10 tips for working with a fearful horse

Horses are fearful by nature; they are flight animals. How we address fear in the horse has to be a very fluid and dynamic thing because not all horses will respond to the same approach. A frightened horse is potentially dangerous because they are hard wired to flee or react suddenly when frightened.

Bentley_clinic1Here are 10 tips that I have found work really well with the fearful horse, using the six principles of the Liberty Foundations:

IMG_31451) Sitting Meditation: This is our first Liberty Foundation. The purpose of this meditation, done either sitting or standing, is greater than just hanging out with your horse. In this simple exercise, you create trust and boundaries. A fearful horse may stay away from you for a long time. Sit it out. What you will learn from this simple activity (bring a good book to read!) will teach you so much about this horse!

2) Touch: When and if you can touch your horse, let it be fleeting, a greeting, an inquiry. Read my blog on touch for horses The importance of touch in horse work, as it shares some important information on the way we touch our horses. Our second Liberty Foundation is a greeting, with hand outstretched, inviting the horse to breathe on our hand. Then we take the hand away.

3) Just “be” with the horse. No controlling, driving or pushing should be done with this type of horse. As you get to know each other in this new way, you will get to the point of making some requests of the horse, but in a quiet way. This is a great place to build in “the pause.”

IMG_32314) Be alert to the horse controlling you with her fear. Many frightened horses, like frightened people, control others with their fear. They sabotage any relationship with reactiveness and making you believe they can’t do things. Don’t react to this in your horse, if you see it there. Just make a mental note because you’ll come back to it.

5) Do not tell the horse’s sad story repeatedly, especially in front of him or her. Horses need to start fresh, feel confidence in themselves, and especially if they have been abused, had bad trainers, had a bad trailer accident, etc., they don’t want to hear you telling this to people or to yourself over and over again. The horse will believe the old story as long as you keep repeating it. There is a blog on this too.

6) Make every moment with your horse special. Visualize what a great time you’ll have with your horse before you see him – even if things haven’t gone so well the day before. You can’t wait to see him – The most beautiful horse in the world.

7) Let the horse know you will take care of the fear; that you will work on the fear together. Visualize a bubble around you and your horse in which you and he are safe. Here is my blog on that topic:  Screen Shot 2013-05-27 at 6.31.22 PMCreating an energetic, mindful bubble for your horse

8) Take an interest in what your horse is interested in, even if it’s his smelling a pile of poop. It doesn’t mean you have to go down and sniff it; just stop with him and look at it while he sniffs. Look off into the horizon when your horse does so, mirroring, just as horses do together.

Jacque with Gracie on a rainy day
Jacque mirroring Gracie on a rainy day

9) List your horse’s favorite activities, foods, preferences, as you learn about them. Make those part of your time together. They can enrich your work together.

10) Work with your own breath and keep your energy quiet and low with this type of horse. You want to always remain grounded, keeping your energy going into the ground from your centerline. Try not to think of heady, intellectual things that might scare your horse or make her feel you are mentally leaving.

Lastly, in all this, we begin with no expectations really, but grow in expectations gently. Eventually, through your inquiry and simple requests, your horse will grow in trust and curiosity….and so will you.


(copyright: Susan Smith, OrthoHorse)

Services: Bodywork (Ortho-Bionomy for people, Equine Ortho-Bionomy): private sessions,  tutorials, phone consultations, Horse & Rider sessions, distance healing communication and gift certificates

Some Don’t Like it Hot – These Liberty Coaching clinics will take place in the cooler morning hours over the summer. If you want to host a clinic in your area, contact me to make arrangements. Prices will vary according to location and travel. susansmith@orthohorse.info 505-501-2478.

Liberty Coaching: clinics, mini-clinics, workshops, private and semi-private sessions, tutorials, consultations: by appointment:  505.501.2478 or emailing susansmith@orthohorse.info  Scheduling now. Contact me for details.

Starting July 22: First Horses at Liberty Foundations Online course. In this class, comprised of four calls complete with lessons, you will learn the fundamentals of how to work with a horse at liberty, inspired by herd behavior. The way that horses interact with each other maintains cooperative relationships, safety and survival. No restraints are used – the horse becomes a willing participant. Contact me if interested. Cost $300. The class runs through September 3.

The Course: Included in the course are the four webinar calls (if you opt to take the entire class), email access to the instructor for questions, an ability to post your own videos for discussion, teaching videos and photos with discussion. A class will be posted on a private page of my website before each call.

Cost: The course can be taken in two segments: Calls on July 22 and August 6 for $150, and Calls on August 22 and September 3 for $150. $290 if you sign up for both segments. There is a PayPal button with all these options available on my website home page www.orthohorse.info

The second segment may be valuable for continuing students as well as new students. The advantage of taking the entire class is that you will get the flow of the six Liberty Foundations from start to finish, and also benefit from the videos and discussion of the last part of the class.

The class will continue for two weeks after the last phone date (September 3) to give people a chance to submit videos and comment on them. There will be a private Facebook page for student discussion for each segment of the class.

Those who take the first segment only will be able to send in videos two weeks after the last of the first segment calls (August 6) but will not have access to the materials shared in the second segment and thereafter.

I conducted a free Liberty Coaching Call on March 12. If you did not have a chance to listen, here is the link: http://www.susith.com/orthohorse/freehorseatlibcall.mp3

July 22, August 6, August 20, September 3.
Payment via check, PayPal or credit car

Trail Riding Class in Cerrillos in July. Learn how to apply some Liberty Foundations to your trail riding experience for a safer, more connected ride, what I call the “centaur relationship” with your horse. The class will involve some ground, dimensional and saddle work, and a short trail ride. This clinic will fill up fast so let me know if you want to participate.

Combining cumulative knowledge from over 18 years of endurance riding, Liberty Horsemanship and Ortho-Bionomy bodywork practice, Susan Smith brings a unique perspective to getting a horse and rider ready for the trail – in mind, body and spirit.

September 27-28 – Spirit Horse Ranch Two-Day Liberty Foundations Clinic, Oklahoma City, OklahomaEngaging the Hearts and Minds of Horses. Susan Smith and Ruella Yates, co-teaching. Contact me or Ruella at 405-771-4274 (ruella@libertyfoundations.com)

December 13-14 – Horses at Liberty Weekend Clinic, DeLand, Florida Bring your Horse into Deep Working Connection with Liberty Horsemanship. Instructor: Susan Smith. Contact Anne Daimler tdaimler@cfl.rr.com (386-822-4564) Susan at susansmith@orthohorse.info (505-983-2128 or cell 505-501-2478) 9:00-4:30 p.m.

Susan is a member of the Independent Liberty Trainers Network. libertytrainersnetwork.com/


4 thoughts on “10 tips for working with a fearful horse

  1. Hi Susan..though I do not always read your blogs and when I read then I do not always read them all through…I did this one..I am getting the feeling you are moving into a more spiritual direction..
    Is that so?
    I like it !
    How do people in “your world” react to that ??
    Hope all is well with you and wishing you the best…warmly, Geerteke

    1. Hi Geerteke,So happy you check in once in a while! I don’t know if it’s a “spiritual direction” I am leaning in, as my work is as always, very structurally based and grounded. I do feel that my understanding deepens each day and allows me to open up to more information from horses and people. I’m grateful for that. People in my world? I live in Santa Fe, but travel to different places, and my work so far, is accepted where ever I go. Best to you, Susan

  2. Reblogged this on Body Language and commented:

    I’m reblogging this post from a year ago, since this week has been pretty busy with the Spring Liberty Foundations Clinic in Oklahoma. Stay tuned for Friday’s blog that will cover some of our experiences and photos of the recent clinic!

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