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How a rider's emotions and thoughts affect the horse being ridden

Hi Franklin,

I am writing a small article for a horse magazine about emotional riding. I would really appreciate your opinion on how you think horse riders' emotions and feelings really affect the horse when being ridden.


Hi Annabelle,

Horses, being prey animals, absolutely need to determine whether or not any individual, of any specie, within its vicinity, means to eat it (or do it harm in any way, even simple control). Not only do they have great eyesight and hearing for spotting predators at a long distance away (better than close up), but they are extremely empathetic and intuitive as well. Both of these traits assist the animal in knowing the intentions of any individual and, therefore, in it's survival and/or feelings that it will survive. These feelings could be labeled 'trust' and 'trust that it is safe.' safety is a feeling only and does not actually exist in the world outside of our feelings. We either feel safe or we do not. It is the same for the horse. Therefore, it is easily to see and understand how the emotions and feelings of the rider either positively or adversely affect the horse being ridden.

The author's questions listed in bold below:

Do you really think it makes a huge difference to the horse and do you think it makes a big effect on how the horse responds to the rider and how the horse goes?

Absolutely! If the rider is unsure, fearful, only trying to survive on the horse's back, etc. This will prompt most horses to become just as unsure, fearful and concerned about survival. The horse is a perfect mirror of the feelings, emotions and even thoughts of whoever is with it, either on the ground or in the saddle. This is how horses teach humans. They mirror our internal process. We can modify our internal processes as well as how we move in the physical world when with the horse. The horse will respond in kind (the same as we are when with it). By being observant of how the horse is when we are with it, we can determine how we need to modify our feelings, thoughts, movement, etc. To assist the horse in having feelings of trust and safety.

Is there anything the rider can do to change their feelings to make a better impact upon their horse and what factors do you think may contribute to how the rider feels- maybe past conditioned learning or past experiences in all areas of their life that may effect the way they tune into their horse. And, are there better personalities or breeds that are better suited to an individual rider?

"A horse is a horse of course" goes an old theme for Mr. Ed the talking horse TV show. It is up to us to change, not the horse. We cannot control anything in our lives actually, except our own minds. Our thoughts are based on our own decisions to have them. We view our lives and our world through the lens of our minds and feelings. We can either focus on love and extending love (help, compassion, kindness, etc. Which are thoughts from our heart)) or focus on what we think we are not getting in this life (ego's way of thinking). We can think we are not worthy of the great job, or relationship, or enough money, or that somehow we are flawed and unworthy of love (this comes from our parents and how we were brought up). We can hold grudges or practice forgiveness. We can come to understand not to take anything personally and that most often negativity we think is being projected at us, is really only about that other person and has nothing to do with us. Then we can have compassion, empathy and extend help and kindness. When I am with a horse I do not allow negative thoughts in my mind (I do my best not to dwell on negative thoughts anyway). I may have them but I quickly let them go and tend to focus on something positive, beautiful or fun etc. Anybody can do that. The only thing we can change is our own minds. It might take a bit of practice. But it is still a whole lot easier than trying to change someone else's mind. The wonderful feelings and thoughts I have when with horses tend to hold my attention quite well.

Certainly some folks get along better with each other than other folks. Frequently it is personality based differences. It is the same with horses. Some horses get along better with specific horses than they do with other horses. It is the nature of personality (nobody is wrong). If a human's mind is full of clutter, running meaningless tapes and conversations all the time, thinking of the past or future, they are not present with the horse (or anybody). Calming the mind and quieting the chatter is not hard. Simply bringing our attention to a sound that is happening (hoof beats, wind, anything in the present moment), will immediately bring us present with our horse. Also, focusing on how the horse ‘feels’ to us where we contact it with our bodies is a great way to get present with a horse and ride better immediately. The horse always knows if we are present with it or a million miles away in our minds. They always prefer us being present, as then we are actively riding and actively present with the animal.

I have been with horses of many, many different breeds, they are all horses with individual personalities. Sure some breeds may have tendencies in one direction or another. Just like folks form different cultures. But we are all humans of the human race and will always have very specific things in common. Those things we have in common are much more important than our differences. I tend to focus on what all horses and humans have in common rather than look for differences. This adds to the peace and harmony in my life with horses (and humans), as well as a greater occurrence of success with my goals to help humans and horses have better, longer lasting and mutually successful relationships.

Happy holidays and I hope I have shed some light on your questions.

Sincerely, Franklin

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