and Horse "Personal Space" Issues

by Barbara Volk ©2009
snakedauter @ earthlink.net

This horse requires a lot of personal space. Most of us have either experienced this scenario or know someone who has, and it can be disheartening to want to be close to your horse only to have him “not want you in his space”.

Horses use their space as part of their language. Their bodies move in very specific ways (either in their own space or in another horses space), and every movement means something.

The Alpha horse will look at a lower companion, and if the look doesn't make his buddy shift, he will move into that animals' space. He uses personal space to maintain his position of leadership.

The Omega horse, (mine often stays off to herself), sometimes seemingly oblivious to the others, is always paying close attention to the body positions and space of her herd mates. She is content being off to herself because she doesn't have to worry about anything until another herd mate indicates a problem.

So how does this relate to us?

Our body language (most of which we are totally unconscious of) and our position related to our horse's space is constantly saying something to our equine partners. Horses have about twelve feet of personal space, humans about three.

How many times have you gone out to the pasture or barn and just walked up to your horse, put the halter on and expected respect, trust, and obedience from him?

If we want respect and trust, we must also have those things for our horses. Your relationship must be grounded in mutual respect and trust, the key word being “mutual”.

So if you truly want to resolve the “requires a lot of personal space” issue, you must look at yourself as well as your horse.
Now lets begin to determine what the root of the issue is.

For the horse:

As always, the obvious place to begin is to be sure your horse is healthy, and is not in pain of any kind. Illness and pain will make anyone want to keep to herself.

Is your horse a fearful horse? Fear is often a cause for an equine wanting to “keep distant”.

Flower remedies are a great tool for relieving the deep-seated mental and emotional causes of fear. Combined with patient education (see my previous article) and time these remedies will be quite useful.

The Flowers for Fears

Rock Rose:

This is one of the flowers in rescue remedy. It is used for emergency situations that seem hopeless. For fears related to sudden illness where the horse is frightened and where the people or other animals around are also frightened. Where there is hysteria or a panic situation such as rearing where others could be in danger.

In this type of situation you must remain calm. Here is an example of something that you can't fix while it is happening. You must simply defuse the situation and restore calm. Your goal is to keep this kind of event from happening.


This is the remedy for fear of known things. For the horse that is afraid of shadows, gates, dogs, saddles, having feet trimmed, being clipped, crossing bridges etc. for the horse that is timid it will help him find courage. Look for flaring nostrils, blowing and restless pacing.


This essence is for vague and unknown fears. Aspen is the best flower for the “spooky horse”. There seems to be no explanation, just a feeling that something might happen and for feelings of distress and anxiousness that you simply can't pinpoint. Look for cowering, sweating, and trembling as indications.

Use this essence for the high- strung horse that refuses to do what is asked providing that there is no miscommunication.

Red Chestnut:

Worry and fear for others is the indication for this remedy. This is the remedy for the horse who is overly protective of her baby, or a companion and who will worry when his companion is gone. Often horses will pick up this fear from their owners.


This is the flower for lack of self-confidence or the “spacey air head” horse and for a horse that hesitates in making decisions. A lack of self-confidence will cause a horse to be afraid to make decisions for itself, which sometimes may be important. Cerato can also be used for the horse that has a lack of social behavior.

There are other mental and emotional dysfunctions that might cause a horse to want to keep to himself.
Depression; yes I do believe that animals can be depressed and that it can be caused by as many different reasons as depression in people. Horses that have been rescued from abusive or neglectful situations will often be depressed.


This remedy relieves the feeling of hopelessness; nothing will ever change so giving up seems the only option.


This flower is for the feeling that every day activities are too difficult to face, although the task is usually accomplished.


Mental and physical exhaustion is the indication for this flower. The feeling is total weariness and there is no pleasure in daily life.
The depressed horse must be treated very carefully and patiently. You must choose the right activities to stimulate interest, without pushing too hard. Depressed horses need to be part of a herd and the worst thing you can do is keep them in a stall.

For the person:

If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that we are really only bothered by our horses need for personal space when he keeps his distance from us, not when he is out with other horses. So what is going on in your relationship that keeps you from being the most important thing in your horse's life, and what can you do to change the situation?

Look to the way you relate to your horse. Are you in true partnership or is the relationship onesided?
Does your horse's space issue relate to dominance? In this case I am referring to your control over him. In natural horsemanship we are taught to be the better horse, the leader in your herd of two. I believe that this can be taken to an extreme. If you are constantly pushing your horse around, she will constantly be moving out of your space.
Here are a few remedies for you to consider for yourself if you are trying to hard to control your horse.


This is the remedy for those who have a need to “put things right” and tend toward over care of others. They often correct what they see wrong in others and have a desire for those they care about to stay close.


This flower is for those of you that are so sure that you are right That you feel others would benefit from doing things in a way that you feel is best.


If you have a hard time being alone, this is the flower for you. The heather person needs the company of others and will control situations to create company.

As you spend time with your horse, pay close attention to what you are saying with your body. Consider sometimes asking him if he wants to be with you, rather than always imposing your desire on him.

This can be accomplished simply by the way you approach him. Go out to his pasture and keep your distance. If he is in a stall, open the door and allow him into an open area without putting on his halter.

Move toward him, but do not enter that twelve-foot personal space area. Don't look at his hip, his shoulder or his feet. Turn away from him and look over your shoulder, into his eyes, inviting him to come toward you. If he even looks at you, turn away, and focus on anything but your horse, even take a few steps away. This relieves the pressure on him, and for horses that is the best reward. Repeat this process. At times, allow this to be all that you do. By doing this, your horse will learn that he has a choice in the relationship. He will become curious and interested and will eventually want to come see what is going on. When he does begin to respond to your invitation, be sure that on a regular basis, his response is rewarded with nothing being required of him.

Often our need for control is based in our own fear, usually of being hurt around our horses. Their size and unpredictability can cause a great deal of apprehension, especially if you have a horse in your life for the first time. The remedies for fears will work for you as well as your horse, and as you gain your horses trust, you will also begin to trust her.

Uncertainty = inconsistency. If you feel any uncertainty when you are with your horse, you will be inconsistent in your communication with her and she will be constantly checking up on you to see if you are paying attention. It is crucial that you develop confidence in your ability to communicate correctly and that you are consistent in the way that you ask your horse to perform each activity.


This is the flower for lack of confidence in making any kind of decision without constantly seeking advise from others.


This is the remedy for the quiet person unable to choose between two things and who does not discuss the situation with others.


This is the flower is for you if you are the person who is easily discouraged even though progress is being made. Any delay will create doubt.


This is the remedy for the person who feels less capable than others. You feel you will never be a success so why put in too much effort.

The best way to resolve uncertainty is to take your time. See each positive step, even very small ones, as a great success. When you walk out to the pasture, if your horse simply looks at you when he used to turn away from you, that is a positive step. Try very hard not to go beyond the level of your own confidence.

Impatience. It is not a cliché. Patience truly is a virtue. If you have a horse that requires a lot of personal space, you will require a great deal of patience.


The flowers name says it all. You find it difficult to be patient with people (or horses) who tend to be slow, hate to waste time, think and act quickly, and prefer to work alone as to keep up your pace.

Lack of patience is one of the surest ways to reinforce your horses' choice to keep his distance. When you are impatient you are not being conscious in the moment. Your horse can sense this. Our equines live in constant awareness of the present.

As we work toward developing a better relationship with our horses, we begin to live our lives in horse time. Horse time is a literal shift in consciousness for us and we can feel it in our Body-Mind-Spirit. It is the feeling we long for when we are with our horses. This is how our horses help us heal.

©2009 by The Horse's Hoof. All rights reserved. No part of these publications may be reproduced by any means whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher and/or authors. The information contained within these articles is intended for educational purposes only, and not for diagnosing or medicinally prescribing in any way. Readers are cautioned to seek expert advice from a qualified health professional before pursuing any form of treatment on their animals. Opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher.

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