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A Respectful Horse is a Willing Horse, by Clinton Anderson




Clinton-AndersonA respectful horse is a willing horse. When  you ask him to move, he does so instantly. When you lead him, he walks next to you like  a shadow. When you go into his stall, he  greets you with his ears pricked forward. He  wants to be your partner.

A disrespectful horse  pins his ears at you, nips at you, shows you  his heels and ignores you. He’s unsafe to be  around and takes all the joy out of horse ownership.

We all know that we want our horse’s  respect, but knowing how to go about getting it  can be a challenge for some. Before attempting  to earn your horse’s respect, it’s important that  you understand what you’re asking for and how  to go about getting it.

Respect and the Personal Hula Hoop Space  Respect is broken up into two categories, a  safety category and a learning category. When I  refer to the safety category of respect I’m talking  about the personal hula hoop space. The personal  hula hoop space is a  4 foot circle that surrounds  you and serves  as your safety zone. Whenever I’m working  with a horse, I always  imagine that there’s a  4 foot circle drawn around  me””almost like an invisible  electric fence. Unless  I invite the horse into my  personal hula hoop  space, he should keep  a respectful safe distance  from me. The horse  should never come into  the circle unless I invite  him in.

Think about all the  times people get hurt by  horses. The horse bites  them, kicks them, strikes  at them, runs over the  top of them, etc. Each  time the horse was in the  person’s personal hula  hoop space. You can’t be  injured if the horse is  kept outside that circle. A  horse can’t bite you if he  is 4 feet away from you. He can’t kick you if his  hind leg doesn’t get any  closer than 4 feet to you.

People think that it’s  just a disrespectful horse  that will hurt you, but  that’s not true at all. A  fearful horse will hurt you  just as fast. Have you  ever noticed that when you’re leading a horse  that is nervous and frightened, when something  scares him, he tries to jump on top of you? He  pushes into you and invades your personal hula  hoop space. He tries to jump in your top pocket  doesn’t he? Because the horse is looking for us  for safety, but unfortunately, we’re a lot more  fragile and smaller than a horse. And eventually,  we will get hurt. A fearful horse will hurt you just  as fast as a disrespectful one will.

I don’t care  if my horse has a heart attack and gets scared;  I just want him to do it outside of my personal  hula hoop space.

The first part of respect is to teach the horse  that you are fragile and that he needs to be  careful around you. When a horse kicks another  horse in the belly what does that horse do? He  grunts, walks away, and starts eating grass again  like nothing ever happened. It doesn’t really  bother him. But, if we get kicked in the ribs by a  horse, we’re in the hospital for a week with seven  broken ribs. It’s the same kick, but it means a lot  more to us because we’re smaller creatures. We’re 140 to 200 pounds and horses are 1000  to 1200 pounds. They’re a lot bigger than us.

The  safety part of respect is to say, “”Listen, take  care of me. I’m pretty fragile, so you can’t be  biting me and kicking me or playing rough  around me.””  By Invitation Only  The first rule of safety is: “”Don’t come into  my personal hula hoop space unless I invite you  in.” It’s kind of like how you want your neighbors  to treat you. You might like your neighbors, but  you never want them to just barge into your  house. You always want them to walk up the  door, knock and ask to come in. At that point,  you can ask them to come in, but you always  want the option to turn them away. You don’t  want your horse to act like a nosey neighbor and  barge into your space.

When I first meet a horse  it’s very important for me to establish my personal  hula hoop space. If I can touch any part of the  horse with my Handy Stick while my arm is  stretched out, he is too close. A lot of people reading this are saying,  “”Does that mean I can’t love on my horse?””  Not at all. I’m just saying in the first few lessons  until you have your horse’s respect, the safety  category is taken care of, and you can back him  up and move his feet, don’t have the horse come  in close to you. When he’s in close and something  bad happens, you’re going to come out on  the wrong end of the stick.

Once you have the horse respectful, you  want him to come up to you. I love my horses  running up to me, but in the beginning they  need to stay out of my personal hula hoop space  until I know that I have them respectful. You can’t  train the horse if you’re dead. You have to  survive the experience first and train the horse  second. I want myself to be safe, and I want  my horse to be safe, but in that order””me first  and the horse second. Author’s note: A native Australian, Clinton  Anderson began his quest to become the best  horseman he could be by apprenticing under  nationally acclaimed Australian trainers Gordon  McKinlay and Ian Francis. In 1996 Clinton moved  to America to continue training horses and  apprenticed under Al Dunning, winner of  multiple AQHA World Championships, before  beginning to train under his own name. Clinton loves training reiners and cow horses  and has been successful in both competitive  arenas. Clinton is the host of Downunder  Horsemanship TV, To find out more about  Clinton and how you can transform your horse  into the partner you’ve always wanted, log onto


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  1. Karla Deacon

    January 2, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    I enjoyed the post about a respectful horse. In fact I just wrote a post about this topic just two days ago on my blog Best Horse Supplies It was actually a beginning to my New Year’s resolution to “bombproof” my horse. I will be following up every few weeks as I also work with my horse in “real time.” I believe the first step is to earn your horse’s respect and trust.

    I would love to see Clinton Anderson do another post with a few tips on earning that respect. Also some exercises for working with your “hula hooop” space. It would be a great help to us all!

    I think that is post here was very helpful to rasing horse owner’s awareness of safe horsew handling. I agree with him that the moest important things when working with our horses are both our safety and theirs.

    • Horse Digests

      January 14, 2014 at 8:30 pm

      Great blog & great suggestions for future training articles! Thank you!

      • Shanno

        April 17, 2017 at 11:30 am

        I agree. I am looking for pictures/videos that would show training techniques!

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