The Horse is Never Wrong

Posted in: Horse Care, Horse Training

horse never wrong

My mare, Streakin Iron, and me in Topeka, Ks.

Before I moved across the country,  from Texas to South Dakota, I trained horses for a living.  I gave lessons to kids, took horses in for tuning, and trained barrel horses. I loved horses, and anything having to do with horses. I thought I had a pretty good grasp on how horses operated.

Then, I was introduced to the way Ray Hunt and Buck Brannaman did things and my world was rocked.  I’d seen it for two years, while watching my other half start colts this way. I’d ridden out on 10 ride colts to move yearling heifers,  sorted bulls from a 12 ride colt,  and watched him even start other colts from the back of one he’d barely thrown a leg over.

When I started my first colt “this way”, I managed to get myself bucked off twice in two rides, and that was when I realized I had to face up to one major thing:

The horse is never wrong.

Never, not even then. The question that comes after this statement is usually “yeah but what if…” and the answer, in this “way” is “Nope, never, not even then.”  Horses, unlike humans, do not seek drama, or fame, or glory or fast times. The reason?  Horses have no ego. When the ego of a human gets in the way of a horse/human relationship, or a human/human relationship for that matter, motives become clouded and results are less than favorable. When you are working without an ego in your way, you are able to stay in a helping mode; help the horse find the answer, encourage it to try. When your ego becomes involved, it’s almost invariably bruised, and therefore you feel the need to defend your actions, or increase your intensity (bigger bits, tie downs, spurs, etc.)  to prevent further bruising. Egos are too fragile as a rule, and are one of mankind’s greatest encumbrances to existing in harmony.

horse never wrong

Putting the first ride on DX Nutter Butter


It’s worth saying twice, because the horse will only do what it thinks it has to do at any particular moment in time to survive. When a horseman is engaged with a horse, you’ll see a relaxed frame of mind and a calm that comes over the horse, that surmounts any given situation. The reason is simple; the horse has realized that all he needs to do in order to survive is to turn loose the horseman, because his motives are pure, and he will not sacrifice the horse for anything; no buckle, no cash amount, no trophy, no fame or glory. To a horseman, the relationship with the horse is THE only thing; and horses can tell.

horse never wrong

Zach Ducheneaux on Poco Tivio Pep. He’s relaxed and even working his mouth.

It’s taken me the last 6 years to let go of my ego.  But the horses can tell, I can tell, and it has truly made competing that much more fun. While I still love to win, it’s less important to me than it is to have a horse that is truly happy in his job (and when he’s happy, things will inevitably work out better!).   While I have always had horses that could walk into, and out of, an arena, I no longer blame the horse for any shortcomings in a run. I may go two strides past the first, but aren’t I the one jockeying my horse?  I’ve taught him to look to me to help him through a run, and if I don’t ride him right, is it his fault?

I’ll simply close by saying, the next time you’re on your horse and something goes awry, consider that maybe you weren’t clear in your communication, that maybe the horse did what he thought you wanted, or that he was uncertain.  See if that doesn’t change the way you communicate with your partner, your friend.

Happy trails!

Posted in: Horse Care, Horse Training

About Jenn Zeller

Jenn Zeller is the creative mind and boss lady behind The South Dakota Cowgirl. She is an aspiring horsewoman, photographer, brilliant social media strategist and lover of all things western. After a brief career in the investment world to support her horse habit (and satisfy her...

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