Know your horse: The herd instinct

Know the mind and understanding the psychology of the horse is the key to managing him successfully.


  • #horsemanship
  • #communication

We spend a lot of time riding our horses but what we really know about them? Know the horse is the first step for a good relation and for being a horseman before being a rider.
Horses are herd animals. In the wild they live in familiy groups and roam over a wide area grazing for up to eighteen hours a day. Horses are large, flightly and unpredictable. They are also sensitive, have excellent memory and are creature of habit. For many centuries they were nomadic grass-eating, herd animals and speed was their greatest protection against enemies.
Even a newly born foal was soon on his feet, ready to keep up with his mother and, if the necessity arose, to join the rest of the herd in flight. Thus, if a horse is frightened, his first thought is to gallop off. Horses therefore react very quickly when anything disturbs or alarms them. Horses do not know the difference between good and bad but they are quick to learn and react to the way they are handled. Most bad behaviour by horses, both in and out of the stable, is caused by incorrect handling, particularly when the horse is young.

It is very important to know how horses exhibite the herd instinct in order to know how to handle and manage them.
Young horses often show unwillingness to leave others or reluctante to work alone. Horses left on their own when others are taken away will often gallop about and may even jump over a fence or gate.
As the herd instinct is very strong it can be used to help control control and manage horses in the best way.
When horses are stabled they are always happier and more settled if other horses are within sight and hearing. When travelling, a young or nervous horse often settled if allowed a quiet older pony as a travelling companion.
Horses at grass are happier when in company. A horse who gets loose when away from his stable or fields feels insecure and worried and tends to return to familiar surroundings. He usually goes back to either the stable or outside the field gate.
Don’t judge in a bad way your horse when he does something that you don’t like, but reflect on yourself and your actions…