What to do About Horses Calling Out When Riding

Here’s a short video talking about recognizing when a horse is going to call out or whinny and what to do about it. It’s not uncommon for a horse to get worried and decide they need to call out for their friends and get some comfort. Unfortunately when this happens it means they are taking their attention off of you and also that they aren’t taking in enough comfort of being with you.

When this happens the best thing you can possibly do for the horse is catch it before it happens. This applies to almost every undesirable behaviour in a horse but this crying and calling out for comfort elsewhere is easy to catch. So in this video is a clip of the behaviour and I talk about how to recognize it.

The first thing is that they will stop their feet, their head will get high and possibly their ears will really start moving around and they’ll start looking around with big eyes. This is the point where they are visually working on trying to find a buddy that they can get comfort from. When that doesn’t succeed they resort to calling out. This can be very disruptive actually and if allowed to continue can be dangerous as they resist having their attention taken elsewhere if they are in the middle of it.

The easiest solution to this problem is to catch it before it happens and just do something to distract them, primarily move their feet. This can be in any direction, backwards is usually easiest and they also need to tuck their head in and down to do that, which is opposite of what they need to do to call out.

This is a reminder of this thing called “neko damashi”, which is Japanese for “trick the cat” (living in Japan for 10 years, this trick was well used for fun times) which originally comes from Sumo wrestling. The idea is to clap your hands loudly and quickly in front of your opponent’s face to distract and surprise them, causing their train of thought to be derailed and make your move. Works on cats too just before they pounce!

Anyways, the short story is to catch them before they call out, redirect and keep that pattern consistent. It’s not long before they just stay with you instead of looking elsewhere for comfort and reassurance.