top of page
  • Writer's pictureColton Woods

Becoming Versatile and Fluent Communicators for Our Horses

Communicating with a horse goes beyond a skill, it can be an art. I say, 'it can be', because in order for it to be an art, we must allow it. Often times when we first are introduced to horses we learn structured and sometimes rigid ways of interacting and working with horses. Over time we learn of the beauty that lies within the horse, their unique personalities, likes and dislikes, their ways of communicating and all the individual characteristics that make them special.

On this quest for more fluent communication with our horse, I find myself striving to develop unwavering relaxation, incredible bearing and focus, deeper understanding, more

connection, a desire to try with every ounce of soul available, confidence and ultimately a communication that flows like a foal is to a mare or a young shark or whale is to its mother.

So how do we develop this versatile and fluent communication with our horses? One fantastic way is by us learning new ways to teach our horses concepts and skills our horse already or can learn to understand.

So for example:

How many ways should I teach my horse to....

  • Back up

  • Move laterally

  • Come to me

  • Move their shoulders

  • Move their hips

And the list goes on....

But this also begs the question we must ask ourself:

How many ways should I learn to teach my horse how to:

  • Back Up

  • Move Laterally

  • Come to me

...I think you’re catching on...

The Answer: As many as possible.

Why: By us, the human, learning a variety of ways to teach our horse to do something we are becoming a more versatile and fluent communicator. Understanding the deeper nuisance differences in each separate exercise that has the same end goals in mind enables us to better translate what we are looking for our horse to do in a way that our horse can further understand it. Understanding the nuisance differences in the exercises enables us to raise our awareness and apply this awareness to our horses so we can pick up on the most subtle changes they make, or need us to make, to help reach our goals together with solid understanding. This will drastically help our horse when developing their education, as well as in moments where we've simply got to get something done.

The fact of the matter is, just like us, each horse is their own unique individual, and they all learn in their own way. Yes, many horses can progress fine in a one-dimensional type program but there will be those moments with each horse where we've got to get creative to help them grasp the understanding of what we are after.

So, let’s say we have 4 unique exercises that we can utilize to teach our horse to back up.

Where do we start?

We start by developing our own understanding of the exercise. Then we put it to practice with our horse so we can gain experience with that exercise. In turn, our horse may progress in their education, but in this instance we are focused on developing our own experience.

Honestly, many of us get so caught up on screwing our horses up- which is less likely than you think- especially when you have the mindset of continually getting better. No matter the level, we all make mistakes and those that are better horsemen have made more mistakes because they’ve been willing to try more things and accept that they will be wrong, a lot. Remember, horses are amazingly forgiving, and I do believe when your intention is in the right place, they know.

Then after we get the first way of teaching our horse to back up working well, we can introduce a new way to develop our experience with that exercise. What you may find is as your horse gains better understanding, is that they improve in the first exercise as well. Why? Because they’re making stronger synaptic connections in their brain- i.e. they’re getting smarter and putting the pieces of the puzzle together which could also be seen as: understanding.

As our experience grows with all the various ways to teach a skillset, we can then use a more creative freestyle approach where we use bits and pieces of each exercise to help a horse gain the initial understanding of what we are looking for. And the over time start to refine their knowledge and understanding to where they become proficient with each exercise.

But first, we and our horses should start one exercise at a time. Keeping things simple, predictable, and in a logical format so that both horse and human can get comfortable and confident with the newfound skills and understanding.

- Colton Woods


For those serious about furthering their horsemanship I encourage you to see if the Inner Circle is for you.

The Inner Circle is for those dedicated to developing themselves and their horses for a better future in life and as partners.

If that sounds like you, you can learn more here.


bottom of page