Horse Personalities Inc.


last updated:April 23, 2011

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Horse Talk

New ideas and a deeper understanding of the horse-rider union have come to light since the conception and birth of Dessa Hockley's book "Is Your Horse a Rock Star?" Understanding Your Horse's Personality." Horse Talk" is just that, what the horses' have been telling us and how we are more able to establish a common language as we move further into partnership [or relationship?] with them.
Clarity in communication.
A Drive for the

A Horse and Rider’s Education by Dessa Hockley

Build a better relationship with your horse by having clarity in the communication.

To have a good relationship we need to speak a common language. Are you speaking Japanese and your horse speaking German? We need to find or develop an alphabet that will help us build that language. We can use parts of their language and parts of ours but ultimately we are creating a unique new language. We will need to start with the ABC’s before we can build words and ultimately sentences.

If you have learned to ride on a well trained horse you may not have any understanding of the training process. You may be communicating at a high school or university level and your horse might only be in kindergarten or grade school. Both of you are going to come away frustrated and thinking the other is stupid or difficult. Riders will describe these horses as cantankerous, ill mannered or in need of a serious tune up. The other case can also create problems where the horse has been ridden at a high school level and the new rider is in grade school. Now some types of personality will be kind and forgiving and learn how to ignore half of what is going on, where other more sensitive types will be driven to distraction by having a green rider shouting our orders when they had become accustomed to listening to very subtle signals. In either case we need to develop a system that will allow a common language to unfold without either party being stressed out.

We will start at liberty where we both can play with each other without any expectation. We can observe how the other party looks, moves, acts, smells…..horses are seldom allowed to inspect a person without the person reacting or wanting something of them. We can then move to mirroring the actions of the horse…trying to show them good faith…that we want to learn their language…that we are respectful of their customs. Then finally we initiate a movement and the horse responds with an interest in what we are doing. A desire for learning the new language has been born. This is pre-school

We move on to kindergarten. This is our ground exercises where we learn how our intention and body movements will be interpreted and responded to. We must balance out play and learning or our time together will become work for both of us. We use creativity to keep our minds and theirs open and fresh. We balance that with structure and predictability so both parties know what to expect. We learn to read each other and listen to each other and respect each other and trust each other. From here our world can start to expand.

We move into grade school. Can we take our lessons learned in kindergarten (on the ground) and now apply them to riding? We ride in a halter and use single rein cues. We are taking our ABC’s and now making words. If at any point they do not understand we can always go back to the ABC’s and find what lesson is lacking. Our words will gradually become sentences. We can now ask our horse to listen to a hand and a leg at the same time and they can respond rather than block or run through one or the other. They know what each means on it’s own and can now bridge and create a simplistic language. Social time and play are still a high motivating factor. We want them to feel excited about their new learning and terribly clever about all the little things they know. They want to show off and offer movements on their own. We encourage this and their confidence grows daily. We expand their world and start to take them out on field trips. We are aware of the more timid ones that need more time and allow them to venture forth very slowly. The bold ones we challenge with greater adventure.

Our learning at this stage is to be a following rider, one who does not grip or grab, one who sits up straight and does not negatively affect the horse’s balance, one who is emotionally balanced and does not have unreasonable expectation or demands. We must learn to ride with our bones, with no muscle; to be pure soft following flow. Time on the lunge line on a more schooled horse is good for this.

From here we move on to high school. Sometimes called the finesse stage in riding, where we learn how to ride in a bridle, how to have soft following contact, where the reins are not used for control but to help the horse balance or bend with more subtleness. Balance is created by mixing in the right amount energy and relaxation. We now can do algebra instead of adding and subtracting. We put complex movements together into patterns. We create whole stories. We can now use an inside leg and an outside hand, we can bend and balance at the same time or fractions of time apart. We understand how the rider’s body influences the horse’s movements. We understand how to move each part of the body independently and put the movements together. We know when and how to influence each leg as it comes off the ground. With these skills the partnership can now have flexibility, mobility and collectibility.

From here we can go on to university. We can specialize. The world is ours. We can go into any career we want. We know how to learn. We have our self esteem and our confidence to take on any new challenges, be they a new sport or training for a new job. We now have a strong dynamic partnership.

She's having fun but not getting the desired results.
Balanced Rider
Balanced riding & following contact.
Halter Riding
Moving on to more complex things.


Liberty with a Submissive - by Dessa Hockley


We had a new submissive horse came in to our barn today by the name of Rhainy. We turned her loose in the arena and she proceeded to investigate her space. She looped back toward Darlene and I a couple of times so I suggested that we turn and walk away to see if she would draw with us. She did…but not for long. She then walked past us and ran back to the other end of the arena where she had been. She then started whinnying and running around in worry and distress.

My take on this was that when we drew instead of driving her she perceived that she was the dominant one and therefore being a submissive she became nervous and insecure. Initially she had walked around quietly looking in the mirror, checking things out, showing her curious side while we stood watching. At this point she perhaps felt safe assuming we were her leaders. We talked about this and tried the opposite reaction the next time she approached us. She came up and I quietly drove her away. She repeatedly came back and her whole focus was now on just being with us. We then spent some friendly time with her and all was good and quiet in her world. When we went to go out of the arena she stood quietly and waited while we went through first. She then followed her owner into a stall and began eating where initially when she first came she was nervous and would not go into one of the stalls.

Disengaging the Hind, to Find the Mind - by Dessa Hockley

I was riding Smoke, our Rock Star yesterday in our indoor arena by himself and a Chinook wind came howling in. Normally Smoke is Mr. Cool and confident so we do not have much reason to work on emotional control issues. Suddenly the wind created a nice distraction for us. The snow was sliding off of the metal roof and the winds sounded like the hounds of hell were whistling in the overhead door. He got unnerved, so I put aside our collection work and went to disengaging the hind.

He had just been learning this exercise on our quiet foundation riding day where we do ground and halter riding and he thought it was pretty ‘ho hum’. Now with the energy up it became a whole new exercise. At first he had trouble getting his front feet stopped and felt I was holding him in when his flight instinct was telling him he needed to be getting ready to flee. Why would I ask for him to disengage his hind NOW, when he really might need it soon to skeddle on out of there. But after yielding to it 2 or 3 times his energy started to come down and he realized that the hounds had not in fact got in under the door. After each disengagement I would sit a minute, then walk-on on a loose rein. At first he could only go a few steps until he started hearing ‘things’ again so up would come his head and his energy, so on would go my leg and ask him to yield his power. Within 10 minutes he was keeping his head down and walking quietly. If the snow slid he would look and listen but felt safe enough to keep relaxed and carry on. On that we called it a day. It reminded me why we have a foundation day one day a week where we put new tools in our tool box.

Add this to your training tool box ?

Step 1: Make sure that while on the ground he can move his hind end around from pressure with your hand where your leg would be.

Step 2: Now on their back from a stand still, look left, bend you body left, put your left leg on behind the girth, and lastly take the left rein, ideally with a light rope halter on rather than a bridle and wait for them to move their hind quarter to the right.

Step 3: As soon as you feel the left hind move across (the disengage) release all pressure – leg and rein and sit in neutral.

Step4: Once you have it left and right at a standstill, then try it on the move and gradually in more stressful situations.

Dessa & Smoke the Rock Star.


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