Horse Handling and some Seasoning

Horse HandlingThere are so many people in the world who know more about horses than I do. More about horse handling. I do know this, neither fear nor anger have any place, anywhere near a horse.

“A horseman should know neither fear, nor anger.” ~ James Rarey

An expected Adventure guest for 2013 has been sharing her experiences taking horsemanship and riding lessons with me as we both hope it will make the time between now and when she arrives go by faster. One of her earlier experiences deals with becoming comfortable around horses, on the ground. This experience and our talking about it, via email, wrapped around into how I would deal with it, the horses and my opinion on training practices.

“There are three kinds of men: The ones that learn by reading. The few that learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence.”
~ Unknown

Horse HandlingI asked her, if I could share our conversation with others (you!) because it is a good point and it just may save someone from being injured at some point. She told me that she couldn’t wait to read it, when I finished.
So, here is the piece of our conversation that set the bells ringing for me:

“Pepper did not scare me, but I did let her bully me when the feed came out. I knew I shouldn’t let her but I wasn’t sure how to stop her without possibly hurting one of us, so I just backed off. Josh showed me how to ‘blow up’ your body, and demonstrated by waving his hands around occasionally, which would then pop her in the face and neck  if she got too close to the bucket. He even threw his leg up once popping her in the belly.   Once she blew her breathe out at him, and backed off.  He let her have the feed.   And here came ever animal in the yard looking to snap up the scraps. Chickens, big ole labs, ducks – all milling around her feet. I would have never felt comfortable hitting someones horse, even though the pops did not have a lot of force, but they weren’t super gentle either. What do you think of the method?”

(Me)  You really want to know? Can you take it? (Serious voice)

Horse HandlingYou CAN NOT hurt a horse with your hands or feet. You CAN NOT hurt a horse with a stick or with leather to smack them with. Period.

(Disclaimer here, now listen, I am not talking about beating a horse till he bleeds or breaks- I am talking about as if: me smacking you with the same force and with the same lead rope or stick and leaving a stinging bruise- yeah it would hurt…YOU. NOT the HORSE.)

The biggest problem, unhappiness causing, drag of guests or visitors (and their guides)… is this exact point. THIS POINT.


Horse HandlingYou (anyone) are 150-200 pounds average guest or client -vs- 1,100-1,700 POUND ANIMAL. Guess what? YOU can’t hurt HIM.


(Same thing, when I was learning karate, tae-kwon-do, kick boxing and self defense, the ONE thing that my Master kept saying over and over again -as I became deadlier and deadlier- “Run. Get Away. If you get away, YOU WIN.” Do you understand why? Really, why? Because a man, on average, will ALWAYS be bigger and stronger. I can’t simply hurt him, I could stop him… but it may be permanent. That is a heavy responsibility. To know that power is inside you. )

Horse HandlingSame thing- you CAN’T hurt that horse, ANY horse, but they CAN hurt you. Remember that. Not necessarily out of meanness, or even ill training, but because they out weigh you by times ten.

And. They are not people, they are horses, a critter. No different than a chicken. (Can you imagine how scared we would be if they weighed 1,100 pounds?! LOL…) If a horse is crowding you, rush at you, the “Make yourself bigger” usually works, eye contact, a sharp tone, usually works. A reminder that you are there, usually works, “HEY!”

On the trail, if you are half a mile behind me- that is your problem, not the horse’s, because I will have already shown you that he CAN keep up, HE is taking advantage of YOU. A good smack on the hip/butt, gets his attention and lets him know that you are onto him. Then, if he forgets, most of the time you can wiggle it and he’s all like, “Oops!” and steps out again.

Horse HandlingNow, I’ll add my own “Oops!”… I fell into one of my biggest (and only) real gripes; Guests or clients who fall so far behind, they miss out on what they are here to see! LOL, bottom line, a normal person (i.e., no rage issues!) can not hurt a horse by typical means or even by “man-handling.”

(Before I forget, Robin, My 14 year old son, Zach, read this post over for me, in hopes that he may be able to help me with a title… yes, I have the most trouble with coming up with titles!!… Anyhow.. He noticed that it’s funny your horse’s name is Pepper and Salt is mine! LOL, I hadn’t even noticed!)

Horse Handling

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6 Responses to Horse Handling and some Seasoning

  1. “Manhandling” a horse is NO substitute for decent training and sensible decisions on the part of the “horsemen” (if you could call them that).

    Your pictures here show an untrained animal being slammed around because he reacting in a completely normal “horse” way to something unfamiliar and scary being thrown onto his back. He’s reacting the only way he knows how, to get that thing off, just as if it were a cougar pouncing for the kill.

    This is a total LACK OF HORSEMANSHIP — NOT something to aspire to.

    • LOL, Sorry about the mis-understanding, Kammy!

      These photos are showing no man-handling, although, yes indeed, manhandling (up to a point, of course!!) is required and dolled out when needed. These photos are actually showing people with absolutely no anger or frustration in their body language or visible on their faces… and as I am the one who took the photos, there was no crankiness at all on the part of the horses (who are now all old hands too) or the handlers.

      These pictures are, though, the reactions of “OMG! It’s a monster!” yes. They are brand new horses, just off the truck (visible in at least one of the pictures), being packed (a few for the first time) to head into the wilderness to make the last leg of their journey to their new home. Yes, they are simply scared… non are ever hurt- they do what they do, we stay out of their freak-out as best we can, try to prevent anything from being broken up too terribly, keep stuff out of their way and just keep talking… they calm down and we start again. And again. And again. Until we leave. 87 miles, across some of the roughest and varied terrain Alaska has to offer, and when we get home, they are ready. (most of them, anyhow)

      These horses aren’t only partners to some of the best guides in Alaska, they don’t only carry comfortable camps for our guests, they aren’t simply there to pack out a moose for a client… they are the animals we trust with the children. They all understand within 2-3 days, no one will ever hurt them and when they get themselves into troubles or they do get scared, we are the two-leggeds that are right there to save them… They know.

      Maybe I could have chosen happy little trail ride pictures, but really, the POINT of the post is to show the power of these special animals. Pure raw power and strength. There are no pictures of any horse BEING slammed around, there is NOTHING being THROWN AT or ON any of these (or any other….stuff costs too much!) horses.

      Instead of being a LACK of horsemanship… which is really the skill of riding horses, this is a post to stress that a person isn’t really able to HURT something that much bigger… thus, don’t be so skittish (speaking to a new rider), don’t be frightened, KNOW what and how they can move and why…

      I am bummed you took these pictures and this post wrong, Kammy and I sure hope I cleared up any questions! LOL, I tend to “JUMP” when one of my own (like abuse) triggers is touched on…so no worries! Be sure you always shout if you see something that raises questions…
      ~Alaska Chick

  2. Hi Alaska Chick, just stumbled on this site for the first time and went straight to the horse section (of course!).

    I went straight there because i travel alone, unsupported, by horse in some very extreme and remote wilderness environments(or when terrain is too dangerous to ride ie the Himalayan mountains – then with a pack pony)- I can do this relatively safely because i’ve been a professional horsewoman for more than 20 years. I don’t want to be critical here but have to say that a very small amount of preparation, like half an hour or so, can save you having your pack horses, even the new ones, swinging about the place and worrying, i always like to think that ‘a stitch in time saves nine’- after all NO-ONE needs a worried horse and broken gear when they’re out in the middle of nowhere!

    I see where you are going with the stuff about how hard it is to hurt a horse but we all know how easy it is to frighten one and bad handling, or just bad planning and cutting the odd corner can end you up with a scared horse, this , as i’m sure you know is one of the most dangerous things you can have on your hands.

    I have to count on my horses ABSOLUTELY when alone in the wilderness (and i do mean wilderness, like the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan; 700 solo miles, or the Thar desert, 200 miles, the Himalayas, 150 miles…)and in these places, just like Alaska, you can’t afford an avoidable accident. I’ve also had a few situations where i had to ask my horses for what was almost impossible, those are the times when that horse better TRUST you, more than he trusts his own instincts,you only get that gift by always going the extra mile (or half an hour) for him when he needs you to. If you just depend on discipline (or letting him sort it out by himself) to get by then that horse is going to leave you high and dry when the s**t really hits the fan!

    Anyway, i’m not preaching just saying, and i really look forward to poking around the rest of your site. it’s great to see something out there for women who who like to do ‘Men’s Stuff’, – keep on truckin!

    • THERE you are!! Holly,
      I am so happy you found me! (Really!)

      All I can say is WOW. I would love to be able to just listen and ask millions of questions about the places you have gone, things you have seen… and there is no better way to “see” any of it I believe than from a horse’s back…

      I know exactly what you mean, don’t worry! (umm, maybe pictures of blow-ups weren’t the best choices!! LOL) I know that these horses we meet as they get off the trucks, have to be scared, no matter what. Added to that, we really like to choose ones that haven’t had much if any, human interaction. I, myself, have seen the results of where they come from. But they do know, in very short time, that us two-legged critters will NOT hurt them. Ever. We are their heros, so that they can be ours.

      I know that I ABSOLUTELY count on my horses in the wilderness. I am never afraid when they are with me… I never thought of that… the most worried I get, the hardest part of what I do, is cross the river with all the quicksands and holes… something I would NEVER do, personally, although people do, on foot, I do multiple times a year, on horseback. And their strength and instincts is what I trust completely. Discipline, isn’t a big concern for us, as they do what they do, gently and naturally, I have found and witnessed. Trust, as you say, is the biggie. They will do amazing things for you, to protect you, I have witnessed this myself.

      Now! Don’t you ever worry that I may take your input as criticism or preaching… Share, share, share! Better yet, come over here and teach me more! LOL, you’ll always be welcome!

      Thank you for sharing a bit about yourself, Holly. I hope I will have the chance to get to know you. Have you ever ridden in Australia? (I have a friend there, I would love to visit and ride with.)

      Safe Adventures!!
      ~ Amber-Lee

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