Horses - Part 1

            “The history of man is strewn with the bones of dead horses.”


       I don’t know who said this, but it has always stayed in my mind as a tribute to horses.  Wherever man has gone, whatever he has done or tried to do, much of the time he was accompanied by, strengthened by, aided by, carried by, loved by, and inspired by…..HORSES.

            There are many other important animals in the history of man besides horses, who have made great contributions to mankind, who have been loved and appreciated, needed and used by man. I would like to pay tribute to all of them if I could, but time and space and endurance forbids, and I know and understand horses better than the others as limited as that knowledge may be.

            I have always had a feeling for horses, an attraction to them, I am drawn to them, it’s magnetic. I have been told that horses are the hardest animals to draw or paint. I don’t know about that, I have problems drawing all animals, they are all difficult for me. I guess I’ve tried harder for a longer period of time to learn to draw and paint horses, simply because I like them best. I am Western born, raised, and lived in the West. What would the West be without horses?  The two are married, can’t be separated. If you love the West, you love horses, at least that’s the way I see it.


  There is something extremely noble about horses. Their shape, their movement, their musculature. Their heads are beautiful and so expressive. The curve and movement of their necks and their manes is the perfect expression of freedom and the gift and power of movement to see and hear galloping and thundering horses, manes and tails flowing in the wind is to get excited about life. Seeing and hearing these beautiful animals in full gallop, if a person does not feel something come alive in his soul, I cannot understand why?

            Horses respond to love, kindness, patience, and respectful treatment. They don’t forget.  They also don’t forget those who don’t treat them that way. They are willing to give all they have if they are treated right. They have their quirks, their weaknesses, their bad habits, their fears, their likes and dislikes. They are intelligent and they have a language. They have over 100 words in their vocabulary and those words are universal. If you know their lingo they will tell you a lot that others have no idea of. I don’t know all those words, but I do know quite a few and would like to know them all. That comes by experience and being taught by those who know.

            Horses feel love and affection. They feel hate and anger. They feel happiness and sadness. They feel excitement and interest and they feel boredom and apathy.

            They like to work and they like to rest. They like to play and they like to get down to business.  They like to learn and they take pride in what they know and what they are taught.  They want to do a good job.  They want to be understood and appreciated, they can tell when a person savvy’s them and when they are afraid of them. They can and will hurt you either by accident or on purpose.  If they like you and respect you they will try hard not to harm you.  If they don’t like you and don’t respect you, usually because they’ve been mistreated, they have their ways and means of paying you back. They have a sense of fairness and they also have the ability to realize when more is being asked of them than normal because the circumstances demand it, and they will step up and deliver. They are brave as they can be. 

            Most horses are aware of children and are more gentle around them if they can be.

            Mares love their young, and will fight anything that intends to harm them.

            Horses have an acute sense of smell and hearing.  If you pay attention to them they will tell you about things you can’t see, hear or smell. They can see in the dark when all is black to you. Never force a horse to go somewhere in the dark if he is not willing to go. There is a reason why he won’t go there.  Pay attention to that, it may save your life.

            Horses can be spooky, jumpy, nervous. If they are that way a lot or for no particular reason, you would do well not to own a horse like that. Some horses are kickers, all horses can and will kick if necessary, but some horses “LIKE” to kick- DON’T own a horse like that. Some horses are BITERS- that’s right, you guessed it.  Horse bites are dangerous and extremely painful.  DON’T own a biter, you’ll regret it.

            In training horses, patience and consistency is the key. Do not show or use anger, do not cause fear, do not punish. All three, anger, fear, and punishment will backfire. Horses learn best when they choose the correct behavior. When they can see the advantage of doing something right they will almost always choose that behavior. When they see the disadvantage in a course of behavior they will most always choose not to do it. The least amount of pressure or restraint that can be used, is the greatest reward. These two factors help horses the most to choose the right behaviors.

            As soon as a horse makes a correct choice he should be rewarded.  The best form of reward is the release of as much pressure or restraint as possible, sincere and loving praise, once in a while a treat. They need to know you are pleased.  Even when they choose wrongly it helps them to know you are not angry.  If you don’t use anger, they will trust you and respond to you more and more.  Horses need to be appreciated, just like people do.  If they don’t feel appreciated and cared for they never can become the animal they desire to be.  A loving pat on the neck or shoulder, scratching behind their ears, soothing talk, a good rub down, a bath, brushing and currying, little treats they like- all these things win the heart and affection of a horse.

Continue reading in part 2 (coming Oct. 22nd)

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