Understanding and getting along with horses in general requires a basic understanding of their nature. Humane treatment of them in relating to their basic nature starts with a commitment to the principle of restraining them without hurting them. There are likely several schools of training based on this principle operating on different levels or degrees of achieving it. Your goal should be to refine your methods to the highest level.


The single most important fact to know about them is that they are creatures of prey. Their nature and behavior is a result of having to survive by avoiding being caught, killed, and eaten. They are naturally leary of tight places restricting their ability to see for quite a distance as well as room to flee at the first sign of danger. Their first instinct is to run. If they can't run, then to kick, strike, and bite.

Social Structure

Along with being preyed upon another important fact is their social structure. They are animals with an instinct to herd up or to be a part of a group. For the most part they are not solitary types. They band together and form an order of dominance. If a stallion is allowed to run with them, he will drive out any geldings or other stallions, but the band will be run by a lead mare. The stallion will stand watch for predators, but the lead mare will enforce order within the herd. The rest will find their place of dominance from there on down to the lowest member who will yield ground to every other one in the band.


One other characteristic that is very important to understand is that they have a large capacity to adjust. This is one that they share with other domestic types of animals.

What we term a "wild" animal doesn't have this to such a degree and is why most of them do not thrive in captivity and usually will display a yearning to be loose and free.


There is a difference between a gentled horse and a finished horse. A gentle horse is at the first stage of training. He isn't really worried about what you're going to do to him as far as allowing you to be near him, lead him, and touch him. He doesn't have a clue though as to what it means to do any work under your direction.

Well Trained Horse

A well trained horse has to stand for various "invasive" kinds of handling such as rectal examinations or maybe having his sheath cleaned. If when you try to clean his sheath for the first time, he refuses to stand still; don't be surprised. If he doesn't think that he likes what you're doing, he will try to "flee" which may involve attempting to run from you or at least stepping from side to side on the end of the lead rope. If he can't flee, he may try to kick or bite you depending on the degree to which he thinks he doesn't like it.


So the second thing we do after the lead rope to prevent him from running away is prevent him from kicking by the use of a "scotch hobble". This is a device that involves taking a 36 to 38 foot rope that has a loop tied in the middle with a simple overhand knot that won't allow the loop to draw down and choke him. The loop is placed over his head and slid back to his shoulder. A leather hobble is attached to his right hind pastern if you are right handed. One end of the rope is slipped through the hobble ring and brought back and tied with a slip knot to the loop around his neck. If he is really determined to kick, you draw enough slack out to pick his foot up about half way to his belly. Otherwise you can allow him just enough slack so that he can park his foot on the ground. He can still cow kick some, but he can't kick straight backwards. Cleaning his sheath leaves you vulnerable to a cow kick, however.

Tying the rope

Tie his lead rope off to something solid to a point somewhere about the height of his withers and along side of a wall of some sort. One rule of thumb is never tie him to anything lower than his withers. Take the other loose end of your hobble rope and run it back along his side going past him to a point about half way between his hock and the point of his rump to something solid to tie off to. Before you actually tie this rope, draw most of the slack out until he is confined up against the wall on one side and the rope on the other. This second rope will prevent him from swinging from side to side.

You now have him restrained with a scotch hobble and a sideline. He isn't being hurt any, but he can't flee, kick, or bite. If he struggles, step away and let him work on it until he decides that he isn't going anywhere and he isn't being hurt. If you will be patient, he will adjust to standing there under restraint. It's also best to just be quiet rather than say something like "whoa" or "stand still" because you can't make him do it and so what you are saying is meaningless to him. Just let him focus on being restrained and not hurting. It 's possible for him to overcenter and fall sideways over the rope; so be ready to jerk the quick release knot out of the lead rope, let him up, retie him, and repeat the process until he stands quietly.

Another good idea is to always have a knife handy to cut a rope in case something won't untie like it should. If he's being choked, you don't have a lot of time to fool with a knot that won't untie. He won't like falling over the rope either because he can't run when he's down; so he'll likely stand quieter the second time. When you reach in with your right hand to do the cleaning, put your left hand on his hip or some other comfortable for you point of contact so that you can feel what he is doing. Be ready to step away to the side if he struggles enough to tip over again. You don't want to be under him if he does.


This basic procedure can be used for picking up his hind foot to work on it, for any rectal examination, for applying medicine to his leg, for giving him a hypodermic shot, and any other use you can think of. If you don't let him get away from you, he will improve with handling and not get worse about being worked on. If you hurt him any though, don't be surprised if him doesn't like it and acts accordingly.

This also teaches him that you are the leader of the herd or the dominant one that he has to obey and these matters are a part of the herd order.

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