Don't Leave Me

If your horse suffers from separation anxiety try Pat Parelli’s methods for weaning both the young and the adult horse.

Horses are herd animals. They are socially dependent on each other. Why? Because for prey animals, there is safety in numbers – and horses are prey animals. Hanging out in groups is how they survive in the wild and understanding your horse’s instinctive behaviour is a foundational element of natural horsemanship.

SeparationThere are two occasions in a horse’s life when he has to go through the ‘weaning’ process - firstly from his mother when he is a foal and secondly at any time he is removed from his best buddy or buddies in later life. The approach to shifting a horse’s separation anxiety is similar in both cases. Start by getting your horses used to being tied for long periods of time. This means hours. They learn patience quickly and soon stand quietly. Horses that are not used to separation or being tied need to be tied more often. Start with shorter amounts of time and build up to several hours. You can tie the horse where he can still see his buddy. Next, begin some short separations.

Cold turkey is not the way to do it. That is how horses and riders get hurt. Take one horse away for just a moment and return. Then do it again and again until the other horse sees that he’s really not gone. Be prepared for this to take many repetitions. Once they are both calm, increase the time that one horse is out of sight. With each session push the distance a little further but always start with a short one. Begin with the horses tied near each other, and then each day increase this gap until by day seven they can’t see each other at all. By doing this task in stages you’re helping increase the horse’s confidence.

Weaning a Youngster Instant separation (especially for a herd bound horse) without preparation can traumatise a horse, and this is especially so when weaning a youngster away from his mother. We recommend that the process be done in stages and only a little at a time. Over the space of a week or two, move the foal into another corral that is right next door to his mother’s. A fence that has gaps through which a foal can still suckle is ideal. After a few days, move him one corral away, then two. Do the separations for longer and longer until mother and foal can go a whole day without getting too upset. The mare and the foal don’t go through any trauma, no one gets hurt or sick and pretty soon you can take them their separate ways.

Weaning Heard Bound Adults When weaning your adult horses from each other, it’s important to keep the same perspective as when weaning foals. If horses spend a lot of time together in the pasture and get closely bonded, removing one drastically affects the other’s emotional security. A herd bound horse scenario is more common for occasional riders, because their horses tend to spend more time as part of that herd and so become more attached and less comfortable with separation. A slow and steady approach to acclimatising them to separation from their best friend or group of friends will solve this problem comfortably. It does, however, take a little time. But if you love horses, and are committed to a natural horsemanship approach based on putting your relationship with your horse first, then the Parelli natural horse training approach is right for you.

It’s also important to think about how to become as important to your horse as another horse. It’s easy to do this with dogs because we are both predator species. With horses, you need to understand their prey animal psychology and how to prove yourself a worthy leader. Horses are very attached to their dominant counterpart. If you were to put on a horse suit what would it take to become the ‘boss hoss?’ You have to learn to think like a horse and use the same communication and dominance strategies that horses do within the herd. This is the key to natural horsemanship - 50% is about equine relationship skills.


Blabbermouth voice commands should be used with care warns Clinton Anderson.

I don’t encourage people to use a lot of voice commands, especially when they first start working with horses. It’s far more important to develop an awareness of your body language and learn how to communicate with your horse though this.


As a general rule, people who use a lot of verbal cues with horses have a tendency to have pretty poor body language and tend to nag their horses. Let me give you an example. Often I’ll see people at a horse show trying to get their horses to canter on a lunge line. They’ll point and say, ‘Canter, canter now.’ The horse ignores them so they repeat the cue to him, ‘Come on, canter. Why won’t you canter? Canter, canter, canter!’ They say the word canter so many times that it means absolutely nothing to the horse. They basically wear the word out so much that it has no meaning.

It’s like the little boy who cried wolf. He cried wolf so many times that when a wolf finally did show up, nobody believed him. Well, that’s the same problem people have with voice commands. They use the command and water it down so that it has no effect.

If I were going to teach a horse to canter off a verbal command, I would say canter once in a very firm, clear voice. If he didn’t canter, I’d pick up my stick and string and spank the ground behind him. If he still didn’t canter, I’d flick his hindquarters with the stick and string. If he still didn’t canter, I’d continue to flick his hindquarters harder until I made him feel so uncomfortable that he decided to canter. I’d use the voice command as plan A, spanking the ground as plan B, flicking him as plan C and flicking him harder as plan D, E, F, etc. I would make it easy for the horse to do the right thing and then I would make it harder and harder for him to ignore me until he chose to respond.

It’s the same thing that a broodmare does out in the pasture. She doesn’t immediately start kicking the other horse as hard as she possibly can. She goes in with a plan and gradually makes it more uncomfortable for the other horse to ignore her. Most people who use voice commands have the same plan A, but they don’t have a plan B, C or D. Every time you say a voice command and you don’t get a reaction, but you continue to use it, you’re teaching the horse to ignore that command.

The only voice commands I use are ‘whoa’ to stop and ‘cluck’ to speed up. Clucking means whatever you’re doing, do it faster. If I’m backing the horse up and I start clucking, it means back up faster. If the horse is side passing and I start clucking, it means side pass faster. Clucking doesn’t necessarily mean go forward, it means whatever you’re doing now, do it a lot faster. Those are the only two voice commands I encourage people to use. That doesn’t mean that I have a problem with people wanting to talk to their horses to soothe them when they’re rubbing them as a reward. But I do have a problem with people talking to their horses constantly to try to get the horse to do something. I want you to effectively communicate with your horse so that you can accomplish your goals and stay safe while doing it.

Arena Monsters

Horses can be very suspicious animals and when something has frightened them they tend to remember it. You have probably experienced a horse that every time they get to the place where they were first scared they expect something to happen. Arena Monsters

Horses are very location specific in the way they behave and are quick to associate a certain place with their behaviour. Almost every arena has a ‘scary’ place in it and typically it is as far away from the gate or barn as you can get. This is no coincidence - the further away from the barn (which represents the safety of the herd to your horse) it gets, the more unsure the horse becomes and the stronger its urge to run back to safety. In some cases it may be good to avoid a trouble spot, like when you are first warming up a fresh (or volatile) horse or if you have questions about your ability to control the horse if he spooks.

However, at some point, in order for you to have total control over your horse, you must be able to take him into places where he may not want to go, maintaining his obedience. If a horse comes to believe it has a say so in where you try to take it, your authority will gradually erode to the point that you can’t leave the yard or take a circuit around the arena.

When a horse is spooky or frightened, the best thing to do is turn him toward the scary object and ask him to stand, take a deep breath and relax. You should reassure your horse by using a soothing voice and by rubbing his neck. Make sure to take a deep breath yourself as this will show him that you think everything is OK and that you have it all under control and he need not be afraid. Try to avoid turning your horse away from a scary object while he is still frightened because that will almost certainly trigger his flight response.

With an emotional or volatile horse, I would begin working in the ‘safest’ part of the arena, using small circles and lots of changes of direction to build confidence and obedience in the horse. The more you change directions and cause the horse to swing his neck from side to side, the calmer and more compliant he will become. With this in mind you will find ‘S’ shaped turns more productive than circles. As the horse relaxes and gets more comfortable, start expanding the area by venturing toward the scary place gradually and always returning back to the safe place to build confidence. Eventually I would be working closer and closer to the scary spot until I could ride the horse into that area without a reaction.

There is a very effective technique to use when working with spooky horses. First, keep in mind that you will always have more control over a horse when his neck is bent; when it is straight out in front of him he can get away from you easily. So as you approach the scary area, you’ll want to keep his neck slightly bent to one side or the other. An easy way to accomplish this is to ride in a serpentine pattern doing constant changes of direction.

Make sure that each and every time you turn you turn towards the scary place and not away from it. Weaving back and forth and turning him toward the scary spot will accomplish several things. It will keep his neck bent for greater control, it will keep him in an obedient frame of mind because he is responding to your directives and going where you said, and it will put him a little closer to the object every time you turn while preventing him from bolting.

When a horse is frightened or spooky, he needs the rider’s calmness and reassurance to let him know he will be OK. I would put my hands down on a horse’s neck to steady him any time he became tense or unsure - it is not really a reward, just a reassurance that I’ve got everything under control. I also give copious praise to my horse by petting him on the withers or neck when he is obedient and brave in the face of a scary thing.

The rule of thumb with horses is that you have a three second window of opportunity to reward, release or punish, in order for him to make an association between his actions and your actions. It follows that the sooner in the three seconds the better. If a horse is rewarded in a timely fashion he will remember it for a very long time. The important part is not whether or not he remembers the reward, it’s whether he made an association between his actions and the reward. If the association is made he will remember it for some time - horses have exceptional memories.


Give and Take

BridlelessBefore getting started in anything technical it is vitally important that you learn the art of give and take, writes Tina Kaven.

In my last article I talked about the thought processes behind training, riding, showing and further education. Now, I’d like to talk about my approach, theory and methodology.

This is simply my way, you can take what you want and leave what you don’t like! First and foremost, I work off of a ‘reward based system,’ verses a programme based upon fear. This is important because, as we discussed previously, you have to know where you are going before you can lead the way in an effective manner, and establish a relationship based upon trust. Now for the breakdown of how this works in the programme.

I am starting with the overview before we get into details. I call it the ‘take and release.’ This terminology refers to the method of utilising the reward based system. The idea is that you give the ‘take’ (or cue) and release as soon as you achieve the response you require. This way you reward the appropriate behaviour. What exactly is the release? It is simply stopping the cue at the very moment that the horse responds, thereby releasing the horse. Ultimately, what a horse wants is no different than what we humans want. We desire to do things right, stay out of trouble and learn that we are OK - no, better still, that we are good and appreciated for who we are and the efforts we make.

This is a widely misunderstood method. As a general rule riders do not release their horse at the appropriate time, which costs dearly and creates a great deal of misunderstanding, mistrust and frustration for both parties. Horses are intelligent regardless of what the public as a whole (and sometimes riders) believe. The issue is that riders do not reward/release the horse at the appropriate moments and therefore miss the opportunity for the horse to understand and grasp correct and incorrect behaviours.

I use the terms ‘take’ and ‘release’ because when I am working with others my goal is to help people learn the proper timing by highlighting to them the exact moment of opportunity. When we miss that opportunity we miss the chance to reward the horse and consequently train the horse to misbehave or to respond to our cues incorrectly. In addition, when we don’t give the release, the horse learns that there is nothing that they can do right, creating the atmosphere of frustration.

Further down the line the horse will give up his desire to please the rider and, as frustration increases, it results in many, many good, high quality horses being missed or dumped. The more clarity there is in the boundaries, the more intelligent and capable the horse will be (and appear to be). This changes the entire situation and I should add that the better rider and trainer you will feel and become. In addition, the confidence of both horse and rider is boosted tenfold! In the next few months I will dissect the actual application of all of the aids (voice, seat, leg, and hand) while keeping in mind that the ‘take and release’ is a requirement of success.

Tina Kaven is a multiple World Champion in western events. Learn more at

Meet and Lead

Drawing on her experiences as an NLP practitioner Laira Gold explains how horses are no different to humans in their need to be understood before being asked to try a new behaviour. Meet and LeadHorses are always asking ‘who is leading now?’ From the horse’s point of view we are unable to lead unless our sensory channels are fully open, aware of every little rustle in the bush and movement in the shadows. Within the herd this is a matter of survival. It is the lead mare’s job to take the herd away from danger to safety.

If we were to ask a horse to do something unfamiliar, such as putting on the first saddle of their life, before acknowledging their natural flight instincts, we are much less likely to have a willing partner that is happy to stand still while we carry out our work. By creating a training environment where the horse can be encouraged to explore their flight instincts safely, the trainer (or therapist) can stand back and feel at ease no matter what the horse does.

Most training is made up of this delicate art of accepting what ‘is’ and then stretching the horse’s ability sufficiently. It is when we get this balance right that we create an optimum learning environment. Too much accepting of what ‘is’ can create boredom and a stagnation in learning for the horse and us. On the other hand too much leading, pushing or stretching on our part can create stress not only for the horse but for the trainer too.

In Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) we explore the relationships between how we think and how we communicate. The therapist monitors patterns of behaviour and emotion and works with their client to transform the way they think and act. It is said that an NLP practitioner cannot lead before they have paced. This means that we first need to acknowledge the client’s current experience (pace), do it again (pace), and then lead with a thought or suggestion of our own. Hypnotherapists use this all the time. It’s what is sometimes called a hypnotic suggestion.

Part of my job as a psychotherapist is to meet and work with the client’s experience in the current moment. In the psychotherapy culture I come from, great emphasis in placed on working with the client’s ever-changing somatic (body) experience, perhaps more so than on past analysis or etiology (the cause of the problem). This only really happens if we are truly present, gaining rapport through observing and responding to all the non-verbal information happening within the client in that moment.

When I break rapport with a client, it is often because I have mismatched that client or tried to lead them without acknowledging their current experience of reality first. I recently worked with a high achieving professional from the advertising world. She came to me in a state of distress because her marriage was in ruins. She had been rewarded for most of her life by thinking analytically, even around extremely painful issues such as death. She presented well thought through arguments to each possible pathway that she felt she had available to her. She was operating at a cognitive level. I knew that the type of thinking required to solve this kind of problem was very different to the one she had been used to  throughout the rest of her working life.

Part of our work together was to enable her to access intelligence of a more somatic nature (the ability to sense and appreciate one’s own body and to relate to the needs of others). However I needed to lead her into this way of thinking gently. It was only once I was able to acknowledge and respect her existing way of coping that I was able to lead with any suggestions of my own.  Studying the parallels between successfully working with humans and horses is an area I find fascinating. Once we can understand the psychology of the horse and work with his energy rather than against it, we soon realise there is very little reason to get upset. It’s the same for psychotherapy work. Maintaining an attitude where there is no such thing as a resistant client, only a resistant therapist, can be a very helpful and humbling.

CASE STUDY In these series of images you can see me working with young Icelandic that, until this point, had very little leading experience. In the still you can see her going through a dilemma stay true to her natural instincts and stay away away from predators, or should she take a chance on me? The reason she goes against her instincts and accepts my invitation to ‘join-up’ with me is because I first acknowledged (or paced) her natural flight instinct. In other words, I met her in the moment and then I led with a suggestion of my own. Case Study

Once Bitten

Not to be confused with the behavioural problems surrounding playful nipping, a horse that really bites requires careful treatment, writes Linda Parelli. BitingBecause Parelli Natural Horsemanship always begins the process of solving a horse problem by first seeking to understand the horse’s behaviour I like to ask, ‘Why is the horse biting?’ Usually a horse bites for one of three reasons – fear, an attempt to dominate or as an indication that he wants to play.

The latter shouldn’t be thought of as true biting although steps need to be taken to prevent this playful behaviour turning into a painful problem (see Little Nipper).

A biting horse is not a bad horse and it shouldn’t be thought of as a bad habit. It is usually a very real response to something that is really worrying the horse. Either he’s reacting to something that is scaring or hurting him, or he’s telling you that you should move out of the way because he is the boss! Biting is a symptom, not a problem in itself. It’s feedback, really. The horse cannot speak to let you know that something is troubling him, so he kicks or bites or bucks.  Often people react to a biting horse by slapping the horse on the muzzle. This is not the least bit helpful. A horse is a prey animal and prey animals do not understand punishment. What is helpful when confronted with this problem is to figure out your horse’s personality. This will help you figure out which motivation is prompting the horse’s biting behaviour. Once you’ve determined whether your horse has a Right-Brain or Left-Brain

‘Horsenality’ (see Parelli’s Horsenality profiling technique at www.parelli.comor WHUK Jan/Feb 2011) you will understand why he is biting. Right-Brain horses bite in defence when they are afraid or hurt. Left- Brain horses use biting to dominate. Each of these Horsenalities and reasons requires a different horse training approach to arrive at a humane, effective and lasting solution. In order to cure the problem, you have to first know where your horse is coming from. You can then be appropriate in your response and preventative measures.

Keep your distance The number one rule with a horse that’s been known to bite is to keep him at a distance! Just because we love horses and seek to understand them doesn’t mean we don’t recognise the danger a biting horse presents. Until you’ve learned your horse’s Horsenality and what training method will get you the best and most lasting solution, keeping your horse at a distance – and out of biting range – is a good interim solution This, however, means that you need to know how to skilfully back your horse up from a distance. For this, we recommend wiggling your rope using the one of the Parelli Seven Games called the Yo-Yo Game. Backing up your horse just a step or two may not be enough. You need to back him up until the look on his face changes. The Liberty and Horse Behaviour home study programme at explains this in more detail.

Once you’ve gotten out of the way, the next step is to work with your horse so that he doesn’t feel the need to bite you. If he’s biting, he’s reacting to you as if you’re threatening him, as if you’re the predator and he’s the prey. Depending on his Horsenality, he’s either scared by this or takes it as a challenge to try to dominate you in turn, but either way, he’s seeing you as predator. The cure for this – which in turn cures bucking, biting, and most other horse problems – is to break through the prey-predator barrier by becoming your horse’s partner.

You’re still in charge – because you’re the alpha/leader – but you’re no longer a threat. The cure for a biting horse is to teach the horse that you’re a good guy, that you’re nothing and no one he needs to be afraid of or try to dominate. The Seven Games is the best way we know of to do just that. It’s why we recommend them so often.   Establishing a new relationship by learning to play with your horse changes the predator-prey relationship, and that changes  everything!  We also have a brand new natural horse training starter kit that addresses horse biting problems specifically along with kicking and bucking and other reactive horse behaviours.

Little Nipper

There's nothing more annoying than a mouthy horse.  Use Clinton Anderson's exercises to help a horse overcome his urge to nibble! NippingMouthy horses are like little kids; they’ve got nothing to do and all day to do it in. If you don’t give a kid something to do, he’ll stick things in his mouth, climb on the furniture, draw on the walls or do a number of things that’ll drive you crazy. Horses need both mental and physical stimulation to be happy and content. If you don’t give your horse a job and keep his mind busy he’ll find an outlet for his pent up energy. In a lot of cases this will result in the some sort of vice including being ‘mouthy’ – constantly playing with your shirt sleeve, nibbling on the lead rope etc.

Very athletic horses and young horses tend to develop this habit. The bad news is that mouthy behaviour often turns into biting, which can be very dangerous. The good news is if you give your horse a job, as simple as making him move his feet forwards, backwards, left and right, his mouthiness will disappear.

If you know your horse tends to get mouthy and nibbles on you, protect your space and take the temptation away from him to begin with. Don’t let him get close enough to mouth on you. Any time you’re with him, keep him out of your personal ‘hula hoop space’ – a four foot circle that surrounds you and serves as your safety zone. When you are working with a horse, always imagine that there’s a four foot circle drawn around you, almost like an invisible electric fence. Unless you invite the horse into your personal hula hoop space he should keep a respectful, safe distance from you.

Move those feet When a horse gets mouthy, put his feet to work. The most effective punishment you can give a horse is making him move his feet. Horses are basically lazy creatures and would rather stand around with their legs cocked daydreaming about their next meal than moving their feet and working up a sweat. They’ll always choose the option with the least amount of work involved.

So, if you’re standing next to your horse and he starts nibbling on your shirt, turn around and put his feet to work and turn a negative into a positive. Practise some backing up, side passing or circling. The horse can’t mouth on you and move his feet at the same time, especially if you make him hustle with energy and do lots of changes of direction. If you’re consistent, it won’t take long for the horse to connect the two together; when he gets mouthy, you’ll make his feet move.

One of the best ways to stop a mouthy horse, and especially a horse that bites, is to back them up. Backing up is a very humbling exercise for a horse to do. When a horse gets mouthy or tries to bite you, it’s a very forward action; he’s coming forward to get you.  When you back him up, it’s the complete opposite; he’s being submissive to you by moving out of your space.

Return the favour There are some horses that just like to put things in their mouth. Most people’s first reaction when the horse grabs a hold of the lead rope or halter is to try and tug the object out of his mouth. However, the more you try to pull something away from them, the mouthier they will get. It’s like a puppy with a toy. The more you try to yank it away, the more he grits his teeth and hangs onto it.

Instead of getting into a tug of war, use reverse psychology and ‘mouth’ him back. Use both of your hands to vigorously rub the horse’s muzzle for a good twenty seconds. While you’re not hurting the horse, you’re rubbing him firmly enough to make him feel uncomfortable. It’s like when your uncle would scuff your head at a family get together. Every kid in the world hates that. It didn’t hurt when he tousled your hair but it was annoying and you didn’t like it, and you soon learned how to avoid him.  It’s the same philosophy with your horse. If he wants to get mouthy, take all the fun out of it for him by roughing up his muzzle with your hands.

Dare him Let’s say that your horse grabs the halter in his mouth as you go to put it on. As soon as he grabs it, instead of trying to pull it out of his mouth, stand beside him and tug one end of the halter up in his mouth and then the other end to make him feel uncomfortable. When you do that, the horse might throw his head up in the air but you’ll continue to tug up on the halter. You’re not really hurting him but you are making him feel uncomfortable. Do that for 10 seconds and then let the horse lower his head and spit the halter out of his mouth. Then dare him again by waving the halter in front of his nose. If he grabs it, repeat the process. You’ll only have to do that two or three times and pretty soon those horses wise up and want no part of grabbing a hold of the halter.

You might be thinking, ‘Well Clinton, isn’t that going to make the horse head shy or not want to accept the bit?’ No, because you’re only making him feel uncomfortable when he gets mouthy. You’re not physically putting the halter in his mouth and then roughing him up. He’s choosing to take the bait and be mouthy. As long as you use common sense and only make him feel uncomfortable when he grabs a hold of the object, you don’t have to worry about him getting head shy or not accepting the bit.

Stop bitingPunish thyself Another tactic is to make the horse think that he’s punishing himself. If your horse walks up to you and starts playing with your sleeve, flap your elbow out to the side without even looking at him so that he runs into it with his nose and feels uncomfortable. You have to time it just right so that at the same time he leans forward to play with your shirt, he runs into your elbow.

The secret is not to look at him or act like you’re moving your arm on purpose. It’s like your elbow just developed a nervous twitch. If you look at the horse, it’s like you’re acknowledging that you’re the one making him feel uncomfortable. You want the horse to think that he’s doing it to himself. Every time he leans in to nibble on you, he runs into your elbow. Horses always learn faster when they teach themselves the lesson. It won’t be long before your horse is like ‘Man, I really need to keep my lips to myself because I seem to be running into his elbow.

Setting Boundaries

In 2005, I left a busy career on the trading floor of an investment bank and began training as a psychotherapist, helping human beings to increase their sense of choice in the world. Around the same time, I discovered the work of Monty Roberts, the internationally acclaimed ‘horse whisperer,’ famous for ‘joining-up’ with a wild Mustang in the Nevada desert. Setting BoundariesJust as in human psychotherapy, there are many forms of training in the horse world yet from the beginning I could see a connection between what I was learning in the psychotherapy training room and the Monty Roberts method of horsemanship. This made me think how the skills of horsemanship align with those of an effective psychotherapist. I start with a skill I believe is key to both professions - setting and maintaining boundaries.

Just as with human facilitators, good horse handlers know that negotiating the terms of the contract with their horse in the early stages of the relationship will mean an easier time in the long run. If we don’t do this consciously, then chances are a vacuum sets in and the horse may feel the need to fill it. With more challenging horses, just as with more challenging human clients, the terms of the contract are constantly being negotiated and boundaries are continuously being defined and redefined. Sometimes, this is the very essence of the work.

I recently worked with a horse called Bertie that didn’t like to stand at the mounting block. He would dart around, spinning his hind quarters away from it. There was no way you could mount him when he was in this state of mind; so I helped his owner to work with him on this problem. At first, she gave him the freedom to explore his options, which in this case was backing up. She allowed him to find out for himself where her boundaries were by making it uncomfortable when he backed up. She did this by taking the lead on the manoeuvre, backing him up further until she decided to stop. She also made it comfortable when he stood still by giving him a rub, slackening the lead rope and not asking anything else from him. Timing and consistency are everything.

Through these stages, they created a contract where they both win by fulfilling each of their obligations to each other. In three days, Bertie was mounting beautifully even in busy showlike environments.

For psychotherapeutic work with people, the skills required are very similar. I once worked with a young girl whose family was suffering from extreme financial hardship. To begin with she presented as a polite, socially well adjusted, intelligent little girl. I thought I had been sent the wrong client. About half way through the year long programme, I began to get another part of her. This was a part that hadn’t been given much airtime until then. So when it did surface, it was infused with rage and expressed itself with physical violence. Just as Bertie’s owner and I allowed him to express himself, my job with the little girl was to create a space where the enraged part of her could show up in the room. To do this, I had to maintain what Carl Rogers (a founder of the humanistic approach to psychology) refers to as an ‘unconditional positive regard.’ However, I also had to be very clear that certain behaviours were unacceptable while she was experiencing this part of herself. Just as with some horses, she didn’t like the feeling of crossing over a boundary, but to find out where the boundary was she had to behave in a way that would test it. Through testing it, she could also find out whether I was consistent and whether she was safe or not.

In my experience, many horse ‘problems’ come from insecurity. Take Bertie – he wasn’t moving because he was deliberately seeing what he could get away with. He was unsure. No one had ever been clear and consistent enough with him to show him what was expected. Once he understood his end of the contract both the owner and I heard him breathe out a huge sigh of relief. Being ‘boundaried’ sounds simple but it isn’t always easy in practice - I think any mother will agree. Deciding early on where our own personal boundaries are; giving the client (human and horse) the freedom to discover where they are; finding a way of communicating our boundary in a way that feels right for you; responding in a timely fashion; and being consistent in that communication - these are all important skills in their own right.