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Releasing Tension

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   July 28, 2011 07:18

In the last issue we discussed communicating to your horses mind and working towards releasing your horse’s fear, tension and insecurities. In this issue of releasing tension we are going to move towards the next step in communicating to your horse’s mind and reaching deeper into the body to create a soft and willing partner.


Think of horses in their natural environment and how they act in every day life. When they are threatened by predators they will run, when they are alert they will raise their heads up and perk their ears forward. When they are confident in their leadership they will be relaxed and graze with their heads down.  By observing these simple forms of body language we are able to not only create a form of communication that will allow our horse to trust us but also allow us to reach into our horse and release tension.


While your horse is wearing a halter and lead rope take one hand and pull gently down on the lead shank, remember it is not a tug of war so use just enough pressure that you can feel the tension in your horse. When you feel that tension release and your horse’s head soften downward you want to release your hand so your horse understands that softening to the pressure is what you want. If your horse braces on you and freezes up like a mule (sorry to all you mule lovers) try not to increase your downward pressure. Instead keep the same pressure but move your hand from left to right, which will create more stimulation on the halter to generate a more in depth conversation. Continue this process so you can consistently soften your horse’s head down with as little pressure as possible.


This exercise allows you to soften your horse to pressure and allow any tension, fear or nervousness to be released and put your horse in a grazing state of mind where he is trusting in your leadership. When your horse understands this exercise you can start to soften him whenever you feel his mind leave you, for example when someone slams a door in the barn or kids happen to run through the barn kicking a big pink ball and your horses attention shifts into head up and ears forward or possibly into flight mode. You can now shift his mind set to you by simply softening him and focusing him on your leadership.


Jon Cooper

Trusted Training


Jonathon Cooper

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   July 23, 2011 12:08


Jonathon Cooper  of "Trusted Training" is featured in "Training Secrets"  Ask your question today...


Dealing with the "Super Sensitive" Horse

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   July 5, 2011 06:59


“I have a Hanoverian mare that is well past super sensitive.  I bred her, foaled her out, and handled her extensively beginning at birth.  She is always trying to hide behind other horses, when she is groomed she twitches as though she is hurting (even with a hand or a soft brush), she always needs to know there is an escape open to her.  Never ever has she been abused in any way, not from birth.  A good description of her is “trying to hold a soap bubble”!  What can I do with her to make her useful under saddle, to try and eliminate some of her fear/flightiness?   She is an international caliber horse physically, however mentally she is not. I appreciate your input and suggestions.”



Fear, tension, insecurity or any form of feeling or emotion always has to be released in some form whether it is through running away, pushing out, biting, striking, and even nervous shaking. Think of it this way; when humans are angry some may yell to release the frustration or when people are grieving or upset they may cry. So too do horses express what they are feeling only they cannot hide it and will never lie to us. Meaning there is always a reason for whatever their reaction. Every horse needs to know that they are safe and that there is a leader that will ensure that safety; it is my goal to always establish that trust early and to never betray it.


In establishing trust I want to teach the horse to always look to me for guidance and in order to do this I have to have connection with their mind. Wherever the mind is so too will the feet be along with whatever emotion the horse is feeling. I talked about pressure in the last article and using your body and emotion to own the space around you, a good exercise is to turn your horse loose in the pen or on a long line and allow him to move around freely. Your goal is to have a conversation with your horses mind and when having a conversation the individual is generally focused on you. As your horse moves around generate some pressure be it a step toward your horse, a slap of your hand on your leg, a shake of the flag or a wave in the long line anything that is going to create your horse to look and engage with you. At first your horse may be all over the place like my two-year-old daughter checking in and then off to another place filled with energy. The important thing is that you use as little pressure as you can to open the conversation and to not be afraid to use more pressure if there is no response. Remember that the release of the pressure is where your horse is going to learn, so when she engages with you by looking at you or facing up to you, that you remove that pressure and let her know that a conversation with you in the right answer. We want her to want to be with us meaning we are not disciplining her for looking around but more so rewarding her for checking in with us. Play with this exercise and experiment with how much pressure you need to generate a connection with your horse; it is a fun way to have your horse respect you and look to you for guidance. In time as your horse moves from you they will be connected and not just leaving the conversation. This will also help when you go to catch your horse because she has learned to check in with you instead of checking out and hiding or walking away.



By communicating to the mind you are able to channel the emotions and energy of your horse to you rather then your horse fleeing, pushing out, fighting or being nervous, thus creating trust and a partnership. I find that too often people speak to the feet first or use pressure in a predator fashion and the horses mind is completely absent and only looking for a way to survive. We can not create leadership if we use pressure in a fearful way this will only create a horse that is only doing what it must to release the pressure.


In conclusion we do not want that soap bubble to burst in your hands and have you or your horse get hurt. We want that bubble to reflect a willingness to trust and to allow you to be the leader, most horses do not want the task of being the leader but they have to feel secure in our ability to guide them.


I will go over the next step to this process in the next issue and how to remove more of that fear in your horse and gain a better connection with their mind.


Thank you,

Jonathan Cooper

Trusted Training