The Horse Physio - Delivering care with expertise since 1992

26.10.2022 Do You Know Someone Who Shouts At Their Horse?

This photo was taken at work, during a treatment session. I feel as though I get as much from the horses as they get from me. The atmosphere during a treatment session is generally calm and relaxed because I believe that is the best environment for healing to happen. When a horse is stressed, in ‘fight or flight’ mode, his body diverts energy to his muscles preparing for whichever mode he might need. When he’s relaxed, in ‘rest and digest’ or ‘rest and repair’ or ‘rest and restore’ mode, his body allows the necessary processes to occur for the body to take care of itself.

I want to say that I don’t understand why so many people seem to be angry when they’re around their horse, but the problem is, I do understand it. In the past, many years ago, I have been that person, and there are times at which the ‘old me’ threatens to show up again. I would like to think that I have learned, over time, how to control my response to my emotions when I am around horses. Shouting and hitting is never going to be helpful. It is never going to enhance a relationship. Smacking your horse because he pulled a face or lifted a leg is effectively punishing him for communicating with you.

Let me be clear, I don’t think it’s OK for your horse to be in charge. I don’t think it’s OK for him to disrespect your personal space, or to drag you to the nearest grass verge just because he fancies it. I believe there is a way to have mutual respect, where the horse knows his boundaries (because these are essential from a safety perspective, for both the horse and the handler), and where the handler does their best to listen to, hear, and respond appropriately to the horse’s communication. That doesn’t mean that the handler always has to agree with the horse’s apparent opinion, and sometimes it’s OK to say no. The differences in how to do this creates a huge amount of debate, which I’m not taking part in here.

However, you pay a lot of money for the pleasure of sharing your life with your horse. So if you find yourself spending more time feeling angry, or frustrated, or scared, than you do feeling relaxed, content, and confident, perhaps there is another way to approach your relationship with him. For sure, if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got.

If you need help with your horse on the ground, you can contact your local Intelligent Horsemanship Recommended Trainer at

If you think that your horse’s undesirable communication (for example, pulling a face, lifting a leg, threatening behaviour) might be liked to pain or discomfort, contact your vet, a Chartered Physiotherapist (, or a Registered Animal Musculoskeletal Practitioner (

Together, we can make the better place for horses and their handlers.

Keep an eye out for my next book, ‘Recognising Pain in Ridden Horses: Performance, Partnership and Potential’, co-authored with Dr Sue Dyson, published by J A Allen, due 2023. Sign up at to be kept up to date with new information as it comes available. Watch a FREE 30-minute documentary on recognising pain in ridden horses here.

Here’s a FREE 30-minute presentation by Sue Palmer on how to recognise pain in your horse.

Other books by Sue Palmer M.Sc. MCSP:

‘Horse Massage for Horse Owners’

‘Understanding Horse Performance: Brain, Pain or Training?’

© Sue Palmer, The Horse Physio, 2022

October 26, 2022
Sue Palmer