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Horse Problem - Horse Whispering "Tricks of the Trade" - To relax horse, build trust & bond them to us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Don't mean to bother you, but have a nagging question. I've heard something about blowing into or onto the nose of a horse means something. What was it if this is true? Was it something to do with letting them know you like them or what? Thank you for your precious time. Take Care & Keep Smiling.
 
Reply: Not a bother at all. There are no silly questions in my book. Asking questions is how you get good at this stuff. Let me pass along what that's about as well as a couple other horse whispering "melting" tricks-of-the-trade while we're on the subject -- and you can try these as well.
 
The following are especially designed to help a tense or fearful horse to relax in our presence. Use common sense always when trying these methods and perform only what feels safe to you at a given time.
 

Horse Whispering “Tricks of the Trade” Tips to Help

Relax a Horse, Build Trust and Bond Them To Us
 

  • Breathing into a horse's nose with your nose is a little horse whisperer trick-of-the-trade that really melts some horses and is perceived by them as a sign of friendliness, and is what they do to each other in greeting. Another little trick some enjoy along this line (especially the younger the horse, like a foal or a yearling, but some older horses like it, as well) is: whistle into their nose. Doesn't have to be any particular tune, just pleasantly whistle into their nose and it can really melt some. This is how we sometimes get a foal to stand still for baby exams/shots, etc. Really captivates them. Try it! If you want, suck on a mint before breathing into a horse's nose or whistling into it and many really love that scent. Incidentally, whistling some pleasant tune while you work with a horse in general can calm some horses. Singing to them can help, as well, though they seem to like the female higher pitched singing voice tone the most, I've noticed.

  • Secure the horse's nose/muzzle with one hand (so the head can't fly around) and with the other hand, stick a finger in the corner of the horse's mouth (no teeth there usually, don't worry) and "feather the tongue" (stroke the tongue briefly). This produces the horse "working their mouth" instantly. And when a horse works their mouth like that just on their own at liberty, they are "letting down" or relaxing, submitting. When you produce the mouth working yourself by sticking a finger in the corner of their mouth and feathering the tongue, and the horse begins to work the mouth, it produces the exact same response in their brain as if they'd done it all by themselves: they "let down," relax more, feel better. When I'm working with a particularly tense, troubled or wild horse, my finger is going to be constantly going into the corner of their mouth there to get them working their mouth so they can remain in the relaxed frame of mind throughout our session. Where their body goes, their mind follows.


The horse works the mouth/licks the lips,
a sign of understanding and submission.

 

  
Stick a finger in the corner of the mouth & feather the tongue to

get them working their mouth, producing the same results as
if they worked their mouth at liberty, instantly relaxing the horse.

 

 

  • Stand next to the horse's head, facing forward, but bend your body at the waist, your head down, and using pressure on the lead rope (releasing for the smallest tries, slightest changes in the right direction), ask for the horse's head to come down, close to the ground. A high head is a tense, "on alert" horse.” A lowered head is a relaxed horse. Where the head goes, the mind follows. So, to get a horse to relax more, ask the head to drop to the ground. The horse will relax instantly. If the horse hangs up there locking his neck muscles, resisting as you hold pressure steady downward on the lead, just stick a finger in the corner of the mouth (without releasing the rope pressure) and when they work their mouth there, it instantly unlocks their neck muscles and they will then give downward to the pressure easier. If you trust the horse enough there, squat to the side of the front legs, which lowers your stature to less threatening posture, and use pressure on the lead rope to ask for the head to come down. Remember to open your hand and release instantly for every inch the horse gives downward incrementally there. All horses learn from the release of pressure what it is you want, not the pressure itself, so get your release timing quick and crisp for every give. Once the horse's nose is close to the ground, while you're down there, stroke and scratch on his head and face and he'll find that (remember: relaxed) spot a wonderful place to be. Tip: Don't pat a horse to soothe them. Patting is not considered pleasurable to them and is not part of their own herd nurturing behavior. There’s nothing wrong with patting a horse to desensitize them, but keep in mind that when you want to relax, soothe or reward a horse, use only strokes or scratches. Another tip: While you're in that squatting position, if the horse starts to step forward, or into you, make a "shhhhh" sound, quickly jerk the lead rope downward a couple of times, and the horse will step back and away respecting your space better there.

 

 

  • Stroke softly underneath the "peach fuzzy" area underneath the base of a horse's tail with the back of your hand, moving on to stroking that spot gently with the back of your fingernails. It's a very sensitive, pleasurable spot on horses and they will lift their tail (when they trust enough) to invite you to do it more, and you're helping them to relax as well. A clamped tight tail is a tense horse; a raised up "soft" tail is a relaxed horse, so, you are teaching them to relax around you when stroking in that special spot under their tail. Where their body goes, their mind follows. If a horse won't lift their tail at first to allow you into that spot, first scratch vigorously the top of their rump right where the dock of their tail connects up there; this will usually loosen the tail muscles. And then stroke down the inside line of their rump several times, then slip the fingers under the dock of their tail to that special spot; the horse will then generally lift the tail inviting more. This is an especially important tip for those who need to do mare exams, or before using a rectal thermometer on any horse, to get the "invite" first back in that region.

 

  • Scratch the horse's belly button (navel). If you don't know where their belly button is (where their umbilical cord was connected to their mother in her uterus): it's about 3/4 down the underneath of their belly in the abdominal area, and you'll usually feel a little bump there. In a male horse, it's a few inches in front of their sheath; in a female horse it's a few inches in front of her teats. Stroke the belly softly as you make your way back, to make sure the horse will accept you back there first, keeping a close eye on the inside hind leg to remain safe, and when you find the belly button, take your fingernails and give the belly button some good scratching. Glance at the horse's face to see how they like it. Most instantly melt and stick a lip out quivering it with pleasurable delight. Quit while it's working, leaving the horse wanting more. 
  • Down the center of the horse's nose/muzzle is a small grooved area. Take your index finger, start at the top of that groove and very slowly and softly stroke all the way down that groove to the tip of the nose. The softer and slower you can move your finger there, the better. Go from top, slowly all the way down to the bottom. Make your touch very light/soft, not a deep scratch here. Do it as lightly as you can. Do it several times. This can downright nearly hypnotize many horses.

  • Rub the horse's closed eye with your open palm, much like you might rub your own itchy eyes at the end of a long day. Press firmly, but gently and circle your palms there. Most horses absolutely love this. Quit while it's working, leaving the horse wanting more. It is always important to quit before the horse pulls away tired of something, but instead leave him wishing for more. This psychologically bonds them to you more deeply, them wanting to be with you even more.

  • "Search touch" the horse's face, neck, around & behind ears to find the particular horse's favorite spots to be stroked or scratched (again, no patting please). Each horse is different and when you find that favorite spot where the horse suddenly leans into you for more, memorize it, because you are going to return to that spot in the future to help soothe him when needed, but indulge only for a second, then quit before he pulls away, ideally leaving him wanting more. Common favorite spots: underneath the chin in that grooved area; in summertime that spot can get pretty bitten up by insects and be itchy, so many horses enjoy a good indulgent scratching in there with our fingernails. They can't get to that spot themselves and many are delighted that we can. Scratch the cheeks, behind the ears, stroke the neck. Mother horse's lick their baby's neck in long, soothing strokes to comfort them if the foal is ever upset or afraid, and long, soft strokes of the horse's neck reminds them of how Mom used to lick them there just like that. Another spot many like to be scratched: between the front legs, which again, is a spot they cannot get to themselves.

  • Knead the withers (the top ridge between the shoulder bones of a horse). When horses are bonding or mutual grooming, they will cross necks and with their teeth, they will knead each other’s withers. Try it on your horse, squeeze and massage the withers area. Incidentally, some horses, especially the younger ones, as you indulge them in some of this equine-language grooming and bonding like kneading their withers, will instinctively try to turn and do the same to you. Meaning: put their mouth/teeth on you. Some people think the horse is trying to bite them there, when actually, the horse is just instinctively trying to return the grooming favor (they think!). But we have to teach them it's not okay to put their mouths on humans. If this occurs, just poke the side of their nose away from you with an extended finger or your elbow (which act as a horse nose butting them away there) and use a "shhhh" sound at the same time, to let them know: "I don't need grooming, thank you; be polite here and don't put your mouth on me." And they'll learn returning the favor is just not necessary in "our herd."
  • If the horse is afraid of something you want to use with them (could be a tool or instrument), they are going to shoot their head up high suddenly (high head is a tense, “on alert” horse). Squat, lowering your stature to less threatening, and let them smell the object with their nose close to the ground. Remember: a lowered head is a relaxed horse automatically. A horse cannot be tense with the head down, so introduce a feared object to them with their head down. This will help them digest the item is nothing to be feared. Then rub their face and neck with that object. (Below: the horse is afraid of plastic bag at first, an item I like to use, either in my hand or on the end of my extendable/retractable training wand, to raise their fear bar and build confidence in them, since so many horses are initially afraid of loud, crinkly plastic bags).

 

 

 

  • If a horse is initially afraid of you when approaching them, do not make eye-to-eye contact with them, which is a predatory pressure to a prey animal. Instead, drop your eyes to the ground and reach out with the back of your hand to allow them to sniff it. If they are very afraid, bend at the waist and lower your stature at the same time you reach with the back of your hand, eyes averted.

 

 

 

  • If you need to pick up a hind foot for cleaning, picking, or examining, first scratch the horse's rump up high where the dock of their tail begins. Then stroke repeatedly down the leg, starting high, moving your way down to the foot as you stroke. This will relax the hindquarters and a horse will be more willing to give up the back foot. When the horse gives you the foot, indulge the horse in lower leg massages, pleasurable squeezing up and down the leg, and the horse will be more willing to give that foot up quickly in the future.

 


I have a training philosophy: If you're not getting your fingernails good and dirty while working with a horse, well...you're probably not training/handling them right. Good natural horsemanship training/handling skills are very much about pleasuring the horse via strokes and lots of scratches to bond them deeper to you so that they will be more willing to do what we are asking of them.

These are just a few of the many tricks-of-the-trade we horse whisperers/natural horsemanship trainers use to melt/relax a horse and get them more bonded to us psychologically. And the interesting thing is: they don't connect up the dots that you just did something there to relax them instantly. All they know/think is: "wow, for some reason whenever I'm with this particular person here I feel so relaxed; oh man, I think I love her and I definitely trust her! What a good and fair deal I'm getting here!" Goes a long, long way!

Because every horse is a unique individual, not every horse likes every single pleasuring technique above, but explore to find the ones the horse you are working with likes the most and memorize them; return to them often to keep the horse well bonded to you. His gratitude will be translated into his willingness to be your friend and loyal, trusting, willing partner for the duration of the time you are working with them! Take the time to make friends first, be patient with the horse, and be patient with yourself. The long way is the short way, as we say in natural horsemanship!

 
 
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