Understanding and Respecting Horses' Need for Freedom

July 1st,  2024

By Karine Vandenborre

Empowering Autonomy:
Understanding and Respecting Horses' Need for Freedom

The Desire for Freedom in Horses

In every living being is the desire for freedom, and horses embody this as well. From the moment they are born, their need is to move freely. After one hour they can already run. They are never restricted by their mother, but they choose to stay close to her. That’s autonomy. The freedom to go where and when you want, the freedom to stay or come back when and how long you want. In the foal’s energy and happiness of moving, we can see their need for autonomy, within the safety of the herd.

Human Control vs. Equine Autonomy

This need for autonomy is in fact often forgotten in the human world and most human’s need for control.
However, to truly connect with a horse is to be conscious about this natural yearning for freedom. It’s important to respect their right to choose, to lead, or to follow. 

When being with horses, we learn that strenght is not in domination and control but in mutual understanding and trust. Horses can teach us that the most powerful bonds are not developed by the use of bits and spurs and other tools, but by the understanding of the need for autonomy.

Respecting a Horse's True Nature

When we deny a horse the freedom it craves so much, we deny them a part of who they truly are. It's about more than letting them free in a field, it’s also about respecting their other needs, and giving them freedom and liberty when we are together with them.

So when you want to develop a true connection with a horse, you will need to let go of your desire to control everything, and learn when and how you can give your horse more freedom by letting them express their opinion, letting them choose and not always telling them what to do and how to do it. It's in these moments that we learn the true meaning of freedom.

Creating the Right Environment for Connection

That’s one of the reasons, when I want to develop a connection with a horse, or when I want to help a traumatized horse, I always work in a big arena or even a field. I don’t want to restrain them in a small round pen or small picadeiro. Horses can’t feel free in there, and that’s why you can’t work with them in the most natural way. 

Horses need space and distance, so trying to work with horses when they can’t get out of you circle of influence, like in a round pen, is – especially for sensitive horses or horses that are traumatised by things that humans did to them in the past, very stressful!

The importance of space and distance

That's why, whether I'm working on building a connection with a horse or helping a traumatized horse, I choose to work in big arenas or fields. I never confine them in small round pens or enclosed spaces, which restrict their freedom and hinder their natural way of interacting. Horses need space and distance in their communication; attempting to work with them within a confined space, like a round pen, can be incredibly stressful—especially for sensitive or traumatized horses, who have experienced negative situations with humans.

cultivating a true connection

In essence, understanding and respecting a horse's need for autonomy, is key to cultivating a true connection, a connection built on meaningful communcation and freedom.

If this message resonates with you, share it to help raise awareness and encourage others to adopt a more freedom-centered approach when interacting and training with horses. Together, we can create a better world for our equine friends:

Join the Community

And if you're interested in learning how to connect and communicate with your horse in the most natural way, where freedom and autonomy are prioritized, I invite you to join my facebook group “The Horsefulness Training Herd”. It's a place where I share more about this approach!

With love,
-- Karine

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