The Zen of Horse Training

Simple thoughts to keep in mind while riding your horse

I have studied under many instructors, and have known many accomplished horsemen and horsewomen. Some of these phrases have come directly out of their mouths, though I can not tell you exactly who has spoken these words. But mostly, these phrases or thoughts are a result of many hours being with my horses, caring for them, riding them, enjoying them and learning from them. I hope these simple ideas help you too.

Reward the try

Any small attempt, the slightest effort to answer your question, needs to be recognized and rewarded and built upon.

Enjoy the work

Ride with joy. Comes from the inside out. Take joy in the struggle.

Think like a horse

A horse has no agenda. Only we do. He has concerns or desires we may not think of. Quit thinking that he has an ulterior motive and see what he is really trying to tell you.

If you want someone to listen, whisper

Loud yelling can be completly ignored, however, close attention has to be paid when one only whispers.

Ride what you feel, feel what you ride

Be together. It's between you and your horse. Align your rhythms. Find a working harmony. Learn to hear every movement. Bones and muscles have to understand. Transcend your separateness and feel the greater oneness. Ride without having to think about riding.

The horse stops from his back, not his mouth

If you think "whoa", your first movement should always be sitting down, not pulling with your hands.

The ying and the yang

Know when to be gentle, calm, slow, sweet..and when to use all the force you have...and every thing in between.

Be fair

Have consideration. Be concerned. Be careful. Be fair.

Never punish

Don't lose your temper Every time you get mad, you lose trust. Trust is the foundation of your relationship. Do not jeopardize it.

Ask, don't tell

Guide. Let him think. Be consistant. We want the horse to respond with the correct answer. Keep it soft. Keep it firm. Give the horse time to respond, but don't let him become unattentive. If he gives you the wrong answer, just keep asking. As long as he is responding somehow, keep asking. If he ignores you, ask with more conviction. When he responds with a move in the right direction, Release the pressure. Praise him. Know when you need to move on to something else. Give him time to think and absorb. This will teach him what the correct answer is.

Sit your butt in the saddle

Keep your weight low. Do not teeter above the saddle. Do not stand on your toes. Ask the horse to carry you and feel the messages between the horse's body and yours.

Take advantage of his moods to teach

There are times when your horse can do something perfect just because he is in the mood to "do it". Use those times to "do it" and "do it well".

Have quiet time

Just be. Spending time with your horse while he is doing his thing, be it eating, sleeping in the sun, listening to the sounds, investigating the world, or just swishing flys can build comradery, friendship, trust, understanding.

Act on the depth of your conviction

If something is important, make it clear. If it is not important, maybe a discussion can insue.

Practice yoga while you ride

Breath. Relax into your strength. Relax is not throwing it all away and being limp, it is keeping the rhythm, keeping the position, keeping the line with your muscles as relaxed and soft as possible.


Don't hold your breath. Breath out when you ask for a stop or collection or a half halt. Breath deeply and rhythmically with each stride.

Relax and drop your head

A very useful command to teach the horse. Ask for a lowered head when a situation worries him, when you just would like him to stand, when you put on his bridle or halter. If he knows to drop his head and relax, it may avert confusion or a disaster in a stressful situation.

Be an empty cup

Your horse will try to communicate with you. You need to be open and able to recieve and understand what he is telling you. Don't be a one-way street, feel and listen to what your horse is saying with his body and actions.

My mustang, JerryJeff, enjoying a spring outing at Folsom Lake in California
My mustang, JerryJeff, enjoying a spring outing at Folsom Lake in California

Oh my beautiful. My fav video of all time..

Riding to Inspire

Comments 3 comments

Scott 8 years ago


Great article. All of these things are so easily achievable.

Stacy's ride is very inspiring. I wonder how soon others will try it.


BTW - I've "Nickered" this article for other's to see :)

MissSarah profile image

MissSarah 8 years ago from Central Coast, California

Good article...lots of useful information!

Miss Lil' Atlanta profile image

Miss Lil' Atlanta 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Wow there's "a lot" of useful horseback riding tips here. I'll so have to use a few of these myself.

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