Is your horse herd bound?

Herd Bound?

All horses are herd bound.

It seems the majority of people ride indoors and believe they can ride their horse by themselves. A different story when they try and ride away from the safety of the arena and to their surprise they realize their horse is herd bound.

A social species and a prey animal, horses know they are safer in numbers. Some horses are braver and more willing to leave the safety of the herd, others need to believe we have their best interests at heart. Will my horse be ok in our herd of two? Of course you can simply avoid the issue and only ride out with others.

But for that day when you’d just like to go for a ride, just head down the road. Without prior preparation instead of a ride you might just end up in a battle.

At clinics it’s a behavior staged as an intervention with the clinician or protégé doing the riding. It can be hair raising to watch. Get near your buddy you work your butt off, relax at the far end of the arena and you can take all the time you’d like. I’ve always wondered how strong the owner’s desire was to actually fix the problem and whether it was maintained once they returned home.

The herd bound behavior most of us deal with may not be as dramatic as the clinic demonstration but it requires the same steps.

Begin by breaking separation down into manageable steps. –
1 – At what point does the horse’s anxiety, or ours, kick in?
2 – When you find that edge how do you make it a comfortable place to be?
3 – How many times are you willing to execute the same pattern before expecting to go further?
How committed are you to the idea of being able to ride out on your own?

As you measure out your progress you might find there is what I call the magnetic zone. The point at which the draw back to the herd is no longer stronger than the belief we two will be fine together.

Going out I work on transitions as speeds are easily managed, returning home I use the edges of the road for lateral work. Shoulder in/out, leg yields, side passes, halts, backing. Using that homeward bound desire and impulsion to add direction, gaining a beautiful softness in the process.

When I’ve spent the time to help a horse feel comfortable in our herd of two, I am forging a relationship. With a destination in mind we do all the same work of round and round, it’s just more interesting. I’ve seen a number of sale ads that say, one issue is the horse can be herd bound. Hmmmm My question then “Why don’t you fix it?”

Nancy & Jack

What Motivates You?

What motivates or drives you? Are your goals personal or do you seek external reward? In The Natural Leader program’s these questions often show up as we examine internal versus external goals of leadership behaviour. Do your actions reflect what personally important or do they reflect what looks good on your resume? Do your actions reflect your values? 

In one of those mind-blowing moments, I realized how internal versus external indicators apply to my horsemanship. While they are concepts that relate to everything I do with a horse I’d not really, and I mean really, considered how I applied them in my riding and every request I make of my horses. 

It was a series of questions on cues versus aids that helped me see the missing piece of my puzzle. 

The first What is it I envision the horse doing? In other words what is my thought, or goal. How clear am I on the outcome I seek? What is my internal goal? I am talking as simple a task as “I’d like the horse to walk forward.” Or “I’d like the horse to shift his weight back a step.,” to my end goal of riding a bridle horse. 

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Leadership is NOT a Wardrobe issue

An Invitation

The following is an excerpt (of sorts) from my latest book “Leadership is NOT a Wardrobe Issue” the book continues to document the learning I have gained through interactions with horses and people, connecting the power of horsemanship to leadership learning . Leadership is NOT a Wardrobe Issue expands on earlier works: The Games People Play with Horses; Creating Exceptional Leaders through Learning with Horses; and In Business to Define. 

An Invitation can be accepted, modified or declined. 

Leadership is an invitation. It is an invitation to step up, take a risk, and step outside your comfort zone. 

My mentor, Fred Jacques introduced me to the “Invitation.” Through eight years working with Fred I had the opportunity to see excellent leadership facilitation in action. Fred’s observations are always spot on, he is gracious, funny and could brilliantly articulate the connections between humans and horses to leadership in the workplace. I can’t begin to express how much I learned watching, listening to and asking questions of Fred. 

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The Natural Leader participates in The Calgary Stampede
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What is a better question? The Natural Leader

What’s a better question?

The following is an excerpt from my new book Leadership is NOT a Wardrobe Issue. Exploring life lessons on horsemanship and how those learnings apply through the leadership programs of The Natural Leader. A fifteen-year veteran of the experiential equine learning industry Nancy has delivered hundreds of programs to thousands of individuals.  

What’s a better question?

Questions can improve learning, encourage exchange of ideas, fuel innovation and improve performance. So how do you ask better questions in order to build rapport and trust with a client or among team members? 

We often approach asking questions the way a lawyer would: to provide answers in support of what we already know, to ensure specific outcomes or confirm a bias. In coaching with horses, or pretty much any situation, we need to ask questions the way a scientist would—questions that invite curiousity, vulnerability and honesty.

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Leadership is NOT a Wardrobe Issue

Excerpt from my new book Leadership is NOT a Wardrobe Issue. Exploring life lessons on horsemanship and how those learnings apply through the leadership programs of The Natural Leader. A fifteen-year veteran of the experiential equine learning industry Nancy has delivered hundreds of programs to thousands of individuals.

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John Scott, horses on the set

“John is and always will be a cornerstone in the Alberta movie business. He has given an opportunity to an awful lot of people.” – Brent Woolsey

A third generation Alberta rancher it would be hard to find words to better introduce John. Along with running a The Scott Ranch and a number of movie locations, John has been a part of over 130 projects, including 4 Oscar winning movies. In his near 40 years in the movie industry John has been a stunt co-ordinator and performer, head wrangler, animal wrangler,  location scout, and transportation coordinator. In 2017 Scott was nominated for the Calgary Stampede Western Legacy Award.

There are few cowboys who have dealt with as many people as John, so I asked him how his experience with horses has helped him through the years.

“Never do anything that will embarrass your mother.” John Scott Grows Alberta by PattonCommunications.


JS – I think what my horses have taught me about leadership is to have patience and to assess the situation. See if the horse is comfortable with the situation what he is doing, he’ll tell you, his eyes, his ears. Just to be more observant about what is going on around you.

Well the same goes for working with people, if you are more observant working with people and what they are doing, it helps you avoid accidents. Some people need more patience than others.

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“Never say WHOA in a mud hole.”

Wrangling the Greatest Show on Earth – Bob Thompson

The week before the 2018 Calgary Stampede, Past President and Chairman of the Stampede Board of Directors, Bob Thompson took time out of his busy schedule to speak with me. You could say that Bob had the dubious honor of holding that role in what might go down as the toughest year in Stampede history. That was 2013, the year the Bow and Elbow Rivers flooded downtown Calgary and the entire grounds fourteen days before the Stampede was set to open.

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Janice Webster – on horses entering her life

Janice Webster is Senior Vice President Human Resources at Solium. For over twenty years she has been enabling high-performing organizations to excel.  She admits these past three years have changed her through what she has learned from the two horses she and her husband now own. In this interview Janice explores what horses have taught her about herself, life and work. You could say it has been a fast ride!

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carey arnett

Horses are her sanctuary – Carey Arnett

December 2019 – Carey awarded one of Canada’s Top 40 under 40. A program that identifies outstanding achievers, visionaries and innovators, changing the way things are done. Congratulations Carey.

Horses are sanctuary for the President of Arnett & Burgess Pipeliners.

Carey’s story with horses goes back a long way. When she was seven she brought home a riding lesson brochure and announced she wanted to ride. “My grandfather thought he’d start me off with a month of lessons to see if I was really interested. I never let my parents quit.”

Carey was hesitant on the question about how many horses she has “they’re a little like potato chips you can’t have just one.”

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