How many times have you heard, seen, said or done a variation of the following?
“I just want ride my horse. I wish he would quit being difficult.”  “Why won’t my horse do it? It’s so easy!” Someone is pushing a horse into a trailer to take it somewhere. Someone is yelling or cussing at their horse about how terrible they are behaving. A horse doesn’t perform well and an owner accuses the horse of spookiness, orneriness or lord knows what.

There a dreadfully basic answer to why our horses behave like they do. They are horses, plain and simple. To your horse it is not about riding, getting in the trailer, preforming, or behaving. It is not even about dominance, leadership or respect, although these things do play a big part in working with and riding horses.

Horses are unique creatures who think in their own individualized way. A horse will usually do what they choose to do for one of seven reasons, enjoyment, contentment, safety, curiosity, fear, boredom or annoyance/anger. While much depends on your horses individualized personality, one simple fact remains a horse will almost always act according one of the above seven reasons. The next time your horse does something you view as bad naughty or annoying ask yourself:

“Is he enjoying this?” If your horse is enjoying watching you do his work for him there is an issue. Or perhaps your horse’s issue is he is no longer enjoying what you are asking of him and therefore he is getting annoyed or bored? A horse that is enjoying themselves may also be lacking enough playfulness in their work.

“Is he content?” If he is not content in what he is doing you should find out why! A content horse will give 110% a unsettled horse will be constantly unfocused.

“Does he feel safe?” Much like contentment a scared horse will be constantly unfocused and perhaps even spooky or aggressive. Not all horses handle fear by running away. Some get violent.

“Is his need for curiosity being fulfilled?” If your horse seems to be pushing your buttons lately perhaps he or she has a lack of mental stimulation and play going on. Or in the case of toddler type horsenality perhaps your horse is using your reactions to his behavior as his/her humor for the day.

“Is he afraid?” As I said above, a scared horse will be constantly unfocused and perhaps even spooky or aggressive. A horse with a fearful personality will take time to warm up to new demand placed on them.

“Is he bored?” A bored horse is one of the most dangerous horses. A horse who is bored will usually look to solve that boredom, usually in way humans do not approve of. A bored horse may act, lazy, explosive, aggressive or just plain crazy. Entertain your horse! Teach him something fun for you both. Make your workouts different every now and then. Cross train out of your and your horses comfort zones.

“Is your horse annoyed or angry.” An angry horse usually has an underlying issue. Sometimes it is a health issue, sometimes it is a repressed personality trait (such a horse that likes to show off but is never allowed etc...), sometimes it is boredom, sometimes it is even fear.
While this article has only brushed the surface of a horse's reasoning I hope that the next time your horse starts acting out or driving you to insanity, you stop, change your thinking, and ask why your horse is behaving how he is. Horses want to be understood. An understood horse will respect you. An understood horse will let you lead and be in charge. An understood horse is a happy horse with a happy owner!