Horse Training Through a Child’s Eyes

“That horse looks angry, Mummy.” That was a statement made by a 6 year old child watching a popular clinician work with a young horse at a recent expo.

The bleachers were crowded  and overflowing with people enthralled by the demonstration.  This was day 2 of a 3 day series in which the popular clinician was starting a young horse under saddle.  Each session was an hour.  The horse, he had told the audience, before coming to the expo had been living a quiet life in a field and, although he had had a rider on his back a handful of times, he had not been worked for months.

On day 1, Popular Clinician, had done some ground work with the horse, saddled and bridled him and worked him at walk, trot and canter.

On day 2, he did the same.  P.C. worked with the horse before his session and the youngster was huffing and puffing as the session began.  His tail was clamped (a sign of fear) and he was showing obvious signs of stress – to be expected for a horse who was taken from a field and put into a small ring in front of about 1000 people.  After the work he did in day 1, you can bet he was feeling some sore muscles.

As P.C. worked the horse, he explained his training philosophy, talked about his travels and had the audience laughing with his funny stories.   The audience didn’t seem to be concerned about how the horse was feeling about what was going on.  But, the 6 year old noticed.

The 6 year old noticed because she wasn’t paying attention to the man in the middle of the ring.  She was watching the horse and she noticed how the horse was feeling because she noticed his body language.

There are many ways to train a horse.  Some trainers like to get the job done fast. Some prefer to take more time.  At expos, the sessions are often about keeping the audience entertained.

There are times in any training session when a horse might express fear or anger.  But, it is my belief that those should be ‘moments’ and there should be very few of them – especially if I want to earn the horse’s trust and respect, and build his confidence.  A sort of respect can be gained through fear.  But, that comes from ‘learned helplessness’ and it’s not the type of ‘respect’ I want to have.  Trust is never gained through fear.

As the horse sees that the trainer is not a threat to his safety, then he will give more expressions of calmness and relaxing.  The horse will feel good about what is happening.  He will feel safe.  He will give his trust and respect to the trainer.  He will even enjoy the work he is asked to do.

Next time you’re watching a popular clinician or a local horse trainer, try observing like a 6 year old.  If you’re watching their videos on YouTube, turn off the sound.  Pay less attention to what the trainer is saying and put your attention on what the horse is saying.  Do you like what you see?

My book is now available! “Confident Rider, Confident Horse: Build Your Confidence While Improving Your Partnership with Your Horse from the Ground to the Saddle”.  Click here to order.

Interested in organizing a clinic at your location? Click here for more information.

Let’s spread the word about a better way to work with horses.  Share this blog with 3 friends, send a Tweet or post a link on your Facebook page.  The horses thank you.

You’re welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you include my credit information: ~ Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (  

I would also appreciate it if you’d send me a copy for my media files.

Anne Gage ~ Confident Horsemanship
Facebook Group – Horseback Riding Solutions with Anne Gage

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8 thoughts on “Horse Training Through a Child’s Eyes

    • Hi, Sarah … thanks for stopping by my blog. It certainly is true that we often get caught up in our own goals and lose awareness for how the other party (animal or human) is feeling. So much of what we can learn from interacting with animals can have a very positive affect on our interactions with other humans – of all ages.



  1. Hi Anne!

    I haven’t been around horses in ages & miss it so much. I think the universe is trying to tell me something as this blog is the third thing in the last week I’ve come across about horses.

    It’s so true that body language will tell you a lot if you’re willing to watch/pay attention. Thanks so much for the suggestion to watch training videos with the sound off. That’s a fantastic idea because you’re right, I’ll be watching the horse, not the trainer.

    So glad we connected via UBC. 🙂

  2. So true. One such “P.C.” was in my area recently. I had heard all of the buzz but knew little of this particular P.C.’s philosophy. Some of my students were urging me to join them at the clinic. I was about to purchase tickets for the weekend and stumbled upon a video. I am so glad I did. The horses that this individual was working with gave me a clear testimonial to what was really happening in that arena. They were terrified and submitting – not learning trust and partnership. I decided not to go. It can be a subtle difference in understanding – especially for less experienced equestrians. Thank you for sharing.

    • Hi, Stef … Unfortunately, that is the case with the majority of the Popular Clinicians doing the equine expos now. I like the way you express how it can be with the phrase on your website “Empowering horses and humans …” Beautiful!

      Enjoy the journey.


  3. I was there, and was not entertained. I too saw this horse in the second session, and that was enough. When I vaguely stated my opinion to some people in the audience that I knew, one man said ‘Well, he get’s the job done!”. I was both appalled and sickened. I had no desire to see what he did in round two. I guess ‘That’s entertainment!’…. at the horse’s expense.
    I must say that the second clinician I watched was much more horse-friendly, but the crowd seemed a little bored and many of them left. He wasn’t so ‘funny’ I guess, and his personality much less egotistic in my view.

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