Many of these blogs I wrote some time ago and appeared on my old website. Please ignore the date is says it was published. Enjoy. 

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  1. You can’t convince me horses aren’t emotional. When I look into the eyes of a horse I see its spirit, soul a friend looking back at me. Not all wounds are obvious, horses experience emotional trauma, distress, pain and a very wide range of feelings. To me horsemanship is about listening, understanding, being supportive, caring and being gentle with the emotions of the horse.

    merlot p finished 

    This interactive article is inspired by my once in a lifetime, soul companion horse Merlot. The very first day I met my Merlot I saw his spirit, soul and his troubled mind, I felt the fear, the anxiety and the emotional pain. His inner love had been beaten into hiding by abuse from the hands of the previous owner. He had spent so many years in negative emotional states of mind. Especially Fear. It was easy for him to get angry, sad, depressed and frightened. Anger clouds the mind. He had been stuck in this negative state so long it must have felt normal and that is all there is to life. I knew it is not. He was meant to live as all living creatures to experience positive feelings like joy, love, bliss, calmness, contentment, peace and courage.  He was stuck in a terrible unchangeable past memory. He was a victim of his mind focusing on this tragic past and looking back is no good unless it is a good view. The key was to help him move forwards. My job was to lead him to a peaceful place to help him clear his mind and with my love restore his vision to see a better life. It was about showing him what he was capable of doing, building on achievements, self-worth and dignity. A positive outlook and a negative mind set determine if you view yourself as a hero or a victim. Helping Merlot have a positive outlook on life was going to move him from feeling a victim and help him blossom into a hero. 

    Love knows no boundaries between species. I know that because of the love I have experienced with other animals such as with my dogs and cats and other horses. I knew the love was in Merlot but buried deep. That first day we met the emotional balance, harmony and wellbeing every living thing needs to thrive was missing for Merlot. The emotional place he was in was terrible. He had not shut down completely, many horses do. Merlot still communicated mostly expressing negative emotions, pain, fear, anxiety, stress, and sadness. I listened and heard a horse wanting help. I experienced a very powerful connection instantly with Merlot. I felt and understood his emotional pain. This was the pull, the reason I had to have this horse. 

    Rose tinted glasses? No. This was never going to be an easy horse. Or a quick fix. I knew that from day one. I knew I was taking on a challenge, a horse that would develop my horsemanship. What I didn’t know was how much. Being able to read emotion in horses is equine empathy. In the language of the herd you will see horses communicate with emotions. They form bonds and express love to one another. Bond and love between horses can be witnessed in many situations. Notice how a pair bond can be perfectly happy standing side by side doing nothing, peaceful and content. Horses grieve the loss of a loved one. Love can be seen in joyful play. Shared love brings peace of mind, harmony and awakens the soul. In the herd love brings balance, stability, harmony, and order. Look closely and you will see love in the herd in so many ways. Horses understand human love and kindness and enjoy receiving it. Horses are also able bond with and love humans. Love crosses species.  

    Merlot had built up walls to protect himself and the best form of defence is attack.  Love was still in there but it was being protected behind a huge thick wall. My job was to help Merlot take down those walls brick by brick so eventually he could be free. The five foundation stones of bond, mutual trust, mutual respect, focused time and enjoyment were my tools. To love Merlot, a horse with huge issues was to love unconditionally and this awakened my soul to a life of greater meaning.    

    Love not force is what enables a magical connection 

    Caring about how your horse feels, its emotions and what it thinks about your relationship is a huge part of shaping up how you approach your horsemanship. Many horses are very well cared for with huge piles of rugs, lotions and potions, grooming products galore, regular complimentary therapy treatments, the very best vet care, dry warm stable, plenty of food and fresh water etc…these take care of the horse’s physical needs, sadly the horse may not even need, want or enjoy some of this human pampering. I get called out as a last resort to horses that have had every physical check carried out, the horse is deemed free of any physical discomfort and made to measure tack purchased etc…but the horse still has huge issues. When a horse is not emotionally balanced problems or unwanted behaviour is the end result. These are loved horses with every possible physical need met. The human is often at a loss when I talk about meeting equine emotional needs. Teaching people this helps resolve the issues and build a strong relationship. It is essential your horse is physically cared for but just as important is that show you care about your horse’s emotional needs and meet them. 

    When I first purchased Merlot I made sure all physical checks were done and corrective measures taken, but most of Merlot’s problems were on an emotional level. He had a tangle of emotions fear, anxiety, stress, memory of pain, distrust, no respect, anticipation of force and abuse, anger, frustration, etc… To move forward was about these being a high priority. The tangle of his emotions was the bricks in his wall that love and emotional harmony was locked behind.  Each well cemented in place. With this tangle of emotion you have to slowly chip away those bricks. The chipping away chisel is the language of the herd, horsemanship. The hammer you hit the chisel with is love. Love is the power. Love and language of the herd is the force that breaks down the barriers. You need both without either you are lost. The language of the herd is underpinned with open honest dialogue, empathy and understanding. Love enables you to be caring, kind, receptive, soft and compassionate.  Place emotional wellbeing, love, enjoyment and happiness at the heart of your relationship and horsemanship and the magical connection you seek will open up before you. With emotionally damaged horses this will take considerable time and industrial quantities of patience. No quick fix or force will ever achieve this.

    There are so many lessons my Merlot taught me. This is just one, I will try to share freely with you as many as I can. I hope you enjoyed reading this. If you want to leave feedback please use the on-line form below.   

  2. Horsemanship provides us with an opportunity to forge a beautiful, magical, spiritual and eternal connection with our horse. With animals it is how we respond and interact with them that will determine the effect they have on us. When I look into the eyes of an animal I see a spirit and soul looking back. My own animals are part of my family. They help me with very challenging life events. They are my warriors, healers, earth angels and soul companions.

    I can help you to engage in a meaningful relationship with your horse to form a connection of mutual love and a strong bond. If this is the path you want to experience then give me a call or text on 07930605544 to discuss how I can help you. Or use the Get in Touch page.  

    I will help you and your horse learn how to have a partnership with open honest dialogue to achieve inner harmony, relaxation and the ability to hear each other. You can have a close magical spiritual connection.    

    If you open up to having a spiritual connection with your animals you see qualities similar to what you imagine an angel or a soul companion to possess. Many of us are drawn to horses as they can inspire us, uplift us and encourage us to enjoy life. Stirring up deep within us emotions and awakening our senses becoming a lifelong passion. Horses give us so much, their body, soul and pure spirit. They teach us about nature, incredible power with balance and harmony. Horses are highly intelligent and have the ability to cross a species divide to understand us. Yet they have free will and have allowed us to tame them. When the training is right horses are willing accepting partners. This teaches us about acceptance, empathy, compassion and understanding. Humbling considering how little they ask in return. There is far more to horsemanship than the mechanics of riding, there is an emotional bond and a spiritual connection. That magic we seek is waiting in our horse.

    Horses are also warriors who will step up by our side in times of need. They know when we are struggling. They are able to help us battle our inner deamons. They know when we are ill and have the ability to help us heal and face life's challenges. Horses have the power to shape us and change us. It is about our perspective: If you are open to animals teaching or guiding us then it isn’t difficult to see they are offering us the same lessons as a warrior, healer, angel or a soul companion. 

    Horsemanship is a bridge, walk more than half way across and you will start to see the qualities that make a horse and other animals warriors, healers, earth angels and soul companions. In my opinion horses are our partners, friends, who we can learn from as we go through our life’s journey. How much better would the human race be if more people opened up to these lessons?

    jack finished

  3. In this article I am not going to censor myself, I am going to shoot from the hip. I will tell my truth and not comfort people with the lies that thrive in the equine world.

    When we look for a new equine partner we are all looking to live a personal dream. The search is not only for a horse, it goes way beyond that;  but a partner, a soul mate, a best friend to enable us to enjoy any number of different aspects of equestrianism. It’s an investment in our dreams and aspirations. Be it a private sale or from a dealer, anyone selling a horse is a dream seller. Not everyone is bad and ugly. This article is not tarring all sellers with the same brush. There are good people who are honest and truly want to ensure the horse ends up in a good home to be loved and cherished. However there are plenty who make profit from lies and misery, be it deliberate or not. There are horrific and unethical practices going on.

    I write this article as too many horses suffer and too many people’s dreams are shattered. In my line of work I have seen far too many damaged horses and folk injured. Plenty of people I know have put to sleep horses they were sold as riding horses that turned out to have horrific underlying conditions. None of us are immune to this happening; it is rife to pass on horses with issues. We can cry rivers of tears for these souls. We can watch these horses blood spill and their spirits leave this world. However that will not change the outcome. My one voice will not change the dreadful practice of passing on the problems. However our collective voices can reach out into the world. You can use this article as a platform to share what has happened to you if you wish.   

    I bravely write this and stand above the parapet and expect to be shot at. Those who wish to shoot at me will think it is the new owner at fault not the seller. The reasons may well include: Buyer beware, sold as seen, sold in good faith, the new owner lacked skills or knowledge, the owner can’t ride, the horse never did x or y with me, etc… However the bottom line is the horse is always going to pay the price no matter where the blame gets placed.    

    Then there is the price paid by the new owner. So if what I write helps just one person release the dreadful feelings they get entangled in from finding themselves in this situation it will be worth it. If it only helps in a tiny way to plant a seed of change then it is worth it. 

     ibis in orbitless

    In loving memory of Ibis. One of the many.

    Buying a horse is a costly and an emotional investment and many people seek out purchasing via a dealer as they know they are protected legally. In the UK anyone who buys and sells horses in the course of business, the Consumer Rights Act applies to the sale of their horses. The buyer therefore has rights: The horse must be as described. Of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose. If not the horse dealer is in breach of contract, giving rise to a claim under the Consumer Rights Act. You are protected under law. (For example did you know - You have six years to take a claim to the small claims court in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and five years in Scotland.)   

    I do think the Consumer Rights Act is not a good fit when applied to the sale of animals. Horse dealers are selling sentient animals, not hair dryers, washing machines or bicycles. Think of buying a washing machine that after a short period of time didn’t wash clothes properly. For sure the store didn’t knowingly sell you a faulty machine, and you would rightly complain and expect the seller to be prompt in providing solutions. We expect good customer service from businesses. It is no different in the business world of selling horses. It will not wash to tell a customer that the riding horse they bought, that has turned out to have serious physical conditions and cannot be ridden, was bought from a contact in good faith and sold to you in good faith. When you hear this, the dealer is not recognising the Consumer Rights Act or providing any customer service or solutions.

    Some of these horses were very expensive. Not cheap. You can understand if the horse was cheap. As there is always a reason why a horse is cheap, some are projects, some are young, old, or in many cases has physical or emotional problems. However paying the going market rate or above for what is bring described and sold as a quality horse with the truth hidden is not uncommon. It is time for folk to wake up and smell the coffee there will be horses sold with underlying conditions that surface after purchase. Some are impossible to detect without the best specialist vet and the latest technology. However who is going to step up and be responsible? Who is going to do right by the horse? Yes you are within your rights if you purchased via a dealer under the Consumer Rights Act to return the horse. The crunch here is, you know full well if you return the horse to a dealer its’ future most likely will be bleak. It could be re-sold again or put through a sale with the truth hidden. The chances it will get the costly treatments needed are slim. The sales of Consumer Rights Act works well for objects but not for living sentient animals. A private sale in these circumstances is bleak in regard to the seller doing anything. So many of us who ethically want the best for the horse suck up being screwed over and quietly get on with doing the best for our beloved horses. We do more than cut our losses, we step up and do what is right for the horse. I have stood by some of my clients who have put to sleep horses with serious issues. I have supported plenty of people who are making the best of a horse they purchased to ride and realise it cannot be ridden. Make no mistake it is costly financially and emotionally to keep a horse with problems. Other owners sell the problem horse on, sometimes to a dealer or privately and so the cycle continues of the truth hidden.  

    Don’t get me started on horses that suffer uncomfortable or painful conditions that because of the training methods used appear quiet and biddable. There are unethical training methods that disregard discomfort and pain; be it physical or emotional, the horse will develop a learned helplessness. These horses are shut down, machine like and spirit dead, it begs the question what methods are used? Sadly some horses are sold to new owners in this learnt helplessness state and are shut down. Once the horse realises the new home will not use such methods that caused the learnt helplessness the horse will naturally start to develop avoidance, evasion and other behaviours. Sadly not many people who are purchasing a horse will understand the different types of training and what causes learnt helplessness, or what to look for in a horse that has shut down. They will just see a quiet biddable horse. Ethical methods can’t train pain, if there is an underlying condition no amount of ethical training will make any difference and you will eventually see the truth.

    Good sellers want the best for the horse. So they know how important it is to get a good match with a new owner. Anyone who truly loves horses would hate to see things not working out, or the horse suffering. I seriously believe it has become a very sad world and it needs to change. I don’t have the answers. What I do know is that the horse world would be a better place with more good, honest, caring, compassionate, ethical horse sellers who make dreams come true.  

    You can share your stories using the on-line form below.   

  4. Sometimes it’s not Easy Being a Horsemanship Practitioner.

    clicker training

    Mostly my work is very rewarding and enjoyable. I get to meet amazing horses and lovely people. Sometimes I am a last resort call. A few people and or horses are struggling; sometimes they are in terrible places. Some are actively looking for a better way. I am blessed to help them on their journey. I get to see people and their horse’s blossom into great partnerships that have a strong bond enjoying rewarding and fun activities. I see how horsemanship helps people to develop in themselves, often their horse is the only one who can provide them with the life lessons they are learning. It is a privilege to be part of this very personal journey. 

    However sometimes doing my job is heart breaking. I see and hear stuff that isn’t great for either the horse or the human. I know that my thinking and my reality are miles away from what a lot of other people see and think in regard to horses. And that is why sometimes I get reminders of how far my thinking and reality are. It does shock and sadden me at some of the statements I hear and things I see. Once you have seen something you can’t un-see it. Once you have seen suffering and know you cannot influence the outcome it haunts you. 

    My one voice will not change the bigger picture. Face to face I can only help one horse and one person at a time. For the wider equine world I dedicate a lot of time to make horsemanship resources available for FREE. However there are more of us who collectively can help raise the bar for equines and help those we connect with to see things from a different perspective. I personally try to promote positive messages and not bash what I hate. I shy away from sharing the tragic stories that are in the news every day. The negativity enters into our homes and over time the drip, drip feed of it can damage you. I am not ignoring the challenges we face, but actively deciding that the way forward is to promote good practice. This article is about challenging things I often hear and see. The world for horses is still full of horrors and there is much to do to raising the bar. 

    “My horse is physically ok, so he must be emotionally unbalanced.” I get asked to resolve the emotional issues. You can’t convince me that horses are not emotional beings. They are emotional, sentient, spiritual creatures. And yes there are plenty of horses that are emotionally damaged, and my work is often about helping these troubled souls. Often this is alongside vets, physiotherapists and other complimentary therapists. However here is a fact, you can’t train pain. I always fact find, check out history and ask who had done the physical checks, what did they find, etc. Sadly some horses are not insured so the checks are limited to what the owner could afford. Even the very best vets without access to diagnostic tests are limited by what they can see and feel. The diagnostic tests, such as: nerve blocks, x-rays, ultra sound scans, scintigraphy, MRI, etc…that would help diagnosis are often not been done due to the costs. Let alone the horse get referred to an equine specialist for a full work up. So a diagnosis and conclusion as to what is wrong is not known. Yes, finding out exactly what is wrong can be very expensive, not only in terms of money, but the emotional roller-coaster ride that goes hand in hand with this. As once you know what is wrong you are faced with ethical decisions about the horse’s future. So some people are not keen to go down this path. Several horses that I have seen in this category had pain and a well-established compensatory way of moving, with no diagnosis of what was wrong. However the owner is convinced it is behavioural issues. The peer pressure around them usually labels the horse as naughty and the person feels under pressure to address behavioural issues. It’s cheaper to call out a horsemanship practitioner or a behavioural consultant than a vet….However you can’t train pain. No amount of horsemanship will ever remove an underlying condition. Sadly once it dawns on the person it is not behavioural, and the costs involved in getting a diagnosis, some of these horses get sold on. One will haunt me until I die. I was called out to a horse the owner couldn’t saddle up. She had been told by those around her that her horse was being naughty about having a saddle on. When I first visited this horse he was underweight, wormy, riddled with lice and depleted. Either side of his withers were full skin thickness scars with proud flesh about the size of your palm. No wonder he didn’t want a saddle. It took several visits before I could get the owner to get the vet. The vet confirmed this horse could never be ridden, the damage was extensive. This horse was sold on. It’s out in the system. Poor soul; if it’s labelled as naughty; god help anyone who would try to ride it.  

    Oh if I had a pound for every time I heard “I’ve been told to show him who is boss.” I would be very rich. What type of relationship with a horse is that? Not one that sits right with me. If a horse is acting up, it’s about asking why. Once you know why it’s acting up it’s about helping your horse using ethical methods that tap into their language and herd etiquette. Not to bully the horse into submission. Sadly people have been conditioned that the horse is often trying to get one over on them. “I was told to hit him with a stick when he does that as he’s trying it on.” Force and abuse are never the way with horses in my opinion. How about flipping this on its’ head and reward the behaviour you want? When you start using positive reinforcement in your horsemanship more of what you want starts to turn up, as you ignite intrinsic motivation from within the horse. Sadly many people even struggle to know the difference between a positive and a negative reinforcement let alone the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation in horsemanship. You can read for FREE all about this in part one of the series of articles I wrote on Motivation for Horsemanship Magazine on the resources section on my website.

    Gee I hear this one so often…. “My last instructor told me he’s won if I get off.” Who the heck sees a relationship with their horse as one winning or losing? In my opinion this is a terrible path to go down. When the relationship with your horse comes first, getting off it’s back when either of you need to is absolutely the right thing. It is so simple; you can always get back on. Here it is about educating people about a different approach to a human equine relationship.  

    “I don’t think giving rewards is a good idea as it teaches horses to be disrespectful, bite and misbehave.” Right let’s get this nailed once and for all. The herd has etiquette and rituals regarding food. If you train your horse to mind his manners using the language of the herd, asking him to observe herd etiquette you should have no problem using food as a reward. When using food as a reward your horse has to learn he has to earn the rewards, you are not a treat dispenser. You have to be consistent and only give rewards for the right behaviour. You can also make life easier for you my keeping food rewards in a treat bag that clips to your belt for groundwork or to the saddle for ridden. It only appears when you are training. The horse then does not associate pockets as where treats live. Food is not the only reward you can use. So if food is not a reward you want to use there are plenty of other positive reinforcements you can use.

    “My last instructor said ride him through the protest, he’s being naughty.” Why do people not ask questions to find the root cause? Why does your horse not want to comply? Why is the horse resisting? Is the horse confused? Is my horse struggling physically or mentally with what I am asking? Is how I am asking the best way? Does my horse enjoy what I am asking it to do? Do I have permission from my horse to be doing x or y with my horse? Wow….permissive riding….how many folk stop to even consider this one? Or know what permissive riding is? Who would like to know more about permissive riding? No one ever asks me.    

    “The only way I can get my horse to move is to use spurs and a whip.” Their skin is super sensitive; they can feel a fly land on their skin. So how harsh is this riding? Many of these horses have learnt to defend themselves against being ridden with this force. Others have shut down and have a learnt helplessness. Others have protested and developed behavioural issues. Oh boy the amount of horses and people I have transformed their riding, to being one of the softest suggestion, with happy motivated horses. Horses are very intelligent and able to process, learn and connect with their rider.  Horses are sentient, emotional and spiritual beings, so making a connection on this level opens up horsemanship to a very refined level. The process of getting the human to ditch the equipment and force is a wonderful journey for both horse and human. It’s liberating and ultimately their relationship becomes the magical connection they have dreamed of.  

    “The dealer we bought him off advised us to give the horse dope so we could ride.” The biggest red flag if ever you needed one. The horse in question, I witnessed via videos exhibiting very dangerous behaviour. The horse was clearly in pain. Sadly the owner was trawling social media for answers. I very rarely comment on such posts. However this person saw I was recommended by a one of my clients in the comments and she personal messaged me. As I cannot touch, or see first-hand I can only give general FREE advice.  The problem is everyone can be an expert on social media. For sure there will be good advice out there, but mixed with the good, there will be bad and ugly. You are best to get professionals out to see your horse and what is going on. 

    “The expert on the yard (a non-professional) told me my horse was being naughty and I needed a harsher bit, drop noseband and to yank on the reins when he tried to run off or buck.” Yard-perts as I call them; have a powerful influence on people and even when someone’s gut feeling is telling them the information doesn’t feel right for them, they feel social pressure to conform. These people can appear to be the all-knowing oracle with a yard following. There are many stories that I can recall in this category. I am called in when the person has lost all confidence, had a nasty accident etc… This particular horse, when I visited was uncomfortable in his back, I recommended the vet visit. The vet concluded this horse needed treatment in his back and many visits from a physiotherapist. No wonder he was running off and bucking. 

    “I use draw reins because my horse is difficult to get into an outline. And everyone else on the yard uses them, so I don’t see a problem.” “I was told by my previous trainer to tighten the noseband to shut my horse’s mouth as it is evading the bit.” When asking people about why the choice of equipment to ride their horse in. People don’t understand how different bits, nosebands, bitless bridles, training gadgets etc…work. Sadly we live in a quick fix culture. There are no quick fixes or short cuts when we want to develop permissive riding. 

    I am sometimes a last resort call. Here are a few examples of the things people have asked for help with: “He’s fine with being saddled up. But once you are on, you are not on for long before he bolts, bucks or scrapes you off on the arena walls.” “My previous trainer was hospitalised by my horse after she rode him while using a buck stop.” “I can’t get out hacking. My horse is being naughty; he won’t go out of the yard, so my previous trainer used the whip. Now it doesn’t matter how much or how hard you whip or kick him he won’t leave the yard. He now rears.” “My last trainer said my horse is dangerous and to sell him, he bolts.” For these cases it is never a quick fix. I invest a lot of time in helping these people and their horses. Often this is alongside a range of other professionals. You can read about just one example for FREE – Riding the Storm in the resources section.  

    We have a very long way to go before everyone has signed up to permissive riding. I hope you can help in spreading good practice in some way. This way the collective has the power of influence. My dream is one day all horses are treated as sentient souls.