Horseproblems Australia
Post Office Box Victor Harbor
SA. 5211
(61) 0885521418





John O'Leary



"The horse hasn't been born that doesn't require some form of discipline"


If I may start by explaining how horses interact in their world and how the foal is imprinted by its mother.

Horses do not love anything including you. They may respect you or other horses but there is no love involved. Respect could probably be described as "Horse Love" and it is only gained by respect. Respect gained from strength and leadership. This translates directly to you the owner and so if you want good horses, do as the horses do.

In the "World of horses", this is how it works. Perhaps you should go and sit in a paddock containing a few horses and watch it at work. If there are 10 horses in a paddock there will be the boss horse, 2nd boss and so on down to the 9th boss who is only boss over number 10. Number one is boss over the other nine and all nine respect that horse completely. The boss horse will get the best feed, stop other horses eating if there is only enough for it, and on a hot day, stand over the water trough after drinking for an extra ten minutes, just to show they are boss. Only then can number two drink. The boss will threaten with body language and if it is not heeded will bite or kick. The boss uses the up and down the scale on the psychological and physical discipline just the same as we should. If required, the boss will even injure or cripple an offender. Introduce a new horse into the paddock and depending upon the profile of that horse, there may be fights to find who will be the leader going forward.

Over 90% of faults in horses are caused by people. Very often, the difference between a horse described as bad from good is a small amount of discipline.


The Horse Industry and the "My first Pony books" teach people to get along with horses using 'bribery and corruption' as I call it but better known as carrots and sugar lumps. These are the cause of most of the Discipline problems with Novice owners and it is not the answer. Those who teach this are setting all those people up for a fall.


Discipline should be the 'last resort'. Remember, it is basically never the fault of the Horse. It is virtually always the fault of the Human, confusion or Veterinary matters. If however, discipline is required, it must be balanced between the different personalities in horses versus the seriousness of the crime. i.e.. "Dennis the Menace", the bold type, will think that most discipline is "water of a duck's back" but the wimpy type will almost die if you hit it.

Remember, whilst you are entering the Industry, you won't always be right but it is far better to use some discipline if you think it is required rather than to just let it go because you think the horse won't love you. A little over rather than under is better and as terrible as it is to say, a little bit of incorrect discipline is better than none at all and Carrots, because Horses are always judging and ready to exploit the Novices. This can and does later, even cause Horses to go to their Death as bad Horses.


What is the profile of the riders and owners who make it in the Horse Industry? It is the strong and assertive types and you may be working out the reason for this by now. Bottom line? Horses love to be led and they love a strong leader. They are happy to be led and they want to be followers. So if you are a strong, assertive owner who uses "Discipline with Justice", then horses will come the closest to loving you that you could ever wish for.

Be weak and horses simply won't like you. They will take advantage of you, will not respect you and may even injure you.



I class this as being fair to the horse in that it has committed a crime, it knows it has committed a crime, it is carried out within a split second of the crime and to a level to fit that crime.

If you hit a horse 5 seconds after it bit you, chances are it won't know why you hit it and that would be bad. If you discipline a horse above the level that the crime deserves, that would be unjust as well.

I scale almost everything I do with horses on a scale of zero to ten. Ten being the higher end of the scale. Each next time I issue punishment, I start at zero and go up the scale. I never automatically go high up the scale every time as this could be unjust.


This is a very important part of discipline as it goes to the horse understanding why it got punished in the first place. For if it doesn't, discipline is counter productive, unfair and mostly sends horses further down the wrong path rather than gaining improvement. So you see, if you do not discipline horses you will inherit drama and when you do, a failure to do it correctly will also result in problems.

We must never hit horses in the head. It is not the done thing and it can/does make them head shy. There are exceptions to everything however.

  • If a horse goes to bite a handler, it requires discipline. If the horse bites and 5 seconds later the owner hits the horse in the head, it is too late and the horse thinks that the owner has hit it in the head.

  • If the horse goes to bite the owner but the owner connects with the horses mouth as it is traveling towards the owner, in self defense, the horse thinks that it has hit its head on the owner elbow. No offence is then taken and the horse doesn't think that it has even been hit in the head. I hope you can see the difference.

There are three types of disciplines:

  • Physical (obviously whips, spurs etc.)

  • Psychological. (Join Up and so on)

  • Training ( a Horse tries running through your Hands so you immediately turn that into a difficult maneuver like Traverse or some such.

and there is REWARD.

The key is to use the correct amount at the right time. The best gauge to this is:

  1. Use the minimum amount to get the job done

  2. Use psychological discipline where ever possible

  3. To discipline your horse only when required and then make strong enough that the horse gains respect from it.

Discipline should be the last resort however and should be mixed with love and reward for jobs well done.

If you love your horse and worry about giving it a smack then DON'T. The fact is that if your horse requires discipline and you do not, you are committing the single most serious sin affecting your friends future. The Abattoirs receive horses every day caused by owners who were too soft and so called, "Loved their horses to death" literally.




Virtually every young horse that I ride, pick a day to attempt to exploit you, to test the boundaries. They were born to do it and why shouldn't they, we are asking them to do unnatural things.

How early in their ridden career that they decide upon this plan depends upon a couple of things.

  • Their personality and how cool they may be or how high their IQ is, and

  • How domesticated they are, how Humanized they are or how spoilt they are, but most try.

So when should we discipline the youngster, if at all? The answer to that is, when they truly know they are doing wrong and when they will know why. Any other time imho, is unfair and anti training. Causing confusion and being mean spirited.

In the case of the horse above, she is a darling, basically bombproof, very smart, nice type, great ride, fantastic paces and very Humanized, being Bred by the owner and spending a fair amount of time in the Stables situation. Hence the confidence. The camera only missed 10 seconds of footage as she went to do her first moves and I asked Mrs. HP to just stand near the exit until I went and got the camera. Of course the Filly did and as the camera rolled, Mrs. HP again asked her to move off, back onto the arena and onto the right hand circle which had preceded the baulk.

So what else could a Rider do? Not much imho for to do nothing would probably have seen the end of this lovely horse's ridden career. That would have set off a chain reaction which would have seen a failed breaking in process, a loss of 4 years of work and expense by the owner, definitely the owner getting bucked off and possibly injuring herself and in some cases that I see, the death of the horse at the Abattoirs.

So the Trainer has a big responsibility and one that most don't enjoy. We don't want to be whipping young horses but to not challenge and win imho is irresponsible, making the Trainer not worthy of their title.

Ten minutes later, it was all forgotten and the Filly returned back to her nice self with the owner actually riding her down the local Suburban Roads with 80k Traffic. The owner had done a great job with the horse prior to it's arrival here and it was always going to happen due to the profile of the horse.


The reason many Novices do not discipline Horses that need it, is their fear of being bucked off.  The success or failure of a lot of people with 'green horses' depends upon the respect that the horse has. Any residue of respect will be lost if behavior such as this is tolerated. You may realize that the integrity of the Lateral Mouth is the foundation stone of all of my systems. To be able to use that allows the Novice to do things that only Professionals can do. and read this....


  • You are riding with a friend, your horse lays its ears back and bares its teeth at your friends horse.....growl at it, smack it with a whip, kick it or any/or

  • Your horse threatens or tries to kick another horse whilst you are in charge of it.

  • You are girthing up the saddle and your horse attempts to "Cow kick" at you. You may, slap it hard under the stomach, growl at it, kick it under the stomach.

  • You are girthing up your horse and it turns it's head around, lays its ears back and attempts to bite you. A well timed bump in the chops with your left elbow is required to nip this behavior in the bud.

  • Your horse continually turns its rump at you when you are catching it in a yard or stable. This is highly disrespectful and dangerous. Make your face an uncomfortable place for its rear end to be and retrain it to face up to you and give a smiley face instead. Flick with long whip and so on to achieve this but take care.


A large percentage of horses will walk off whilst being mounted or won't stand still at the halt. Train it as in the section ,"MAKING A HORSE STAND" rather than yelling at or hitting it. Some horses will not walk and want to "JIG JOG" Train this out of them psychologically.

  • Never let your horse eat grass whilst you are riding it.

  • The horse that wants to get strong, use the diminished circle rather than hauling upon its mouth and fighting with it.

  • Always walk the last bit home

  • When you reach home, go past the gate 50 meters and then come back in.


I have a number of sayings and here is one.

 "Spurs are to be worn so that you don't have to use spurs and whips should be used so that you don't have to use whips." here

This simply means that if you are going to use spurs or whips, use them correctly and strong enough to get the result, lighten the horse, have it listen to your leg so that you then don't have to use anything. There is nothing worse than the rider who constantly uses either in a weak but constant way. That just piddles horses off and makes them dead to everything, not to mention unhappy.


"An ordinary Trainer cannot hear a Horse speak, a Good Trainer can, a Great Trainer can hear them whisper and a Top Trainer can HEAR THEM THINK"

"Wear your Heart in your Hands"