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They say the eyes are are the gateway to the soul. When it was said, they were referring to us humans. But the truth is, it also refers to horses.
Many horse owners don't understand the importance and usefulness of the horse's eyes while training. That being so, let me share with you some things you may find useful - some you may know...some you may not.
First, there's the eye which reveals a little about the character of the horse you're working with. It may have a kind eye. A kind eye indicates the horse will be agreeable to train and will readily respond to your aids while training.
One way to tell if the horse is nervous is by noting his eyes. Horses can be very expressive in their looks. And you can tell if a horse is a nervous horse by the eyes appearing sort of "worried like."
Obviously, this nervous horse would require more thoughtful handling than would a non-nervous horse.
I have a horse that would get mad after a while of riding. She used to get what I call mad eyes. Her expression was actually a sort of angry expression. Mostly, the expression came from her eyes. Here eyes would get red after a while.
Jesse Beery, a famous horse trainer from the 1800's, talked a lot about the eyes of the horse. Even those many years ago he knew about the horse's eyes. Beery discovered there were four different disposition types of a horse. Certain characteristics of the eyes would tell you much about the horse's personality and how much work it would be to train the horse.
Berry's classic disposition type 3 was most interesting. Beery said "Where type #2 will allow you to do all the work, type 3 will do all the work for you. You only need to control its movements."
In all my training experience and many things I've read, I concur with Beery's discovery. The eyes play an enormous role in horse training.
To read more about Beery and his methods, you can go to this web address:
There is still more to know about the horse's eyes.
For one, when you work with a horse, it's advisable to look him in the eye a lot. Why? Because horse's an extremely observant animal and they study their surroundings. If you're in their surroundings they are studying you too. If they see you looking at them in the eye it sends a message to them about who is in control.
If you're working with a horse that's cunning and known to run over people then you rarely want to lose eye contact with this horse. Sometimes when you look away for just a second he knows it's his chance to charge at you. But keeping eye contact helps minimize that possibility.
Although a horse's ears are part of the plan. the eyes are how the horse interprets his world. The horse gladly desires to approach an object or person that has caused him pleasure. Likewise, he runs from objects or persons that cause him pain. (Pain could be a number of things like work, misuse of aids such as spurs, being talked to in an abrasive manner, etc.)
Lots of horse owners get discouraged with their horse because they develop bad habits. One particular habit is kicking. I once read a great book on horses and it said this about kicking:
If a horse kicks at a man and sees he inspired the man with fear and makes him draw back, he will remember this and kick any man who goes near him whom he fears or has the memory of displeasure with.
Note the author said "...and see he inspired the man with fear". The point is the horse "saw" the man was inspired with fear. The horse used one of his greatest tools...his eyes. If a man shows no fear and knows how to handle a kicker, the horse will "see" he cannot inspire fear in the man and be less apt to kick (although, if confirmed in the habit of kicking, it may require several training sessions to eradicate this from the horse's memory).
In short, the eyes are the mirror of the horse's mind. Quiet eyes indicate quietness and sincerity. Quick and lively eye indicate vivacity. Restless eyes turning in all directions indicate suspicion and show the horse is studying all around him and may perhaps be preparing some freak of self will. Turbid eyes indicate fear or anger.
There's a proverb that tells us not to trust the horse that shows the white of his eyes. Perhaps it's because the white shows when he's looking sideways and he's intent on seizing the moment when no attention is being paid for escape or attack.
I could go on about the eyes but this hopefully gives you a great idea as to how important the horse's eyes are. Make it a habit to continually watch the horse's eyes. Learn what he is thinking by learning his eyes.
About The Author
Andy Curry is a nationally known horse trainer and author of several best selling horse training and horse care books. For information visit his website at www.horsetrainingandtips.com. He is also the leading expert on Jesse Beery's horse training methods which can be seen at www.horsetrainingandtips.com/Jesse_Beerya.htm.
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