altFor passionate riders attempting to better their horsemanship, this session will discuss a fundamental mindset that will free you from human misconceptions and help you understand your horse from his point of view. Learn to shift your focus from accepting movement to receiving yield.

Author - Josh Nichol

Josh Nichol’s development of an extensive understanding of the horse, and of the horse/human relationship, has allowed him to help people in many disciplines. He excels as a horseman and educator; his sold out clinic schedule will attest to this. Josh’s philosophies have appeared in equine magazines such as Western Horse Review, Equus and, most recently, HorseCare. In the words of Deb Bennett, “Go see Josh Nichol!”

1)  Understanding how your mind frame affects your training
It is a difficult process to look at a situation and observe what we are responsible for. We are a society that tends to place responsibility on others too easily. The same tendency happens with our horses; when an exercise is not working out we often look for the horse to make the first change. The initial question we will address is, “How do you look at your horse in different situations?”


When we are dealing with our own tendencies we have to understand which way we will swing. What I mean by this is, when you are pushed to the edge, what is your temptation. Are you a person that closes up or one that gets angry and strikes out? Knowing your tendency is an important part to finding leadership in yourself.

Compounding your tendency is your emotional state. It is just as important to know what your emotions are doing when the energy is up, do you love your horse to death with praise, and are you able to pressure in truth?

How these three parts merge will help you understand what is coming from your side of the relationship. Hopefully you will learn more about yourself and why your horse responses the way he does!

2)  Understanding the different training mind sets
In this session we will not be discussing training techniques, but training mind frames. Although they may sound the same, they are quite different. A technique is an exercise that one can do with their horse. A mind frame is how you interpret all the little parts of the interactions between you and your horse. I have found that most problems between horses and humans stem from mind frames. How we interpret the horse/ human relationship must be attended to before we work on exercises. There are two major mind frames that I will discuss.

 a.  Emotional Horsemanship
 This mind frame interprets the horse as an emotional being, much the same as us. The problem with emotional interpretations is that we are very unstable. As humans we often express our truthful opinions when we are mad, opening the door for blurred communication creating relational issues.

 b.  Relational Horsemanship
 This mind frame allows the horse to be its own, having its own communication and way of life. One of the first rules of relational horsemanship is to understand that the horse does not do things for the same reasons that we do, being emotional. The horse is a self-preserving animal, sorting out their relationships through a spatial conversation.  This way of thinking believes the horse will communicate in as many ways as needed; whether this is with their feet, tail or teeth! The horse does not disrespect you but will bring to light any leadership issues in your presentation. This mind frame removes the emotions and emotional interpretations, allowing the relationship to be built on understanding. From this perspective, examination of your presentation is the first step.

3)  Understanding how the application of the different mind frames affects your training.

 a.  Defining pressure is an aspect of training that can cross many lines depending on the  mind frame that you are working from. If the horse is an emotional led animal one feels pressure can be used because the horse was “being bad,” or “he meant to do that.”  Defining pressure from this point of view opens the door for many confusing and possibly dangerous experiences for you and your horse.

 b.  Using pressure from the relational perspective looks much different then the first. Pressure is never used to punish the horse for his actions, but to help the horse control the pressure and achieve the action the human was looking for. It meets the needs of the horse while providing the human with the desired response.

 c.  A Horse question: The Universal Language
 It is clear that there are many opinions as to how the horse looks at life. I believe his perspective is simple, if the human can remove their emotional “ick” from the conversation. Words like disrespect and negativity are not in their vocabulary. I like to call this way of communication the universal language because it removes the differences allowing us to communicate on the same plane. The basic idea is that horses and humans have the ability to:
    a)  make a thought
    b)  create an intention
    c)  present the intention
    d)  pressure it

 The acronym is TIPP

This is something both horses and humans can and should do to be clear in conversation.

If you interpret their behavior through your own emotions you will chase your horse away from a relationship, believing what they are doing as an emotional aggression towards you.

Once these basic ideas are clear we can begin to discuss the differences between yield and movement.

4)  Understanding the difference between yield and movement

 a. What’s the difference
 The basic difference is that movement is a focus on what is happening on the outside of the horse and yield focuses on what is happening on the inside. Movement asks and releases when the outside of the horse moves the direction you would like and yield releases when the inside of the horse softens. Softness focuses on the mind and the feel of the aids.

  i. In Application 
  The application of yield focuses on the definition of the aids. It is     looking for a soft response not a perfect movement, but receives movement through yield.

  ii. To the Mind
  Focusing on yield is about the horses mind. I am always attempting to satisfy the horse’s  needs mentally. At this point they will feel safe and confident to give their body to the movements that you require. Here we will discuss the horse’s needs and how they are met through the correct mind frame. With a confident understanding of what lies behind the horseman’s hand we will become more proficient at creating peace in our horse and ourselves. This will then establish a higher level of leadership in our relationship with horses.