Basic Horsemanship


Especially for Kids!

If your horse could give you a lecture on your horsemanship, what would he talk to you about? Can a horse tell you anything about horsemanship? Yes, he can, because a horse knows a lot about horsemanship, and he tells you all the time.

Most horses have a people problem, because people don't listen to them. Listen to what your horse is telling you. How does he tell you? With body language.

Every time your horse acts undisciplined, he is telling you that you need to be more disciplined. Every time your horse's attention wanders, he is telling you that his attention is not with you. Every time your horse misses a jump or a trail obstacle, he is telling you that you need to learn to plan ahead.

Every time your horse's feet don't go where you want them to, he is telling you that you don't know what his feet are doing. Every time your horse refuses to yield, he is telling you that he has a problem you are not aware of.

You need to be aware of these aspects of horsemanship to have good communication between yourself and the horse. If you listen to the horse, he'll be more willing to listen to you. If you are both listening to each other, your ride will be much more harmonious.

Let's have a closer look at some of the more obvious aspects of horsemanship that you may or may not have given much thought to. Most of these things you already know and do, but being more aware of each one will make the relationship between you and your horse even better.


It's easier to have a horse with discipline if the horse has a rider with discipline. So it's good horsemanship to work on your discipline before you discipline your horse.

You need to discipline yourself to have a plan. If you don't know what you want to do, how are you going to explain it to the horse?

You need to discipline yourself to be aware of what the horse is doing. What are his feet doing? You need to discipline yourself to be aware of his attitude. Is the horse relaxed or tense?


Do you pay attention to where your horse is paying attention? Is his attention on you? For how long?

It's good horsemanship to have both the rider's and the horse's attention on each other. His attention is on you and your attention is on him.

Getting the horse's attention before you move him is like telling him, "Get ready; we're going to do something now." If the horse's attention is to the left before you move him, he will probably go to the left when you ask him to move.


When you start out, do you move the horse and then decide where you want to go? Or do you get his attention in the direction you want him to go, and start in that direction with the first step? This way you start out together.

To do this, you have to have an idea or plan of what you want to accomplish before you start. When you know what you want to do, it's easier to explain it to the horse. It's also easier to be consistent if you have a plan.


Basic riding is nothing more than getting the horse's feet moving to where you want the horse to go. Everything you do should have meaning to the feet.

You need to learn to feel where your horse's feet are going and what they are doing. Don't look--feel. When I walk, I don't have to look at my feet to see if I'm going left. I feel that my feet are going left. Learn to develop this feel for both the front and back feet. It'll take some concentration and practice.

Ride the feet; the feet get you where you're going, but only if they're moving. If the feet are not moving, you cannot aim them. It's like steering a car when the wheels are not turning.

Aim the feet, not the head. The body will soon follow, and you won't be over-reining. The reins help, but not as much as most people think.


Any type of yielding relates to riding. The horse learns to yield as you make the wrong things difficult and the right things easy. This is done by applying pressure and releasing pressure, and allowing the horse to figure it out. Never forget that you're riding a thinking animal.

A horse has a built-in comfort-seeking mechanism. He will yield to pressure in order to find comfort, but only if the pressure is released when the proper response is obtained. The comfort he looks for is the release of the pressure.

While you are applying pressure, the horse is searching for a way to avoid it. As soon as he responds correctly, encourage him by instantly releasing the pressure.

All five of these concepts are inter-related. You can't have one without the others. It is not a step-by-step process. Instead, they all need to be going on at once, but not necessarily in the order discussed here.

You can learn to improve each of these areas. Give them some thought and get a good understanding of them. They will be helpful to you and to your horse. As you learn to listen, your horse is also learning to listen. You will both be learning to learn.


Do you have questions about horsemanship
or problems you are having with your horse?
Email me at:
jnjyoung "at" hotmail "dot" com
Jack Young

Video Consulting
Visiting about Horses