Kayla at 30
Kayla at 30

Some time ago, the term "horse whisperer" came into being,  not necessarily by the horse enthusiasts themselves, but largely by the people outside of the industry. The term claimed its fame thanks to Robert Redford who starred in the movie with the same title, while he posed as a rancher who developed a spine-tingling connection to an otherwise unmanageable horse.

The romantic notion of being able to communicate with horses was propelled into the mainstream media and readily devoured by horse people and others far removed from equi-mania.

Long before the movie came out, and fairly early in my horse career, I had already started taking lessons in 'natural horsemanship'. Not only could my friends and I already do what Robert did in the twinkling twilight (with the mysterious, hovering silhouette of the horse in the background), but we knew there was so much more to communicating.

And it begged the question: if we weren't whispering, what were we in fact doing?

Along my path to becoming a more educated horse person, I learned a common-sense truth that follows me to this very day: the most effective way to whisper to a horse is in fact to LISTEN.

If you're not a horse-person, you'd be amazed at how much horses communicate - to each other and even to humans. If you know how to listen, and how to interpret their body language, you would be an adequate interpreter of these amazing creatures. It's not a secret other-wordly skill. Just be quiet enough and sensitive enough, learn the body language signs, and the world of horses will open up to you in a most organic manner.

So here we are at my first official entry of my blog entitled "Horse Listening". My intention for the blog is not to necessarily convince you that there is only one way to ride a horse. In fact, quite the contrary! In this world of electronic communication, I want to stick to a timeless, ancient source of education: I just want to ramble! In a sense, I want to put forth a proposal, if you will, about a topic that has my attention at the moment.

And then I just want to Listen.

I am hoping to open discussion about many and varied topics related to horses, riding, dressage and ultimately, life. Because if there is anything that the horses have taught me, it is that EVERYTHING about horses has a human parallel and every growth (and setback?) we gain through the horse world can be mirrored in our own lives. And the more we think we know about horses (and life), the more we discover that we in fact know so little. Each can be an ever-learning and developing process, and there's stuff to be learned from everyone....

Feel free to drop a line in the comment box and contribute your thoughts on the subject, if you agree, disagree, or have an experience you'd like to share. Stop in and say hi personally by clicking here. Whether you're into horses or not, this is a blog where you can contribute what you've learned by 'listening'. Looking forward to rambling along this road of life with you!

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Buy the book for many more riding tips! Horse Listening – The Book: Stepping Forward to Effective Riding

Available as an eBook or paperback.

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Read more here:

A Cautionary Horse Tale: Once you decide to ride horses, you put into place a domino effect of consequences, which will occur whether you are conscious of them or not. It’s like a rule of nature.

Is It Me Or Is It the Horse? What is your opinion on this question?

When Do You Start Riding Your Horse? This question was being posed to me by a very respected and horse-wise mentor one day long ago, early in my riding development.

How To Be An Active Horseback Rider (a.k.a. Riding With Intention): What do you do when your ride isn’t going as planned? How do you respond when your horse scoots out from under you, spooks at the horse-killing object, or flat out ignores you?

Dressage As A Healing Tool: Even at its most basic level (or perhaps, especially at the most basic levels), dressage holds a value to horses of all disciplines.


  1. Well done! It is comforting to read about what our old masters knew all along …we have lost the art of being students. In other words , listen, think and observe.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Jose! I find it amazing how every time I think I learn something new, or go experience something for myself, I discover that the “old masters” (or even the newer ones) have already clearly discussed it all…

  3. Great post. I’m a natural horsemanship instructor and I tell my students right off that there is no whispering involved. It’s about learning to communicate in a way that the horse can understand. And if we can first interpret what the horse is telling us (are they looking for the right answer, are they confused, are they frustrated, do they need out help or do they need us to back off?) than we can adapt our signals and build a relationship where the horse is willing and respectful. Your article does a great job explaining the importance of listening.

  4. You need to practice only three things, patience, observation and humility..

    There is no mysticism, no magic, in this, only the recognition of kinship with horses.

    The more a horseman says he has learned, the less likely he is to have learned anything at all.

    Plenty of people have come across and borrowed an insight or two, and some have made a lot of money by popularizing what they seemed to think he knew. But what he knew will never be popular, nor did he ever make much money from it. You cannot sell modesty or undying curiosity. It is hard to put a price on accepting that everything you think you know about horses may change with the very next horse.

    Bill Dorrance

    An inspiration perhaps? Good thoughts!

  5. I ended up with my horse sort of by accident – I wasn’t looking to own a horse and had very little experience with them. The interesting thing is how difficult I found it to find guidance on how to communicate with my horse! I found shelves and shelves of books on horse health, horse breeding, horse riding, horse fancying… and not much on what my horse experiences! Luckily I found an instructor who could answer my questions when I said, “Why in the heck is he doing that?” and now I think we communicate pretty well with each other.

    The listening advice is so, so true. How many times do I catch myself focusing on myself and my riding technique only to be startled out of my reverie when the horse shies because of a danger I didn’t even notice, but would have if I had been paying attention to what he was telling me? Love love love to see great stuff like this available on the internet. Keep up the good work!

  6. Although I rode a lot in my twenties, I just bought my first horse after many years away from the sport. He’s a four year old Quarter horse and teaching me so very much. I love your comment about the setbacks and growth. These past 6 months have been a huge learning curve in patience, assertion, perseverance, humility, and give. I absolutely adore him! Thanks for your articles…I look forward to each and every one.

    1. Thanks so much, Jayne! Just so you know… that learning curve never really stops!! ;-P I go through one every few months. Just when you think you know it all, you have something new to learn! But that is the beauty of the “path”.

  7. Still a faithful reader of your blog, and love it! My journey continues with my now 5 year old Quarter Horse who continues to teach me something new every day. Thanks for all your great articles!

  8. I really want to be a better listener. I know more completely quite time with my horse will help me with this. I always feel like I have to make the best of the time I spend with my horse doing something because I board her and don’t see her enough to just be. The Winter will make this harder too.

  9. The real magic happened when I realized I could hear things from the horse that I’ve never heard before… then the horses realized I could HEAR them. I’ve also found the magic in keeping lessons short. It still boggles my mind how much more I can teach them with that approach !

  10. Horses really do ‘talk’, to each other, to us…I see that daily in my herd of 7 horses. Mixed breeds,sizes,gender and ages. I do my best to ‘listen’ but I know I have so much more to learn. I found one fairly good place to start, and no, I am not advertising for Pat Parelli, but he does have a good course on learning to ‘listen’ to horses. https://shop.parelli.com/catalog/education/vintage-education/product/4697-ss4000yw
    It is a very in depth course on how to interpret the body language of the horse. I just wanted to put it out there for people who may be wondering how to do just that.
    I am SO glad I happened upon your blog, and after reading your ‘about me’ page, I see we are somewhat similar. I have studied many many trainers, and every one of them have contributed to my skills with horses. NEVER stop learning and never be closed minded! ( especially if you have a herd like mine! )

    1. Angela, I clicked on your Parelli link but it didn’t take me to a particular course. Could you let me know the name of the course you refer to? One of my horses is a total mystery to me and I would like to figure her out!

  11. What a great post! I love your comment that everything about horses has a human parallel. I have found this so true in my own interactions with horses as well as working with my riding students. Many of the problems I have with my horses can be related to challenges in other areas of life! You share so much great information here on your blog and I love your open minded, listen to the horse approach.

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