Horses - Behavior Issues, Breaking and Training/Body language


Hi, I am an expert in Canine Behavior (over 7 years) on this site.  Almost a year ago, I began taking lessons in English riding. I am riding a horse over 20 years of age who is exemplary.  I am trying to interpret his body language (pretty much have it all down except for the question). This horse has bonded to me and I to him (he is a "school horse" in an exceptional barn, a foundation).  My question is: there are times when he raises his head high above me (ears perked forward) when I am standing in front of him.  He doesn't do this often and yes, he is learning I am the "herd" leader (although I could easily spoil him rotten, something MY clients would be scolded for by me lol).  When he does this, my impulse is to walk toward him, to back him up a few feet, then come along his left side and wait for him to relax, then reward him (a pat).  What does this suddenly raised head mean (ears not pinned)?  Can you tell me how I should react to this?  BTW...when he sees me coming (he's on cross ties), his ears perk and he definitely knows it's me. He also gently nickers if I go out of sight, and I speak to him to reassure him.  (This particular horse can be left alone on cross ties even though I am not at all comfortable with that).  When he suddenly raises his head while I am standing in front of him (and he is 18 hands high, I am 5 feet tall), am I doing the correct thing by gently guiding him back a foot or two, leading him forward again, and standing beside him until he is totally relaxed?  TY

Hi there,

I apologize for the delay in response. Your horse is telling you is that he sees something that has caught his attention. I wouldn't react on your impulse so quick because he is being a horse.

We understand that dogs chase things because they possess a high prey drive. A also understand that a horse is a prey animal. When he perceives something that could be a potential predator, his first instinct is to look up.

I tend to look in the direction my horse is fixating on, just to see what he is interpreting as a potential predator. Most horses settle themselves once they realize there is no threat. Some just need a gentle reminder. I usually just ask my horse to bring her head towards me and its usually enough.

Asking him go back a few steps is often used as a disciplinary tactic when a horse misbehaves. You did mention that he does the same thing when you arrive at the barn. Try to give him the benefit of the doubt here and try to see what he's seeing and reacting to.  

Good luck, and please message back if you have any more questions.


Horses - Behavior Issues, Breaking and Training

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Brittney Alexander


I can answer any question about English riding (pleasure and equitation), Western pleasure, transitioning into bitless riding, behavior, what to look for/how to buy a horse, & schooling issues. I can also answer questions about leasing contracts, as well as dealing with issues with boarders, barn managers, barn staff. Trying to find jobs with horses, or exercise riding jobs? I can answer questions about that too.


14 years total experience 4 years of initial professional training (as a rider) 7 years experience as an exercise rider 3 years experience as a trainer Currently working as a full time stable hand/groom & assistant barn manager I'm still learning everyday as working with horses is a learning experience everyday.

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