Connecting with your Horse through Feel and Release


Trainer, coach and clinician Karen   Musson, from Granville, OH, adjusts her presentation to fit this defensive 2   year old filly. (Photo: Trine Bohansdalen)

It took some time to discover why this 2-year-old filly was pushy and irritable whenever anyone -- for any reason -- stood next to her. Standing next to the horse’s head on the left is a common place for people to stand. This obscures most of the view from his left eye and causes many horses to fidget, move a person out of the way, toss the head or try to drop the head down to get a clear view of a larger area on either side. This filly required a lot of space at the head and neck.

Knowing this made it simple for trainer Karen Musson, from Granville, Ohio to find a workable solution for her. After a few experiments, the filly settled and got a nice look on her face, when her handler simply stood at the wither instead of directly blocking her eye. She relaxes more easily with a full view of both sides.  


Trainer Karen Musson offers this   filly float (slack) in the lead rope, and waits for her, while standing well   behind the withers. (Photo: Trine Bohansdalen)

Holding a horse close to the halter knot -- another common practice -- gives horses a sense confinement around the head, neck and shoulders. This had contributed to the filly’s need to defend herself, or rather, her need for space and freedom of movement.  Karen offers float (slack) in her lead rope instead, and waits. The filly quickly gains confidence and begins to explore the float. With Karen remaining well behind the wither, the mare can stand more comfortably while she practices some simple poll, neck and shoulder movements. This approach ensures that the mare gets used to taking direction, seeing movements and feeling cues along her sides -- great preparation for the day when similar instructions will be offered later, from her back.