The Equine Practice Inc

Decomplexicating Horsemanship – Eliminate Fear

“This horse is a killer!”

I was in the next stall working on the teeth of a big bay Warmblood gelding when I heard these words spill into my quiet concentration. The connection I had made of earned trust and respect with my horse remained even though the hot summer’s thick air had been shattered. We both turned our attention to the man next door. I turned the gelding loose and went outside the stall to investigate.

This man was my new employee. He had considerable experience for dentistry in horses. Due to my recent injury, I had decided to bring on 2 people to help me while I recuperated from surgery. From the start I knew he wasn’t a horseman. From what I saw today, he would never be.

The way we perform dentistry in horses requires that we have really good horsemanship skills. This is something I was taught in 1983 before sedatives and power floating equipment was available. We relied on our ability to open the mouth and insert our hands to feel with our fingers every tooth. To do this we had to overcome our fear of having our fingers bit clean off. Standing in front of the horse also had the risk of being struck in the head.

What a lot of people forget is that the horse also has to overcome his or her own fears of the human sticking their hands to the back of their mouth (or anything else you are doing to the horse). Today, my employee’s fear of the horse was reflected by this Quarter Horse as the gelding displayed his fear of the human working on his teeth.

I stepped onto the shed row to find my employee spitting out his words again. Eyes bugged out and eyebrows popped up, the look of fear made his 6 foot 2 inch, 240 pound frame small. His feet shifted and his arms moved wildly as the saliva from his mouth shined in the light. He repeated to me for emphasis, “This horse is a killer!”

I looked into the stall and then back to him and asked, “Who, this horse?”

The horse’s eyes and mine locked. There was an immediate release of his fear as I walked in and finished floating his teeth without a foot moving. His eyes softened and his head lowered. There was no more fear. As I left the stall my employee said, “Well it’s obvious you’re a better horseman than I am.”

A New Project For Me

At this point I had worked with thousands of different horses for 32 years. I had accumulated millions of points of references on how to work with horses but also at this point, I couldn’t articulate them. I had written my book called “The Ten Irrefutable Laws Of Horsemanship” which is a boiled down foundation. But the moment by moment connection with horses was not yet in my grasp.

In the book “Mastery” by Stephen Greene, the author describes 3 phases we go through in anything we learn. The first is the apprentice phase where someone learns a skill or trade. This is where we learn from a book and then we learn from watching others. The second is the Adaptive phase where we adapt what we have learned into something that becomes our own. The final phase is mastery where we no longer think when we work. It comes automatically.

In the book “Outliers” by Malcom Gladwell the author suggests that we need to perform a task over 10,000 times before we become an outlier in our field. I think another word for an outlier is a master. I would add that working with 10,000 different horses is better than working with 1 horse 10,000 times. While 10,000 seems like a long time I can tell you, it gets better each time.

With this blog I am starting a new series to decomplexicate horsemanship. There are so many parts and all need to be working smoothly. None of it will matter if you are afraid of the horse. The horse will always reflect that back to you. Your horse is your mirror.

Eliminate your fear and watch what happens with your horse. It’s magic.

Comments 23

    1. Post
      Author
  1. Thank you very much for starting this blog.
    When you made your first visit to me and my horse Zeke, I was able to see and experience what was possible. I sought out others who embodied this. It has been over a year and even the apprentice phase has resulted in significant changes not only with my horse but in everyday life.

    1. Post
      Author

      It will be a slow process because I have difficulty putting into words what we do. And it will give great introspection to all horse owners – which in itself may be painful. Keep your fingers crossed. And thank you so much for trying our brand of horsemanship and seeing then believing and further, looking for other like minded people. We are grateful.

    1. Post
      Author
    1. Post
      Author
    1. Post
      Author
    1. Post
      Author
    1. Post
      Author
  2. OMG that was a great read! Sorry to her about your having surgery and sending best wishes for complete and speedy recovery.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hey Marilyn – sorry for the confusion but the injury was back in 2009 and I ave fully recovered. Because of it, though, I found Melissa. She has been some of the fuel that has inspired me to figure out this horsemanship thing and to get it into words.

  3. I had the privilege of working with Dr Joe Haines as my vet…I met him when he was about 65 still going strong…he believed in the cures of Edgar Casey he did acupuncture and used autologous blood injections for EPM before good drugs were available (1980s)H e also took a horse that was refractory to the drugs we secreted into the country for EPM and treated her with arsenic….she responded well. The Amish folks in the area only wanted him as their vet…he had a foot in the modern practice of veterinary medicine but also a foot in time honored treatments of the past. But the most profound thing was that he told me he projected an image to the horse of what he wanted them to do ie:stand still etc. He opene…d my eyes to the sentient nature of the horse….I wish he was still around to learn from.

    1. Post
      Author

      In “The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People,” the first habit is to begin with the end in mind. I always do this with course corrections along the way.

      I started in 1973 and have watch the disappearance of horsemanship. With one toe in the past and one on the present I am trying to bridge the gap. Maybe the actions of these vets you mention will be preserved. And with a lot of patients, maybe we will affect the vets coming out of vet school. I am tired of horse owners saying they can’t stand the vets in their area due to them being so book smart but ineffective with their horses. Wish me luck!

        1. Post
          Author

          Yes it is. Law 7 and Law 8 in The Ten Irrefutable Laws of Horsemanship are taken right from the Habits book: Seek First to Understand….. …..Then To Be Understood. Thanks Rebecca

  4. Love what and how you are able to work with our horses. My non-profit, Equine Reflections Inc., name also proves just what you stated ” the horse is your mirror and will always reflect back to you what you are feeling” I am blessed to see this with our horses working with clients that are struggling with mental health issues. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and educating all on how to properly treat our magnificent animals.

    1. Post
      Author

      Thanks Bonny. You have several success stories of horses helping people with mental health issues break through their blockages. The truth is we ALL have some mental health issues which we don’t think we have. When we keep them active by living in the past the horse alerts us with a negative reaction. But people who live in the moment have horses who reflect back a positive reaction.

      My goal is to have horse owners notice their mental blocks and give them tools to get past them to live in the moment. The horse will then respond in a way they have never seen before.

      1. Looking forward to your horsemanship blog. I know I need it. Knowing that Gunner is a mirror of me I desperately need to know what it is about me that reflects so negatively on him. Initially I had no fear but then I became anxious of his outbursts. I don’t think I have fear now, but know to be very cautious in particular situations. Thank you so much for your patience with him! Looking forward to seeing you again!

Your thoughts are important for all to hear and may help others to learn from your experiences. Take the time to add to the discussion. However due to time limitations I will probably not answer direct questions to me. Thanks, Doc T

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.