What Horses Really Need From Humans

The equestrian world is so full of advice and ideas about how to keep horses, it can be hard to know what the best practices really are. There are almost many different kinds of horse owners as there are owners themselves - so how do you know what management advice to follow, and how do you really know what's best for your horse?

Humans are a very adept species at overcomplicating things. We tend to focus on the more superficial factors, like what color tack to buy, whether to clip our horses or what kind of stall to put them in. But we aren't generally very good at focusing on how horses are designed to live, and on arranging our management practices around that ethology. We tend to think so much like humans that we forget to try and see things through the eyes and experience of the equine. In my opinion, it's one of the major blind spots of the horse world.

Studying equine ethology - their natural behavior - reveals a lot of truths, about both horses and ourselves in relation to them in our roles as their caretakers. It reveals the very real simplicity of the horse's natural lifestyle, and just how hardy they are. For example, they don't require stalls - in fact, they ought to be turned out as close to 24/7 as possible. (Have you ever seen a feral horse standing in a box?). Due to their herd nature, they need other equine companions - something many aspiring horse owners are not aware of. And above all, they are not just something to ride - they are sentient beings with fully faceted lives outside of human interaction. With that in mind, it's time to consider that there are better ways of working with horses than most of our current models of horsemanship, which rely on outdated dominance paradigms and negative reinforcement. (More on that specifically another day).

When we take away the human element for a minute, we can see more clearly what horses need from us, versus what we think they need but is based from human desire. Sadly, many horses don't get what they actually need - such as turnout, companionship, and freedom from fear - but get what their humans want (a nice neat stall, matching tack, harsh training into obedience, etc.).

We often think about what we need from our horses. But let's flip the script and consider the opposite: what do they need from us?

When we come to the subject from this more open perspective, we often find that it's actually very easy to meet a horse's needs. It doesn't require anything fancy. It does require money, time and compassion. Many horses have been failed by humans that focus too much on themselves and on the wrong things. But when we begin to focus on the right things, humanity can then succeed by the horse's standards - and most importantly, give horses the better quality of life that they deserve.

what horses need from humans infographic