There’s a lot said about our horse trusting us, but not much about us trusting our horse. But your horse needs you to trust him. 

Roadblocks To Trusting Your Horse

Many people fall into the trap of trying to micromanage their horse. For instance, they will cue the horse to move his shoulder. But when the horse begins the action of moving his shoulder, the rider keeps the pressure on and doesn’t allow the horse to come through on his own. Good horsemanship involves communicating an idea and then getting out of the way while the horse executes the maneuver.

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For a horse to be confident with a rider on his back, he needs to know that he can freely move without interference. The rider is there to present an idea, to fix it up, and then stay out of the way as the horse finds it. It’s not force, it’s feel.

Allow Your Horse To Freely Travel

The worst example of micromanaging is when a person holds constant back pressure on the reins. Even after the horse attempts to slow down. No release, no reward. The horse is never allowed to travel without his face being pulled on. And many horses amazingly put up with it for a time. Then they either learn to wear that pressure so that it means nothing to them, or they start looking for alternate ways to get rid of it – bucking, bolting, rearing, etc.

Watch this video about How To Get A Hot Horse To Chill

A good rider will learn when to fill in and help and when to simply be a passenger and trust your horse. It’s a mistake to continue trying to help when your horse doesn’t need it.

Examples Of Trusting Your Horse

For example, suppose you are loping a left circle in an arena. The gate is on the north end. Every time you come around to that end, the horse loses his bend and falls towards the gate. So that’s when  you come in there with some leg and a supporting rein and help him get around that corner. But after you leave that area, the horse returns to good form, so he doesn’t need your help. He needs you to go back to a neutral riding position, trust him, and stay out of his way. When you come back around to that north side, he may need you to come in there again and help him make that corner. 

Suppose that on the east side of the arena, there is a magnet/distraction that is drawing your horse’s attention away. You first notice his ears go that direction. You feel his body gravitating that way. That’s when you come in and maybe bump a rein and/or leg to draw his attention back to you. But after he is back ‘with’ you, don’t keep interfering with his natural motion. Assume the neutral position of a lively passenger and let him carry you around the circle.

Listen to my podcast: Ride Your Horse With Energy And Purpose

More Examples Of Trusting Your Horse

Feel your horse. There are times you will close in with your reins and legs, and times you will open up. But that must be determined by what the horse needs. When you come in with some pressure to ask him to back up, for example, and  you feel him BEGIN to take a step back, release the pressure and allow him to carry you backwards. The only time you will have pressure on the reins is when he is NOT backing.

More about that here:  Backing Your Horse

Maybe you decide to ask your horse to move his hip one step to the right. So you tip his nose to the left, open your right leg, and bump with your left leg. That gives him the idea to step his hip into the quadrant you have opened up. AS he starts to make the step, stop all your cues. Don’t continue giving him the cues he no longer needs. Trust your horse to complete the maneuver on his own.


Remember, your cues are not to force the horse to do something. Your cues are to give him an idea. Your part is to recognize when your horse needs your support and when he does not.  Trust your horse.

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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.