Can you ride a horse well when you feel guilty?

“Thanks so much Stacy for your honesty about what really happens! I really enjoy reading your blogs:) Could you have used a bosal instead of a bit for some of his training?
Happily following you from Williams Lake, BC, Canada-Jen”

Jen- If you watch the video you will see that I did ride Jac a few times in a bosal. I mentioned in the video that I still thought it irritated him but I will go into more detail here.

There are two issues here; physical and mental.

Physically, at least early on, there was still evidence that Jac’s mouth was irritated, even without a bit. When ridden his saliva was occasionally tinged with blood. I don’t know for sure if the riding irritated his mouth; breaking at the poll requires the lower jaw to slide forward. Maybe his mouth was irritated in the stall or in the run too…I don’t know for sure. I stopped poking around all the time because it bothered him I wanted to let it heal.

Mentally, because I didn’t know if riding was irritating him, it became a mental problem for me.

Sigmund Freud once stated, “A man with a toothache cannot be in love.”

Oddly enough, maybe the best way to say it is, I felt guilty riding him. Guilty because I could be causing him discomfort. The idea that I might be unfair in still riding him changed the way I felt about riding him. The problem with feeling guilty is that you ride like you are guilty.

When I ride I know that there is a mental connection. I am always training the mental as well as the physical horse. If I make Jac push through the pain will he respect me for it? If I disrespect the horses feelings here, can I expect him to give me his ‘extra’ when it really matters?

How do you earn love and respect from a horse?


  1. Carrie on June 27, 2014 at 11:54 am

    I treat my horses like I want to be treated and like children. They are respected, their individuality appreciated, they feel safe- no bullying allowed or they get in trouble- and they know I am the boss and official yummy giver! Mine free range and when the shoer or chiropractor comes he has an audience. They always tell me most horses don’t act like mine and you can tell they are handled a lot. We have to remember horses work off energy and to emit the right kind. I may be a little weird though- because one of my favorite things is to lay in the middle of them eating dinner and enjoy the peace of them and the night!

  2. K. Bockus on June 27, 2014 at 8:04 am

    Obviously with your enormous amount of experience, you look at the teeth first. This is my trainers biggest issue with cliients. The first thing he does is have the teeth done, and the horses are wormed. After that like yourself he is very vigilant with subtle changes in the horses behaviour during the training process. Us regular people who don’t have your experience don’t often recognize changes. however after 4 years with this trainer, I can recognize that my mare needs to have her teeth done twice a year. I seriously don’t know anything in comparison to yourself, but I have learned when ANYthing changes at all something is a miss. I rode my horse for a whole season with her becoming cinchy, actually one and a half seasons. I finally just gave her the ulcer medicine without being tested as suggested by my trainer, and guess what the problem was. She now isn’t cinchy at all and moves out like a dream. I suffer for perpetual guilt that I’m doing the right thing, and I watch my trainer constantly assess this four legged clients. When it comes to respect, they sure like you a lot more when they don’t associate you with pain. My mare now comes to me– go figure.

  3. Janette on June 27, 2014 at 7:49 am

    Dear Stacy, when a horse has been started by someone else and it is very compliant but not mentally with you (robotic), do you have a system to help them express themselves and relax? Even the animals around me have to satisfy my addiction for honesty. I like them to feel comfortable enough to express themselves, so I can clearly see when they truly except new things.

  4. Sydne on June 27, 2014 at 1:15 am

    Jackie- I am in a similar position as you. I’ve been loaning my horse 2-3 times a week for the last few months and will shortly go up to 4 days (success!). I miss dropping in for 5 minutes and just stroking her nose. I sometimes go up in the morning before work and bring her a carrot- she seems to be happy about that 🙂 Jackie- I would think you can make a difference 3 days a week and I’m sure he notices!
    Stacy’s article confirms what I believe- the respect is earned as much outside the saddle as it is earned on it.My girl is a schooling horse; so she works all weekend. Therefore, unless she is really bubbly, I will not ride her on Mondays to give her a rest. I then either give her a massage or take her for a walk to places where the grass is specially long and tasty. I hope she appreciates…

  5. Tracy on June 27, 2014 at 12:29 am

    Kudos to you Stacy!!! I treat all of my animals as I want to be treated….if they hurt, I ask myself, how would I feel if I were in their shoes. I think too many people function with the mentality that they are animals, they’ll be OK. They have feelings and if nothing else….they do feel pain. I commend you for recognizing that. Sometimes, when we are focused on the goal we lose perspective of certain important details while pursuing that goal. I absolutely believe that he will recognize and respect you for the break and time to heal and when you need him to step up to the plate, he’ll be there for you 🙂 You’re an amazing horsewoman and person. I thoroughly enjoy all that you share with us 🙂 Thank you!!

  6. Bethany on June 26, 2014 at 11:03 pm

    I believe that you have to earn every animals respect just like they earn yours. However they won’t respect you if you don’t give it in return, at the same time you have to have boundaries for them and eforce them. It’s really a perfect balance that once you find it you don’t want to mess with it. I believe that you did the right thing.

  7. Jackie on June 26, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    Good question at the very end, “How do you earn love and respect from your horse”? I wonder this all the time. I lease a horse 3 days a week; I work full time so I am only at the stables for 2-4 hours during those precious 3 days. I worry and wonder if I can earn love and respect with just 3 days a week. I wish I woke up and saw my horse in my back yard and I brought food and water to him everyday … and had causal interactions with him morning, noon and night. Is it possible to earn love and respect under these conditions? I sure hope so because I love my lease horse.

    And I believe Jac respects you for giving him time to heal.

  8. Bonnie M. Butler on June 26, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Stacy, you should think: ” How would I feel in his position?” Always put yourself there first………
    You are making the right decision

  9. Janettew on June 26, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    Trust and respect = Love

  10. Tanja Caravatti on June 26, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    I understand what you mean, Stacy. You’re right when you say there’s also a mental connection between you and the horse and that’s the way it must be! It’s the same when you’re too tired or angry….then it’s better not to ride!! I will also let Jac thake his time and get better. So you’re sure yoy’ve done the best for him, and he will give you all the best when you need it!!
    I wish you and Jac all the best!

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