The Whinnying Whiner

Posted in: Featured, Horse Care, Horse Training, Ranch Life

We’ve probably all experienced it at some point: the horse that sounds like he’s ready to join the Vienna Boys Choir. Rather than get frustrated by the whinnying, perhaps a better strategy would be to analyze what it might mean from his perspective.

Horses strive for comfort and security; whinnying is a horse longing for the comfort and security of the herd. It’s a sign that he may not view you as the leader of your particular two critter herd. He is looking for support from you and there are many ways you can provide it; in the moment, in subsequent moments, and yes, ahead of the moment if we try to understand what we can do to become the support your horse needs to feel secure. Mostly he searches for it in other horses because he feels comfortable and confident with them near him.

What does this mean for us?

It means we need to do a better job as a partner, as a leader, and in our support role for our friend, the horse.

It means we need to let him know, through reassurance and guidance, that we have a plan that we are confident enough in to sell him on. It’s our job to convince him that we have his best interests in mind, and become as reliable as the herd leader he has in his pasture. He’s got to learn to trust us.

When our horse is singing to his friends, or to whomever will listen, he’s telling us that we are less important than what he feels like he needs. He’s saying, “I’m pretty uncertain that this person on my back can keep me on this side of trouble, so I better be on the lookout for a partner/leader that can.”

Why do horses whinny when we ride them?If we learn to get ahead of his worry we can overcome it.

It may take one ride.

It may take four dozen.

It will take consistency.

If we have the ability or option to take him out on rides by himself, where there are no other horses, that also helps. He needs to learn that you’re his herd leader. Be ahead of his singing. They’ll take a deep breath, and often pause before they let out their worried neigh. Prior to that deep breath, move a foot, one direction or another. Time up with a front foot and ask him to move it front, back or even sideways. Change his mind. Redirect his mind. If he’s busy wondering what you’re going to ask him to do next he can’t be busy worrying about where his friends are. Rub his neck, ask him to get soft, and see if you can’t stop him mid-cry if you’re late.

A horse can only really think about one thing at a time, so if you focus him on the job you’re doing instead of leaving him to feel like he’s on his own, he’ll get over his worry, and tune into what you’re asking of him.

I hope this helps you better understand the behavior so you can help your partner learn to depend on you to be his comfort.

Happy Trails!

Posted in: Featured, Horse Care, Horse Training, Ranch Life


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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