A Compassionate Approach to Healing Abused Horses through Horsemanship

Giving vs. Trading

I’ve had some amazing podcast conversations which have lead me to profound insights, and when I spoke with the remarkable Emelie Cajsdotter about relationships, particularly those with horses, her words resonated deeply: “Yes, it’s really about giving versus trading.”

Listen to Emelie’s Podcast: https://open.spotify.com/episode/2QUSmMUbjJL98hxhLCU3cq?si=88f568f2c1d14572

The Rescued Mare

This sentiment recently struck a chord when I received an email from a compassionate woman who had just rescued a 12-year-old mare from a kill pen. The horse had endured past abuse, leaving her not mean but profoundly frightened. The woman shared her challenge: “I can’t catch her.” She detailed her current strategy of placing the mare in a small pen and spending time with her, offering a bit of grain from a bucket, hoping the horse would come closer.

In response, I emphasized the shift from trading to giving in the context of horsemanship. The expectation of receiving something in return for our time, even something as seemingly benign as a handful of grain, can create tension, especially for a traumatized animal. Instead, I suggested a more subtle approach of giving without expecting, allowing the horse to build trust organically through horsemanship.

Building Confidence

The first step involves understanding the horse’s perspective in the realm of horsemanship. Sitting in a small pen may be overwhelming for her, so I recommended acknowledging her rising concern and establishing communication from a greater distance. In a video example, I showcased how this method helped a former charro horse, known for hating men, gain confidence through increased awareness—a testament to the power of horsemanship.

Watch how I helped the horse that “hates men”: https://youtu.be/EQFCHbuPZ8o?si=oW5zequPWOD6TIMR

The Ring of Disturbance

In a separate podcast episode with Doniga Markegard, the concept of the “ring of disturbance” emerged—an energetic field that disturbs wildlife in nature. This idea seamlessly ties into working with worried and abused horses through horsemanship, where being acutely aware of one’s “ring of disturbance” becomes crucial. The space of comfort extends far beyond what we might perceive, highlighting the holistic nature of horsemanship.

Synchronizing Awareness

To further enrich these insights in the context of horsemanship, Ty Murray, in a previous podcast conversation, shared a gem of wisdom: “You need to be aware of them at the same moment they become aware of you.” This profound statement underscores the importance of synchronizing awareness, creating a harmonious connection with the horse’s psyche—a fundamental principle of horsemanship.

Awareness of Awareness

In the realm of horsemanship, I often emphasize the intricate dance of communicating awareness—being attuned not just to the horse’s actions but to their awareness and perception of our intentions. Sometimes, it goes deeper, requiring an understanding of their awareness of our awareness. It’s a nuanced language that transcends spoken words, embodying the essence of horsemanship.

Connecting with an abused horse through awareness
Warwick connecting with an abused horse


Working with horses through horsemanship, particularly those with a history of trauma, demands patience, empathy, and a commitment to building trust. By embracing a giving mindset within the framework of horsemanship, acknowledging the “ring of disturbance,” and syncing awareness with these majestic creatures, we pave the way for profound connections and healing in the world of horsemanship. As we navigate this intricate dance within the context of horsemanship, let us remember that working with horses is, fundamentally, about communicating our awareness of their awareness. Thanks for listening and happy trails on your equine adventures.