Episode 26: Is Your Horse ‘Swearing’ at You? His Intentions Matter.

“Handler's missing signals can be the beginning of a big big problem when it comes to a horse's intentions.” Stacy Westfall Share on X

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Intentions matter. Today, I’m talking about your intentions when training your horse, and your horses intentions. I’ll talk about what constitutes a good intention and a bad intention and remind you to keep in mind that sometimes your horse is just asking a question in your conversation.

It’s important to be aware of your own intentions when working with your horse. You also need to be aware of what your horses intentions actually are. Are you teaching your horse that it’s ok to step towards you? Are you accidently allowing your horse to act more dominant? Being aware of your intentions and your horses intentions is important. It’s actually very freeing once you understand that intentions matter.

“Horses that learn that people are squishy and learn to run people over don't get a good reputation and don't have a great long-term prognosis.” Stacy Westfall Share on X

Show Notes

[02:02] At some recent clinics, I’ve had some horses experimenting with bad intentions.  When you have a horse who truly means to dominate that is a bad intention.

[02:23] He could also have a bad intention when he attacks another horse. Instead of using good or bad, we can also say healthy or unhealthy. For Simplicity, I’m going to use good and bad.

[02:48] If you had a really aggressive stallion who wanted to dominate you, we would label that as bad intentions.

[03:08] On the other extreme, we have horses that are sweet and easy to get along with.

[03:10] But there are a lot of horses between those two extremes.

[03:27] When people are backing away from their horse, sometimes the horse will step boldly towards them. When a horse does this they could be asking a question that the handler doesn’t recognize. The horses intentions could shift from boldly stepping with confidence to boldly coming towards them to dominate.

[05:01] I’ve seen horses that aren’t normally dominant stumble onto the fact that the handler is kind of awkward with the tools.

[06:07] This will perfectly fit into a place for a horse to move a human and that’s where we’re going to label this a bad intention.

[07:06] Intention matters. When I’m watching people and horses, I’m watching whether the horse intended to move the person or if it was an accident.

[07:37] If you suspect your horse is trying to control you, those are things you need to look out for. You may even want to set up a video to see what is going on.

[08:27] Oftentimes horses have good intentions. They may be trying something new and just be making a mistake. How you handle a horse with good intentions matters.

[10:11] If your horse is swearing at you, that is one of the clearest indications that his intentions aren’t good.

[11:24] A lot of times people who come to the clinics are concerned that they are asking too much of their horse. Very rarely this is the case.

[11:50]  Most people who are worried about over-correcting are usually the people who aren’t doing enough.

[12:05] A lot of people are worried about abusing their horse.

[14:15] The person who’s worried about overdoing it is likely the one who isn’t overdoing it.

[14:28]  It’s very freeing to know that my intentions matter and that my horses intentions matter.

“Intention matters. When I'm watching people and horses I'm watching whether the horse intended to move the person or if it was an accident.” Stacy Westfall Share on X

Links and Resources:


Episode 10: Make Mistakes in the Right Direction


  1. Jenny on May 15, 2019 at 11:09 am

    I think the concept of Intent is really important. I know when I first started leasing the gelding I ended up purchasing, he was incredibly herd bound and would rear up, acting a bit like a wild beast when I would pull him from the field. At first I was worried he was way too much horse for me. I spent a lot of time in the field watching him with the herd and then a lot of time just spending time with him. Once I could see he wasn’t a mean or aggressive, he just really didn’t understand what I was doing or who I was and that it wasn’t his intention to hurt me, I just needed to take time to explain things to him; and once he could see MY intentions were good we started to make progress.
    I do still think sometimes he does “swear” at me though! When he is a bit stressed he will flip his head – it’s his little coping mechanism lol

  2. Tracey on May 15, 2019 at 10:12 am

    I love this…lots of little things…more info please

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