How Do You Teach Math?

Communication and connection with horses might seem magical or special to people who observe video but it is really just natural. Trying to keep it simple, being the “yes” master without "treats" and rewarding the right answer is a simple concept to understand but is not always easy to apply.


The idea of comfort and discomfort, pressure motivates and the release teaches, is often talked about in Natural Horsemanship, and when executed correctly makes a huge difference in the partnership that you are developing with your horse. But what are the other factors that are important?

There is no doubt that showing a horse how to seek comfort and how to release is very important but Focus, Feel and Timing are masteries that are paramount and are attributes that an instructor can only explain. Students will improve all of these with practice and awareness. If you are really involved with reading your horse, he will give you feedback on how you are doing with each of these.

When we ask our horse to follow our ideas they often ask questions in return. For instance, we say,

“Could you step onto this pedestal?” and they say,

“I’m a little bothered with that so can I step around the pedestal?” In which case you say,

“ I would rather you not come into that space" and then block that idea with some form of rhythmic pressure or  (which translates to discomfort in the horse’s mind). Then you ask the same question again but this time you find a way to make it clearer,  perhaps by bettering the timing of the release or increasing your phases of understanding or more important by breaking the question down some more. The horse very quickly discovers that each correct answer is followed by comfort (the release) and the dots are connected. The correct answer is rewarded with stillness (by your very neutral body)! Horses love it when you are calm.

Think of it as a math lesson. The teacher asks the question, for instance, a-b =? You answer with what you think is the right answer and she lets you know if you are correct. If it is not incorrect you go back to try again with more information from the teacher resulting in another calculated answer.... until it is correct. This process must continue, before moving onto more difficult questions.

So it is with your horse! If you and your horse are doing simple addition make sure you “tell” your horse that the answer is correct before you go on to more difficult questions! Tasks that are too complex, unclear or have no answer. whether it be right or wrong will confuse your horse. 


We need to pose clear questions and if we don’t know what to ask or if we don’t have a clear picture of what the end result is…then don’t ask the question.! (Read this last sentence again)

We have to ask questions that we know the answer to and questions that our horses are able to answer. Continue to reward progressive tries and you will be surprised at how quickly he will understand what you are asking.

Over the years with the horses that I have worked with, I have had a whole lot of “math lessons” Lessons where questions were asked, answers were incorrect, and then continually the question was broken down so that the correct answer was found. The whole process was simple but not easy and I can tell you there were many “after class” math tutorials.


How are your math lessons with your horse? ~JG~

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