If I Knew What I Wanted

Those who have hung around me for some time will know that I’m very fond of saying, “If the horse knew what I wanted and believed he was able to do it, he’d BE doing it.”   I used to say “…and was able to do it…” but people would just say that they knew a horse who knew very well thank you very much what they wanted and simply didn’t WANT to comply.  So, I adjusted the phrase to include the word “believe” because it is my opinion that those horses who “don’t want to” usually have something else on their mind, something that is preventing them from going along with our ideas.  In that state of distraction they really don’t believe that they are able to do …whatever.

The truth is, it doesn’t really matter how we word it, if we approach each horse assuming “they would if they could” (rather than looking for ways to make excuses) well, things have a way of working out for the better.

Recently, on the Classical Dressage group on Yahoo, someone posted this quote by Colonel Carde–Ecuyer en Chef (Chief Rider), National Equitation School, Saumur, France: “If I knew where I wanted to go,and was clear and precise in my requests, with my aids, that I would achieve everything I wanted.”

This, to me, is basically the same sentiment as mine only expressed from the rider’s point of view.  It is our clear and precise requests that convinces the horse to believe he can do what we ask.


  1. Excellent post Sharon! I agree wholeheartedly.

    Related to all this, I find one thing that confuses/frustrates a lot of people—

    The belief that if the horse has done something once, he ought to be able to do it again whenever we ask. Sometimes we expect too much, before the behavior is under good stimulus control. Sometimes, after a time or two, the horse begins to think complying with the request is not in his best interest!

    You are so right. If we are able to communicate clearly to our horses and at the same time instill confidence in them that they will be able to do it (and will enjoy it!), I think almost anything is possible.


  2. Thanks for your comments, Mary!


  1. Kay Laurence: Assessing Your Animal Training Skills | Stale Cheerios - […] trainer will take responsibility for what her students (animal or human) have or have not learned. Sharon Foley says…