they’d be.

When a horse is in a state where he is nervous, anxious and on the verge of fight, flight or freeze (self preservation) they will associate the stimulus as being negative and a threat to their safety. I was taught to keep applying the stimulus until my horse stood still and relaxed. What I see now, is the horse was seeking the easiest answer. Initially you’d get fight or flight, then the horse would come to a stop because fleeing wasn’t the answer. When they stopped, we took the thing away. But were they actually good with it or were they just seeking the easy way out which was standing still? Again, horses lack the part of the brain responsible for premeditated action, higher reasoning and doing the harder thing even if its the right thing to do. So waiting for a horse to stop moving his feet before removing an object is the teaching of a fact, if you don’t like something, freeze… its not a bad thing to teach at all but its also not the fix to the reason they spook to begin with.

At first when you put the tarp in the stall with food on it, they may be very suspicious about the threat. Depending on the sensitivity of the horse, eventually they figure out that the tarp is not a threat and it only comes to offer food. Now you want to ride your horse and when you come upon tarp in the arena, your horse is very likely to go back to his original behavior  of possibly being very suspicious or fearful about the tarp. At this point we usually say “stupid horse, its just a tarp, you’ve been eating off one!” There are exceptions to this of course and some will say their horse will play with anything whether its in their stall or not and that he’s just spooky about x, y or z. lol. I’m not referring to horses that don’t have obstacle issues.

Spooking in a nutshell is anxiety that has built up in the horse. Experiences build in a horse. If they have positive experiences, they become calm, responsive and sane horses. If the experiences have been negative, they become spooky, fearful, and may be obedient and light to your requests but when s*** hits the fan, they choose their survival over yours. Has your horse ever spooked and run off? Have you come off and your horse heads home? Does your horse need another horse for comfort? Examples like this lie in the lack of connection between horse and rider. Your horse doesn’t seek you for his safety and comfort.

Working with horses that have anxiety means we need to lower our energy, lower our expectations and soften our mindset. When you see a spooking horse as a horse in need of help, you’ll be able to help your horse because you come from an empathetic state. If you see it as a problem needing to be fixed, you’ll often do too much with too high of exceptions which tend to cause more trouble. I learned this the hard way when I tried to “fix” my horse of his spooking about the ball and stuffed cow. After all, the stupid objects lived in his pen and he played with them when I wasn’t around!!!

Since that lesson a few years ago, I’ve learned more about the reason why horses spook and why they continue to spook given our efforts with so much desensitization. It really hit me when I went to go work my horse on the mechanical cow after about 2 years away from it. He was no longer afraid of it and we hadn’t even practiced anything related to it or desensitizing! But what I had practiced is the underlying issue… the anxiety, tension and insecurity my horse felt with me.

My final thought on this and how to address it is in ourselves. I have noticed that anxious, busy, and fearful riders tend to have anxious, busy and fearful horses. Riders who are soft, confident and attentive to the horses emotions, have horses who are quiet and level headed. The secret is in our minds and when we manage our emotions, thoughts and expectations, our horses change their behavior. There’s an exercise I try and teach people who are willing to work on this. Often times they try it when I’m not looking because its a bit of an awkward thing to try. The first time they try it, they get a surprise and ask was that a coincidence that I did this and my horse just did that? Nope!

The ability to practice this awkward exercise leads to the results you are after without a bunch of extra work or training. It teaches you how to be methodical in the development of your horses confidence while you also work on the vision you wish to achieve with your horse. It really amazed me that when I changed my pattern and became more mindful of my horses emotions, the hard stuff became easy. 🙂

If you’d like to learn more about how to help your horse with spooking issues you can join my Face Book groups. There is 2 groups, one that specializes in groundwork and the other specializes in riding. There is exercises as well as application of exercises to maximize the relationship with your horse regardless of the discipline you choose to do.




At some point or another, we’ve all been the victim of someone else’s hate, criticisms and bullying of us. Old timers will say that kids and even adults these days are becoming too sensitive and easily offended by everything. People are offended by the things that are said to them, about them or about things they believe in. While I tend to see it as well and agree, I also disagree.

The last 10-15 years there has been a dramatic shift in our social world with the likes of social media. You can instantly connect with millions of people from all over the world without leaving your house. News spreads like a heavily fueled wild fire in a wind storm. When I was in school, I’d get picked on for being the horsey kid. I’d wear my horse riding clothes to school now and then in anticipation of my after school activities. Kids would pick on me and I slowly quit dressing like a horsey girl to avoid the unkind and uncomfortable comments. The nice thing looking back, was you didn’t have camera phones and social media where your bullies would share how stupid you looked for the world to laugh at. Basically the bullying stayed within your class or group of people you were around.

Today’s bullying has gone to such extremes! Its no longer the small scale like I remember, but now you have social media and keyboard warriors with nothing better to do than say mean and hurtful things about other people whether they know them or not. Now, you have bullies that have a much larger world stage in some cases and they’ll rant and rave as long as they have supporters of their opinions. They can single handedly ruin someones reputation with a few clicks of a mouse whether the information is factual or not. Not to mention the spreading of “fake news” or only sharing bad news or news that fits their motivation in order to gain that power they seek.

Social media is a very powerful platform for most people to share the good in the world. Family love, vacation pictures, competition successes are easily shared to people you don’t see often but can be with, by simply having social media. For me personally, its my way of connecting and helping people all over the world. I’ll post my most proud accomplishments for all my “friends” to see and now and then I’ll post my sad moments, failures or struggles to gain emotional support. This really opens you up and makes you vulnerable as a person because now you are opening yourself up to judgment and criticism from people and a lot of times from people who don’t even know you. People will openly hate on you without a legitimate reason why simply because they can.

Its important to remember that he who is the bully, is the one with the issue. Our true substance is how we treat others. When we bully, mistreat and intentionally hurt others, we are not telling the world who “they” are, but we are actually expressing who we are on the inside. Bullies typically do the most damage when they are protected behind a keyboard because when confronted, most bullies are truly insecure cowards. When you take their barrier away and confront them face to face, often times they are all talk, no action and no real source for true information.

When we are faced with someone bullying us, our own weaknesses will surface and drag us down. Shame becomes a factor where we let the bully’s words validate who we think we are, they validate our feelings of not being good enough. How do we know that… how many times have you been hung up on 1 negative comment about something rather than celebrating the 100 good comments? We become insecure when the chain of community support is broken. Humans are afraid of failure, they are afraid of being alone, and we are afraid of not being good “enough”. Bullying is such a damaging thing, not because of the words, but because those words cause us to doubt ourselves. As a kid I was convinced that I was a dork and an outcast because I dressed in my riding outfit. I felt like an outsider and as a result I changed my clothes to fit in with the rest of the herd. We feel safer in numbers especially when we follow the crowd to avoid being exposed for being different. Now a days, I understand more about shame, as a kid I was very sensitive to what others thought of me. Now, I can go to the grocery store in my dirty jeans, messy hair, probably smelling of cow manure and I don’t care!

I don’t claim to be immune to criticism and bullying one bit, and the more time I spend online, the more I feel insecure about my ability, self worth, etc simply because people make comments that I take personally. I just keep reminding myself to practice skills for navigating my emotions and feelings. I focus on reminding myself that non positive or uplifting comments, are not actually comments aren’t about me, they are about the person spewing their hateful heart and their perspective based on their experience or lack of. When I feel shame, its usually an insecurity and weakness within myself that I need to work on that’ll relive me of my sad thoughts. And when I feel the need to shrink and hide from the peanut gallery to avoid criticism and confrontation, I remind myself that my path, my journey are mine and mine alone. As long as I feel I am doing the very best I can do for myself, that’s all I can do. No one walks in my shoes, no one has my same vision or goals and no 2 people will EVER share the same perspectives or experiences in life, therefore there is nothing I need to change about myself just because someone else has an issue with how I live my life.

Lastly, a great quote I saw the other day was “If I am to be insulted, I must first value your opinion.” I love that because its so easy to take personally what other people say. And with social media, we start to feel insulted by comments from people we don’t know and they don’t know us! How silly is that? So, I remind myself, “do I value this person’s opinion because they wish to see me grow, or am I hurt by the comments because on some level I think they are right?”