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My horse crowds me and/or is inattentive! What can I do?

"My horse crowds me, blocks me or gets inattentive and wanders off - I just want to walk to my stirrup, what can I do?"

In this video, Rebecca's Rocky Mountain mare "Splendor" learns through Feel to wait attentively, and tune IN! to Rebecca's plan. Watch for the magic moment when it all comes together for Rebecca - a true clarity of connection through feel if ever there was. 

Read on below the video for more tips!

The related topic here, is why loving your horse the way most folks do (around the horse's head, while standing alongside their neck or eye) has many less obvious effects a person might not know. They are pretty important too.

Unplanned (undesirable) habits rooted in loving on your horse's head/neck:

1) The horse develops a habit of being on the forehand and crooked

  • next time you are near your horse, glance down and see if he is leaning more weight on his left front foot
  • if he is, he is tipping his weight over that shoulder and no longer "loading" his opposite right hind foot
  • when that happens, it impacts many things in your ride:
    • he will feel stiff in his turns to the right
    • he will seem to barrel into his turns to the left
    • you may find you have to keep using your right rein to keep him straight
    • he may seem tricky to ride or lunge in a circle without "falling in" or bending his head to the outside
    • he may not offer a clean canter depart to the left
    • he may tend to break gait when cantering to the right
    • he may have a tendency to buck during the canter depart or while cantering
    • all in all, none of the above are so very fun to ride (a balanced horse with lightness and an available mind is a great deal more fun)
  • A related safety issue is that your horse is already unbalanced in your direction
    • when things speed up, there is a high risk he will get pushy or even run over you
    • when things speed up and you give him some space to lunge, he will likely feel like he is coming towards you with his shoulder
    • obviously, this increases the risk significantly, and can certainly take the fun out of being around your horse.

For this reason we introduce a way to love your horse, while supporting:

  • Your horse's ability to engage his mind and tune into you, from a deeper connection within
  • Practicing a posture that makes it easy for him to be still and attentive when asked
  • Releasing his shoulder to be light on your side, for a light front-end and light turns under saddle
  • Balance shoulder posture, leading to a more balanced ride

Check out this video to see how Rebecca's Rocky Mountain mare Splendor went from crowding her or wandering off to tuned in and feeling back to her in their connection. See if you can spot the moments where Splendor experiments with her body in the light of this new experience, as she accommodates it all "inside" - finding her own lightness.  Did you spot when she offered her head all the way around to me - there is the spot where a little TLC could easily be offered :)  

Be sure to watch until the end when the connection that shapes up between Splendor and Rebecca turns gold. Love it.


This was at a "Refine your Feel" group coaching clinic with Karen Musson of The Art of Riding in Dayton, MN. Karen is committed to de-mystifying "Feel" and how to apply it for a light, fun ride. She will help you find that exquisite place you know is in your horse and show you step by step how to work with him right there. 

Bill Dorrance understood how to "get with a horse" by adjusting to that horse through feel. He discovered the master key to it all: release the horse to you in connection with his natural lightness, then with clear intent, offer a feel that has meaning to the horse and clarity about the placement of his feet. Using the Feel of Release, he "felt of" the horse's mind in an ongoing invitation for the horse to "feel back" to him. "Pressure is something we are trying to get away from". Bill knew that pressure impacted natural lightness and an open mind. He worked from the inside of the horse out vs. the outside in, by adjusting to "fit the horse". With gratitude for his teachings (see "True Horsemanship Through Feel" by Bill Dorrance and Leslie Desmond).

Mark Rashid


"I see an 'opening' as anything that allows us to help guide, however briefly, an individual in the direction we ultimately would like to go. An 'opening' can be, and often is, a very subtle form of communication between horse and rider that can easily slip past us if we're not paying attention. 'Openings' can and do work both ways. [...] It amazes me just how small an 'opening' can actually be, whether working with horses or with people, and how easy it can be to create an 'opening' when one is needed."

Mark Rashid

"I truly believe developing the ability to see and use 'openings' effectively is only one piece of what one might refer to as the 'harmony in horsemanship' puzzle. When this idea of understanding 'openings' is brought together with the understanding of two other simlar ideas - making a connection with another indvidual, and the role distance plays in overall communication - I believe it is then that harmony in horsemanship becomes a much less daunting concept for us."

Mark Rashid

Leslie Desmond


"Bill knew about a place I did not know existed, or could exist, between a horse and a human being [...] Bill included each one of my horses in that information exchange. Over the course of many months,... he took each one by its lead rope and, later, by the bridle reins. Using what he called his 'better feel', Bill showed me and each of them exactly what he meant by what he did [...] It was not long after I made the switch from force when needed (often) to always customizing the feel I offered to a horse, that two tough horses I had misunderstood for years developed into my most reliable mounts."

Leslie Desmond

The lightest hands carry intent that is recognized instantly by the horse, as seen in the maneuvers he chooses to make with his feet. Whether that horse is ridden or handled, the lightest hands can purposefully influence the speed, direction and sequence of each foot with accuracy, in a manner that is reflected in the horse's body and on his face.

Leslie Desmond

Bill Dorrance


"The Real Masters Understood Feel [...] For example, De Kerbrech, (French officer in the cavalry of Napoleon III) really understood horses. He had it fixed up so the horse could succeed. [...] The first time I read Beudant's book was in the 1950s. The way he explained things, there was no doubt in my mind about what a person needed to do to get these little things working for them and their horse."

Bill Dorrance

“Feel, timing and balance: sometimes it’s best to talk about feel, timing and balance separately, and to learn how to apply each thing separately on the start. But when you apply these three things a little later in your training, then you see that each one of these things supports the other. They are interconnected and all three are real important. You really can’t get along without all three.”

Bill Dorrance

Faverot de Kerbrech


“ le deplacement du poids est facile dans tous les sens, plus l'equilibre est parfait. En vertue de ce principe, on dit que le cheval est 'en equilibre' quand de simples indications suffisent au cavalier pour modifier a son gre la disposition du poids sur ses colonnes de soutien”

Faverot de Kerbrech

[Translation: ...the easier it is to shift the weight in any direction, the more perfect the balance. By virtue of this principle, the horse is 'in balance' when a simple indication from the rider is sufficient to modify the distribution of weight across the columns of support (four quarters) accordingly]

Duke of Newcastle


"You must in all Airs follow the strength, spirit, and disposition of the horse, and do nothing against nature; for art is but to set nature in order, and nothing else."

William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle

"A confrontational approach ‘Astonishes the Weak Horse […] makes a Furious horse Madd; makes a Resty Horse more Resty […] and Displeases all sorts of Horses’. The alternative however is not ‘to Sit Weak […] but to Sit Easie’, in the understanding that ‘The Horse must know you are his Master’"

William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle