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Alpha Natural Horsemanship

‘Ask with lightness, encourage without forcing, correct with softness’
30 60 90 Days Training
Abuse NeglectRehab Part 1
Abuse NeglectRehab Part 2
Aids & Cues What are they
Assess Diagnose beforeFix
Are all horses trainable
Be safer use a Dummy
Behavior Retraining Tips
Behavior Solving Issues
Buying first Horse Guide
Buying Training Older Hor
Buying a Horse Part 2
Buying a Horse Mismatched
Buying a Horse Selecting
CalmingTrg 1 sided horses
How to Communicate Horses
How horses Communicate
Cycles and Pyramid Trg
Establishing Leadership
Exercises Warm Up
Flexion Lateral
Flexion Proper Training
Flexion Vertical
Foundation GroundTraining
Foundation Mounted
How Horses Learn
Liability Release
Motivating HorsesandMules
Natural Survival Instinct
OTTB Re Education
Overcoming riding fear
Saddle Fitting
Selecting A Trainer
Soft Inside Light Outside
Spurs How to Use them
Teaching Strategy
TRAINING Ask Properly
TrainingGreenRarely Handl
Training Guidelines
Train Outside the Box
Training Principals
Training Pyramid Natural
Transfer GroundworkSaddle
Turning and Neck Reining
Winter Training Workouts

Alpha Natural Horsemanship

Selecting our Perfect Match

Selecting the perfect horse is very similar to finding the perfect mate.  There are images in our minds of what constitutes perfection.  The screening process begins at first glance; hair color, age, eye color, height, weight, facial features and race.  In the case of horses that translates to coat color, height, weight, age, breed and overall beauty.  To bond further, the next step is usually to look for a deeper quality; a personality, a philosophy of life, an inner compatibility all the things that make it pleasant to know and communicate with this other being.  While this is an important part in the development of meaningful human relationships, it seems to receive little attention in the determination of a “first date” or that equally important choice of a horse!

The consequences of this statement continuously arrive in my mailbox.  Just recently, a young lady with aspirations of being a barrel racer contacted me to assess a big, beautiful palomino mare to with behaviour issues.  Although the mare was the kind of horse that any person would find a joy to behold, the ambitious rider was frustrated and angry.  This filly would rather buck than run a barrel pattern.  How could it be that such an athletic horse wouldn’t do as she was asked?  The answer was simple.  This filly was bred to be a pleasure horse and although the young lady did not have her pedigree, she was well suited to her breeding.  The concept of running hard, stopping and turning barrels was not only foreign to her, but downright repulsive.  Making a pleasant union between this horse and the would be barrel racer was the proverbial task of mixing oil and water.  Shake well; the oil and water mix.  Leave it alone for a short time and the oil and water separate again.

For those of us who have experienced this type of disappointment, the beauty of what is inside the horse may take on a special meaning.  When someone says, “this horse has a great personality and I know that you two will have a lot in common”, don’t be suspicious that your friend is trying to run an animal at you that look like a dehorned moose.  It may be that you actually are in for a pleasant ride.  Truthfully as horse trainers, we can say that we’ve never met a horse we didn’t like.  Of course, some have been liked more than others, but each horse brings a unique challenge to the trainer relationship.  Yet these horses are only with us until they reach a certain performance level and then they move on.  We own horses that stay year in and year out.  These have to be special individuals which make us feel good every time we feed them, clean their stalls or ride them.  They are our friends; they give life a special harmony which comes with their companionship. 

Knowing when we are looking at such a soul mate is a tricky business.  Just as quite a few blind dates and first dates don’t turn out to be good experiences; a lot of first encounters to choosing a horse don’t work out either.  The key in both cases is to gather enough information so we can improve the odds of selecting a winner.  The first facts to put together are the hardest; gather information about ourselves.  To be objective is difficult for many of us human types.  Too often, we claim to be a better horseman than we are.  We want what we cannot handle and it falls to the horse to show us the mirror of truth.  So “To thine own self be True” becomes especially important when looking for a horse mate.  As we begin our quest for our perfect horse, we must try to be open minded. If we are not a fit with our horse, we must really consider selling it. We must allow us and our horse the opportunity to find that special mate. We should not settle for second best. We must think hard and honestly about what kind of horse makes us happy and then go out and find it. Our perfect mount is out there waiting for us and we should always remember; color, shape and size will not give us this special oneness because we must look deeper!  The following are examples:


  • If we are intimidated by high strung, nervous horses, we should not try to convince ourselves that we want a spirited horse whose energy we will harness for our glorification in handling our phobia.  Horses understand little about human phobias but they do understand weakness and how to exploit them.  In the horse world, there are aggressive, dominant individuals and there are subordinates.  If horse trust us and we are in control of a dominant horse we will be recognized as the leader and it will do what we ask.  If we are intimated by a thousand pound horse flitting around like a butterfly, we should look for a more stable, mellow and laid back horse. 
  •         On the other hand, if we a take charge type, full of energy and enthusiasm for a challenge, this mellow horse will probably be boring.  We might be better suited to an energetic horse that will test us in every new situation.  Oftentimes, we will find our perfect mate in a young horse who is full of curiosity and that is willing to slide down every vertical bluff, “Snowy River style”.  This type of horse will also have the confidence that, if things get too tough it athletic enough to get out of harm’s way.  Obviously, it is very important that our riding skills complement the horse’s abilities or you may be served notice of an impending separation at an untimely and embarrassing moment. 

·         Free spirits that don’t like boundaries or rules need horses that have a lot of self confidence.  People who are more meticulous are likely to find happiness with horses that want or need someone to tell them where and how to place each foot.  This achieved by the rider developing a detailed set of cues to communicate each movement, a precision ride that definitely limits the horse’s freedom of expression.  For the horse that likes structure in its life, this type of riding partner is like a marriage made in heaven; to the horse that believes in the God given right to self expression, this philosophy would be grounds for a declaration of war.
·         Another potential battle of antagonists occurs most often in the horse that is insecure and nervous; the Don Knots of horsedom.  To compliment this horse, we must be able to hold the horse in a frame at all times, a security that prevents the horse’s weakness from taking hold.  Unfortunately, too often when we are incapable of this much mental and physical strength, we will try to compensate with undue physical force to keep the horse in check.  The coercion excites or frightens the horse and the situation quickly becomes one of gasoline feeding the fire.  Too soon, we find ourselves candidates for abandonment as the circumstances becomes too hot to handle. 

·         Another volatile match is when the horse is sure that it is stronger and more in charge than the human.  This horse needs us to prove to it that we are the dominant species on earth and we are the unquestionable leader of our herd of two.  This mismatch is a very common reason for incompatibility but for those of us who are capable of establishing our worth in the eyes of the horse, the resulting bond can be extraordinary but getting there will not be easy!  We must be sure before we try to bond with this type of horse that we have what it takes to achieve the goal.  At the beginning you must be ready for a relationship that seems to be forged in hell.  This horse is not naïve; it has seen people before and the contact has proven to him that some humans are weak and lacking in the social graces of dominant herd animals.  In order for this relationship or any for that matter to flower, it is mandatory for use to prove to the horse that it is mistaken in its reasoning, that it cannot judge all people based on its rather limited exposure to a few.  To change this horse’s attitude is usually traumatic, as losing preconceived notions generally are.  We must be willing and able to deal with trauma in order for the union to be consummated.  We must be confident in the type of coexistence that we expect from the horse and we must have the means by which to administer proper non physical punishment without being dominant for improper responses and reward desirable behaviour.   This sounds like normal training philosophy, only with this spoiled horse, the severity of the redirecting needs to be more committed and intense.  Once properly executed, our horse will become dependent on and willing to do what we asks  With an extremely strong horse and rider a bond will develop.

Pre-Purchase Assessments
The horse sales are generally "as is" and "buyer beware," the buyer bears the risk that the horse may have a problem.  If you are acquiring a horse, you should have a pre-purchase veterinary and training assessments Period. Even if the horse is free. 


·         Vet Assessment - Without a pre-purchase vet check, a buyer could inadvertently purchase a horse that requires expensive treatments to remain healthy and sound, or a horse that has a latent defect.  A pre-purchase vet check provides the buyer with valuable information about the horse's current condition and suitability for the buyer's intended use. In addition, pre-purchase veterinary exams can help the buyer avoid buying a horse that requires expensive maintenance or that doesn't match the seller's representations. If the buyer chooses to buy the horse, the pre-purchase veterinary examination can also serve as a snapshot of the horse's condition on that day, a useful diagnostic tool if the horse later develops problems. 

·         Training Assessment - Whether you are planning to own or presently own a horse that you are having issues with it is very important that you have the right horse for you!  One way of doing this is by having a professional do a Assessment.  During this process the professional should Evaluate Temperament, Desirable/Undesirable Behaviour Patterns and level of training.  If all of this sounds complicated there is one thing that’s not and that’s your safety and the horse’s.  The most important criteria are to find a horse that won’t hurt you and damage your confidence.  If you don’t have this, you won’t get what you want out of the relationship. When it comes to safety opposites attract for success.

The Perfect Match
To put this information to use you must realize that you are not trying to find the perfect horse as much as the perfect match. The horse is only one half of the equation; you are the other half. There are just as many differences in human temperament and personality as there are in horses. When you set out to find your perfect horse, first ask the questions perfect for what? And perfect for whom?  Owning a horse is much like a marriage. Going into it we all have a list of things we look for in a partner, we want things in common, we have appearance or size requirements but we all have at least a few things that we consider non-negotiable. To know what these things are you first must know yourself, what works for you and what you want.  Then there is the attraction or spark factor, this is what gets us through the hard times and reminds us why we want to make it work. The important thing to remember is a horse that could be perfect for you could be someone else biggest nightmare.

Define your goals
When going through all of the information you have for the horses you are considering or own make sure you have clearly defined your goals. Don’t expect a horse to be too many things. I have had people come to me looking for a horse to trail ride but they also would like to possibly train it for cutting and their daughter wants to learn to ride so it would be good if the horse was good with kids.  Define your goals; each horse has its strengths and weakness just like us. Focus on finding the horse right for what you are planning to do now. If you are learning to ride, buy a horse that can teach you and build your confidence. Down the road if you decide you want to show, you will want to get a horse that will help you succeed at your selected discipline. It will very likely be a different horse than the one that is right for what you want to do now when you are learning to ride.  When advertises tell you they have the perfect horse this means nothing until you understand why the horse was perfect for them.  Don’t let anyone tell you they have the perfect horse for you until they know who you are and what you want.  Then be sure they have your best interests in mind. As buyers we too often ask a lot of questions about the horse and too few about the seller and what they have really done with the horse.


Having fun together
After looking at the things you and your horse need from each other, you can look at the things that you want. These are the areas where you let loose and have fun together; the qualities you and the horse have in common. It includes things like energy level and social needs.  Are you a loner? Do you have a little bit of show off in you? Do you have aspirations of competing in an event or do you hope to never do anything but walk?  These are the places you want common ground with a horse. These are things that impact how much you like and understand each other.  Finding your match can take time so the best way is to just enjoy the process and take the time to learn as you go.  This important step is essential to success and enjoyment for you and your horse.

In conclusion
We must allow ourselves and our horse the opportunity to find that special mate. We should not settle for second best. We must think hard and honestly about what kind of horse makes us happy and then go out and find it. Our perfect mount is out there waiting for us and we should always remember; color, shape and size will not give us this special oneness because we must look deeper!

Further Reading:

Evaluating a Horse Mounted

Communicating with your Horse



Don’t underestimate having the Right Horse for you because it is a critical part of owning a horse.