Part of Horse Previews Magazine website. Posted on 12/03/98; 2:00:00PM.

Richard Shrake's Bridle Wise

Profile on Richard Shrake
The Master of Horsemanship

We think these endorsements by today's top professionals says it all regarding Richard Shrake's credentials in the horse world: Professional horseman, judge, lecturer, clinician. To most horsemen, this would be enough for a lifetime of achievement, but for Richard, it has only served as a highway to gain the equine knowledge that it took to perfect his Resistance Free(TM) Riding methods. His system goes into detail that is easily understood from the beginner to the professional. Richard has found the way for the association of horse and human to be more stress free and enjoyable to each other. Resistance Free(TM) Riding is a dream that can come true. To see and hear Richard is an education, entertaining and a very enjoyable equine experience. Jim Becker...Leading Trainer of AQHA Champions.

Great horsemen are those who get themselves to constantly improve and consistently perform at peak levels. Richard Shrake is the "Ultimate Coach: for that special breed of men and women who never settle for less than they can be." Les Vogt...Multiple World Champion Rider & Trainer.

"Taking the difficult and making it simple is what genius is all about. Richard Shrake and Resistance Free(TM) Training has done just that. Richard is truly one of the master teachers in today's horse world." Gigi Skelly..Trainer/Rider Multiple Super Horse and World Championships.

"I am very impressed with Richard Shrake's Resistance Free(TM) methods, which has much to share with Centered Riding. Breathing and softness are some important keys to harmony between horse and rider." Sally Swift...Centered Riding, Inc.

For information on the Richard Shrake products & upcoming programs: A Winning Way, Ltd., P.O. Box 4490, Sunriver, OR 97707. Call 1-800-635-8861. Homepage: Email:


Graduate - Masters - Apprentice Programs

Jan 11-14 Solvang, CA

Feb 2-5 Karnack, TX

Feb 23-26 Portland, OR

Mar 9-12 Fort Dodge, IA

Mar 23-26 Grayslake, IL

Mar 30-Apr 2 Lansing, MI

Clinics for Riders & Spectators

Jan 23-24 Fulton, MO

Feb 6-7 Holland, MI

Feb 20-21 Coos Bay, OR

Feb 27-28 Porterville, CA

Mar 13-14 Daytona, FL

Mar 27-28 Wahoo, NE

Expos & Horse Festivals

Jan 16-17 Augusta, ME

Feb 13-14 Boxborough, MA

Mar 5-7 Fort Washington, PA

Mar 20-21 Puyallup, WA

Link to Richard Shrake's Newsline

Body Language of Horses

In Resistance Free(TM) Training the necessity of incorporating body language when working with your horses is of paramount importance. Horses communicate to each other through body language and movement at least 97% of the time. By my working and watching great horsemen such as Dr. Bill Linfoot, Charlie Aurjo and Dan Opie, this fact has only been reinforced.

Dr. Linfoot was a master of mental control. When watching his demonstrations, he repeatedly took a problem horse and within a matter of minutes was in complete control. Charlie Aurjo used body language in a very positive way when working with great stallions such as Doc Bar. He was fairly reticent verbally, but if you studied his movements around horses, he was in complete control. Years ago, he judged the Arabian Nationals. During the stallion class things started to get out of control when the stallions entered and were starting to line up. When each horse was brought up to him for inspection, he was able to positively influence them just by the was he approached them. Dan Opie had unique techniques with weanlings. He worked with over 100 each year and could work with groups of them in a large pasture. He studied the way the horses interacted with each other and incorporated this knowledge into his training methods. By studying the methods of these men and expanding upon their basics, I have been able to incorporate the study of body language of horses into my Resistance Free(TM) Training program.

Horse language in general consists of a large variety of movements using the body, ears, tail and feet. The horse's innate ability to communicate is easily lost or reinforced through his life experience. If we study the movements horses use with each other and then use them ourselves, we greatly expand upon our capability to communicate with our horses and people. Most noteworthy of all horse movements are the calming actions that are used to maintain a healthy social hierarchy and resolve conflict within the herd. Horses can calm themselves in the face of panic and reassure each other as well. Panic can also quickly pass from one horse to another. It is interesting to watch a new horse interacting when turned out with a new group of horses. The alpha horse uses clear body language to determine the pecking order of the newcomer. He will approach with his ears back, tail swishing and mouth open. The "personal space" of the strange horse will be invaded.

The next time you are at a breeding farm, watch the foals interact with new adult horses. First they will approach the new horse slowly. This exaggerated slow motion is a calming signal; one that can be used early and effectively when training the young horse to develop confidence in new situations.

As an example, let's say you are leading a young horse from the barn to a pasture to be turned out. A dog comes running out and his quick movement frightens your horse. If you slow your body motion down the horse will be affected by your calming posture. However, if you were to act in a quick and sudden way, it would be like throwing gasoline on a fire.

Horses will rarely approach each other nose to nose when they first meet; only horses that are sure of the outcome of a situation will attempt to meet head on. More often horses approach each other in curving lines, walking beyond each others face in a circle, side by side and head to tail. The next time that you groom your horse watch his body language for signs of confidence or stress. Generally, when approached straight on, the horse will raise his head. If you go to him from the side, you will get a lowering of the head and a curve in your direction.

I learned this the hard way, as a youngster, when halter breaking several wild horses on my Dad's ranch in Oregon. It didn't take long to discover that I was in a very dangerous zone when I walked straight on to one of them. The chances of having the buttons taken of my shirt from the front feed of the horse was considerably higher from the "head on" approach than from the side.

When one horse comes up to another, note that the horse being approached turns it's head away. There is also an exaggerated blinking of the eyes. Is this disinterest, distraction or a calming signal? Dr. Linfoot, Charlie or Dan never looked a horse directly in the eye when trying to calm it. Review this concept the next time you are trying to catch a less than receptive horse. Do not look him straight in the eye as you approach him. Unless he really trusts you, if you do look him directly in the eye, he will be less willing to be caught.

Some horses don't play by the rules. For many reasons, a horse might lose the inborn ability to use these calming signals properly. Young horses learn valuable lessons from their environment. I have found that if a young horse interacts with a horse that kicks or bites even when it is exhibiting a disparate calming signal, that youngster will learn to distrust and will develop negative attitudes. The optimum option is to always have safe, friendly and consistent horses and handlers around in the growing years of young horses. I have found that a young horse's attitude is almost invariably a result of the manner of the person handling them. Early inconsistent handling is a precursor of a lack of consistency in the animal later in his training.

It is always interesting to watch the change of attitude of horses and their owners at our Resistance Free(TM) Riding and Training seminars when I do a demonstration that points out the fact that horses naturally communicate by movement instead of sound. I will generally take a problem horse or an older horse and ask the owner how many times they think that the horse has heard the word "whoa" in it's lifetime. The answer is always "thousands." I will then start the demonstrations by walking by the side of the horse. I start and stop consistently with the animal. In just a few minutes, the horse will stop when my feet stop. The verbal "whoa" didn't mean as much as my body language.

Watch some of the great horse trainers. Many are quiet people; they communicate to the horses in their own language and most of that is completely silent.

May you always ride a good horse.......Richard Shrake

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