How My Mission To Think Like A Horse Began

Even though my parents worked on cattle ranches when I was a kid, I never really developed an interest for horses until my teenage years. I started out just putting miles on some local horses to earn extra money. As I was riding along, I started to wonder what was really going on in the horse’s brain and why he would react in certain ways.

I decided then and there to make it my life’s mission to find out how to think like a horse.

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Think Harmony With Horses | Transform your thinking

Fortunately, my quest began with finding a treasure that would change my life forever. I got my hands on ‘Think Harmony With Horses’ by Ray Hunt. That is the book that helped me begin thinking the right way when dealing with horses. It also gave me a better picture of how to work with the horse’s natural instincts instead of against them. One of my favorites quotes from Ray is “When you ask your horse to do something, it should be his idea … he wants to do it, he understands how to do it, and he does it.”

Buy Think Harmony With Horses here.

True Unity | The horse is the ultimate teacher

That led to reading ‘True Unity’ by Tom Dorrance. He confirmed what I was beginning to understand. The horse is the ultimate teacher. As this book explains, each horse will transform your thinking if you will take the time to listen. “What I know about the horse”, says Tom, “I learned from the horse.” Reading True Unity is like a visit with Tom, and you come away thinking on ways to improve your relationship with the horse.

Buy True Unity here.

True Horsemanship Through Feel | Learn how a horse thinks

Another classic that should be read over and over is ‘True Horsemanship Through Feel’ by Bill Dorrance, Tom’s brother. This helped me realize the importance of the little things. It instilled the importance of looking for and recognizing all the subtle changes a horse makes. Furthermore, these minute changes are a clear indication of what he is thinking at each moment. To this end, Bill urges us to reach toward a deeper level of insight into our horses.

Buy True Horsemanship Through Feel here.

The Art Of Horsemanship

As my quest for knowledge continued, I came across ‘The Art Of Horsemanship’ by Xenophon. Though Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance are considered the modern-day pioneers of what is often referred to as ‘natural horsemanship’, Xenophon (430 – 354 BC) mastered the art of viewing the horse as a partner rather than an object. He mastered and explained the art of horsemanship over 2,000 years ago. The United State Dressage Federation even lists this book as suggested reading. I would highly suggest it as well. 

Buy The Art Of Horsemanship here.

USDF Guide To Dressage

As my skill improved, I became fascinated by the high level of schooling found in Dressage. So I read, studied, thought, took notes, underlined, highlighted, practiced, and then re-read the USDF Guide To Dressage. This book is a must read for anyone who wants to be more ‘correct’ in their riding and begin learning more advanced maneuvers. It is a gold mine of information.

Buy The USDF Guide To Dressage here.

Lessons In Lightness

To balance that out, I explored Lessons In Lightness by Mark Russell. This book really delves into how to think like a horse. It focuses on the physiological and psychological state that is the basis for establishing any healthy relationship. “An exploration into the horse’s physiological and psychological state is the basis for building that strong bond most riders yearn to achieve”.

Buy Lessons In Lightness here.

Tales Of Horsemanship

Years and hundreds of horses later, I wrote Tales of Horsemanship: An Inside Look At The Secrets Of Successful Horse Training Revealed Through Short Stories. This book also explores the psychology of how a horse thinks. It details many real life examples of how we must amend our thinking if we are ever going to be effective communicators. Plus, I’ve thrown in a couple of bonus chapters where I tell you bizarre stories about what happened to me, and the unforgettable things I witnessed working on those huge cattle ranches out west.

Buy Tales Of Horsemanship here.

Merge Your Thinking

The knowledge from all these books (and more) has been invaluable and I still refer back to them. For even more info on natural horsemanship, read my free article here. But I must say, as all these authors would also affirm, that the horse is the ultimate teacher. Each one will teach you something. And then just when you think you’re beginning to get it figured out, the next one will teach you even more. So while reading and studying these books is certainly worth the time and effort required, putting that knowledge into practice until you begin to see positive results by merging your thinking with the horse’s thinking, is the true path to good horsemanship. 

See why the horse is never to blame: Don’t Blame The Horse

Carson James
Carson James

Carson James' background is in Vaquero Horsemanship, and for the majority of his career, he worked on cattle ranches where he rode horses all day, every day. His knowledge comes from real life experience using traditional Buckaroo horsemanship to train horses and fix problems. He is now taking all of this knowledge and experience and sharing it with horse owners through his blog, his Insider list, and his Buckaroo Crew. He has a unique way of breaking things down where they're easy to understand, both for the horse and the human.