Talking with Horses

By: Dr. Mike Guerini (

I am a real chatterbox when I ride.  When riding young horses for the first time I am talking and telling them what we are going to do and that something we just did was not exactly right but that we will give it another try.  I also talk with them when I am in the barn grooming them and I grumble at them when their stalls are a mess and they could have easily gone outside to the paddock to leave me the overnight presents.  I talk to them as I am coming out to the barn and I know they hear me when they look up and walk to the fence.  They also talk with me — they nicker, whinny, grunt, and a few of them have their own noises they make when we are talking.

So it dismays me when I watch people ride or show and never see them utter a word to their horses unless it is a harsh word.  I shake my head at some of the rules that are imposed in a few horse show rings.  Rules are rules and if you want to get those points you follow the rules…but I think there is a cost to horsemanship that comes from taking away the talking with horses.

When we listen to stories or read books depicting the cowboy way of life from the past — we hear of the cowboy talking to his horse.  Likely it was to give him something to do but over time — they became partners and this was another way they got the job accomplished.

Why is talking with the horse something that can help your horsemanship?

1) When you speak you are breathing.  When you breathe it helps you relax.  Now for some riders they can find relaxation very easily but there are others that the longer they ride, the less they breathe and the more stiff their riding becomes…and the horse responds by becoming stiff.  This relaxation is so important for many horses and riders.  I watch the rider over think what he/she is doing…become stiff…and the horse falls out of relaxation and gets stiff…mistakes are made and then the stress level increases.

2) For some people if they take the time to talk to the horse while they are working with him/her on the ground or in the saddle it helps the human talk through the plan.  It helps the human prepare, then execute, then review what just happened.  This is a natural outlet to think things through and sometimes verbalizing helps people review what is happening.

3) While your legs and seat and hands can physically communicate with the horse .. there are times when they seek that verbal help (watch their ears) to help them make certain of what you are asking.  Horses are noble creatures and they are herd animals and they want to join with you in the work (this has been proven and demonstrated by any good horsemen and horsewomen) — so it is natural that they want as much communication as you can give.

4) If you want more proof that noise making communication is important — take a seat near the barn where you have a newborn foal and mother.  You will hear her talking with the baby.  As horses grow they have their own noise making communication that they use.  Isn’t it natural to use one of their forms of communication in your own riding program.

So do you talk with your horses?  Do they respond?  When I talk with them and I hear them make noise back at me — I warm up inside and I know that I am on my way to having a relationship that will last a lifetime.  Share with me your story on talking with horses.

Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (


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