See it from the horse’s point of view

jay o jay with young horses

I recently came across the website of Harry Whitney, which has the tagline “From the Horse’s Point of View“. It struck me that the phrase represents an approach to working with horses that is becoming increasingly popular.

In some ways it parallels a growing view in marketing circles, that you should be customer-centric to achieve selling success.  You must try to see things from the customer’s point of view.  That is not always easy because customers may not always see things as you would like them to do. It is sometimes tough between human beings to be sure you fully understand the other’s point of view.  Just imagine how much more difficult it is when trying to work with horses.

You could almost turn the title of this article into a mantra to help guide your actions if you work with horses.  See it from the horse’s point of view.  I know of at least two important people in the horse world who would be very comfortable with that mantra.


aum mantra

According to Indian traditions, a mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of “creating transformation”, according to Wikipedia.   By repeating your mantra from time to time during your day, the theory is that you will be transformed.

The simplest mantra is illustrated in the image at the right.  In sound terms it is pronounced Om or Aum and is probably very familiar to you.

The idea of using a mantra has been suggested in all sorts of of fields.  It may even improve your golf:

A Mantra for Your Mental Golf

At first, a mantra doesn’t sound like something that could be helpful to your golf game, but the more I study and practice mental golf the more I realize the value of tools like this. In its basic form, a mantra is a sentence or phrase that is repeated verbally or mentally to help focus the mind on an idea.

In other words, a mantra is a very simple device to keep you focused and thinking along the right lines.

A Mantra For Design

When I was young growing up in the north-east of England, I remember traveling circuses would visit and set up their Big Top in the local park.  It was really exciting to see the circus horses as they moved at high speed around the circus ring with their death-defying riders performing incredible feats of horsemanship.  What could be more natural and exciting.


Here in Vancouver we have just been blessed with a visit by Cavalia, a really exciting show with horses and acrobats again performing mind blowing acts.  However surprisingly this is not done in a big top with a circus ring.  Normand Latourelle, the creator of Cavalia, is an enthusiast about horses for their beauty and power and the links that have been established between humans and horses over the centuries.  However at every step of the way in creating the setting for Cavalia, he is thinking of how it will appear from the horse’s point of view.

I first designed the stage, I wanted a place where the horse will have enough room to play, to run, in order to give a playground to the horse. So it is a stage that is 150 feet wide, the biggest touring stage, and it’s 80 feet deep, which also is very big.

A Mantra for Horsemanship

That same mantra, See it from the horse’s point of view, could well be the tagline for a celebrated natural horseman here in Langley.  That is Jay O’Jay, who is also a director of Valley Therapeutic Equestrian Association.

That phrase implies a whole set of factors that are important in working with a horse.  It has some overlap with other concepts in phrases like Think Like Your Horse, but to my mind it goes much farther.

To understand the concepts involved, you could not do better than to see Jay O’Jay in  person at a clinic or visit his website.  Here we will just explore one or two aspects of this mantra.

The reason why you must See it from the horse’s point of view is that in some ways a horse is an alien creature.  The way its brain works is very different from the way a human brain works.  Only by trying to understand how that alien brain is working can we start out on a path to a relationship.

Establishing a relationship with a horse is in a way a most unlikely thing to do.  A human is a predator and a horse is a prey animal.  Lions and lambs rarely lie down together in real life.

Although you may have signed the legal papers and paid out money to become the owner of the horse, the horse knows nothing of that.  There’s a deal of work to do before the horse will acknowledge that it is Your Horse.  If the relationship is built up in the right way, then your horse will respond to you with its whole mind, body and spirit.

Many new riders are excited to jump on a horse and start riding as quickly as possible.  This can be especially so with children whose parents are eager to see what their young offspring can do.  With a horse that has been well trained, they may achieve credible results.  However this is more by good luck than by good management.

At some point in time, the horse will refuse to do what is being asked.  Although forceful actions may cause the horse eventually to do what was needed, the horse is an unwilling partner in that relationship.  It will never deliver 100% of what it is capable of.  It is so much better to remember the mantra and see it from the horse’s point of view.

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