Kids with Horse Savvy

By Nancy Faulconer

How do you view savvy? It is important to have a clear picture in your mind of what your desired outcome should be BEFORE you get started. I realized when my children were born, that I would have to make some serious adjustments in my horse life to accommodate toddlers.

I definitely knew what outcome I didn't want. No stepped on kids, no nervous horses, no runaway wild rides, no accidents! But I was unsure of what path to take, what changes to make, to get there.

So, I began searching for a solution. For me, the definition of savvy is UNDERSTANDING. Understanding is necessary before communication can occur. And communication is the basis for safe interactions between humans and horses… especially human kids and horses.

The more I learned about what is important to horses, and how to read their body language, the more things started to make sense. My toddlers grew into active, curious 4- and 6-year-olds, and our horsemanship journey was in full swing.

A LOT of great resources are out there. I personally enjoyed the programs offered by Pat and Linda Parelli and have had great success following their program.

Along the way, I was influenced by Mark Rashid's books, and got some great information from a lot of other sources.

Here's a snapshot guide of the most important horse body language to teach to develop savvy kids.

Body Language Defined


You can tell a lot by the look on someone’s face…

Boy Pout

Take a look at what the body language in these pictures is saying!
 
Defensive

Paint Resist

Head up
Ears back
Eyes looking away
Legs braced
Lips and tail tight


 
Accepting and relaxed
Accepting
Head lower than withers
Licking and chewing
Blinking eyes
Relaxed neck
Soft eyes


 
Accepting and relaxed
Accepting
Head down
Ears relaxed
Eyes soft
Licking lips


 
Attentive
Attentive
Eyes and ear on handler
Ears relaxed
Eyes soft
Licking lips


 
Cooperative

Circle Game
Eye and ear on Handler
Ears relaxed
Eyes soft
Licking lips
Float in rope, not pulling, not slack


 
Concerned
Concerned
Eye and ear looking for escape
Tight mouth and lips
Heavy on rope, going backwards


 
Relaxed

Relaxed
Head down
Ears relaxed
Eyes soft
Licking lips and yawning


 
Concerned
Comcerned
Head up
Whites of eyes showing
Leaning on rope
Moving feet too quickly or not at all
Tail tight


 
Cooperating, but unsure
Cooperating
Doing what is asked, BUT
Head is up
Ears are back
Too close to handler
Need more time to investigate object (tarp)


 
Cooperative

Cooperative
Eye and ear on handler
Ears relaxed
Eyes soft
Licking lips
Float in rope, not pulling, not slack

 

Curious
Curious
Head down
Ears relaxed
Eyes soft
Licking lips

 

About the author:

Nancy Faulconer, author of "Living with Horses and Children" and its related workbooks, is the proprietor of Cloud9 Ranch in Naples, Florida where she lives with her two children, 16 horses, 2 great danes, 3 cats, 2 goats and a chihuahua.

For more information:
www.cloud9ranch.info
239-777-6670

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