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Values for Performance

Updated: Feb 6

The reason for understanding what horses value is a practical one. It can assure you success in the show ring or just going down the trail.

What is most important is you will have learned new tools for your tool box. The tools that we teach at Moving As One are for any discipline any time anywhere.

What do you Value?

A person’s values might include: Reliability, Autonomy, Bravery, Efficiency, Hard Work and Fun.

Wikipedia says, “Values can be defined as broad preferences concerning appropriate courses of actions or outcomes. As such, values reflect a person's sense of right and wrong or what ‘ought’ to be. ‘Equal rights for all’, ‘Excellence deserves admiration’, and ‘People should be treated with respect and dignity' are representatives of values.”

That is not what we are referring to here. The small prefrontal lobe of a horse’s brain cannot entertain abstract ideas, have good intentions or plan for the future. For them every thought, every decision concerns only what will increase their chances of survival in a risky world- full of predators.

We can, however, know what is important to horses (what they value). They value: Safety, Clarity, Resources, Comfort, Connection and Protection. Knowing this, you can support and acknowledge the horse’s concerns- creating a space where they can find their own “calm/curious” brain state conducive to learning. Thanks to Sharon Wilsie (Horse Speak®) for developing this concept.

Safety - Means a better chance of survival:

  • Being in a calm herd

  • Having your insides match your outsides

  • Rhythm and consistency

  • Alert herd mates (that includes you)

  • Clarity (each step if necessary)

  • Physical Space (bubbles and boundaries)

Clarity- Horses value clear communication. This includes:

  • X and O - Sympathetic (X) and calm homeostasis (O)

  • Core energy - your core (your belly button) has a energy that can direct your intentions

  • The Line- Like in Ghost Busters the movie you don't want to cross the energy streams

  • Levels of intensity - Asking for movement in Phases

  • Aiming in a defined direction


Horses value resources:

  • Sharing hay

  • Enrichment- A ball, walking the trails with their person, performing a task, etc.

  • Water

  • Shelter

  • Access to their friends

  • Access to you – grooming, greeting ritual, graining


Horses value comfort

  • Horses seek to feel comfortable especially if they have pain

  • They need to feel comfortable for rest and repair

  • This includes physical, emotional and mental comfort

  • Confusion is a form of discomfort

  • They find comfort when in the parasympathetic nervous system

  • Physical space


Horses value connection:

  • Friends

  • Relationship

  • Spending time with their person

  • Physical space


Horses value protection:

  • The watcher horses in the herd

  • The Stallion always watching

The Story of Joe-

About 20 years ago I bought a horse named Joe. He was and old-style Tennessee Walker. Strawberry Roan, big-boned, with a long head and a long, relaxed easy stride.

I first met him at a ranch in Temecula California. They were part of an organization that regularly brought young healthy Walkers from Tennessee to California 20- 30 at a time. The day we went to look at Joe he was quiet and subdued. He had only been at the ranch for a week or so. This was going to be my husband horse. As you can see, he looks very friendly and willing. He had a wonderful attitude when he was ridden, and he was perfect with very little kids. They could hang on him brush and go under his belly and he’d never move. He was amazingly patient- ever so cautious not to step on or hurt the kids. He was watchful.