Feed on

In their own unique way horses “speak” and have been “speaking” to humans for centuries, yet most have chosen not to “listen” to them. Instead, humans have insisted on speaking rather than listening, on telling horses what to do or not to, how to do or not do it and when. And humans have done so not only with their voice but also with an array of metal, leather and plastic devices many of which would not look out of place in a sadomasochistic dungeon or a torture chamber of the Spanish Inquisition. Indeed, the devices which humans use on horses, such as bits, bridles, spurs, metal studs (a.k.a. “horseshoes”), restraints, leads, chains, whips and the like are so harsh as to have inspired an entire niche form of sexual BDSM practice known as “ponyplay”. And these humans do this, not because they are desperate to eke out a living, but largely for pleasure, status, profit or a combination of such pursuits. I used to be just such a human until ten years ago I chose to listen to horses speak.

Over the years I have been a close observer and student of horses, our own and others, in various parts of the world. During the past decade, in particular, horses have been instrumental in fundamentally changing my life and outlook on it. Much of that journey has been documented in the Horses and Humans blog and a series of three books based on it entitled In Search of the Master Who Dances with Horses: Challenge, Growth and Being (more information available here: www.horsesandhumans.com/mainsite/books.htm). In the course of this process I have published some of my developing insights into horses and their interaction with humans and members of their own species in the form of discussion papers and/or blog posts. They constitute the basis for this book, into which I have gathered and edited them to reflect the fruits of my experiential learning with and from the horses along with feedback provided by other humans on a similar journey. The resultant articles have acquired a form which will hopefully contribute to our understanding of these magnificent creatures and the capacity they have to help us become more sensitive, caring, nurturing, reliable and dependable friends to them, ourselves, the earth and all to whom it is home.

Available in print and all the most common e-book formats, this book has been arranged largely in the order in which I wrote the articles. As such, a discerning reader may note, as I have on reworking them, that I seem to have moved from more of an intellectual grasp of the changes that needed to occur within me and in my interaction with horses towards an experiential understanding of those changes as they began and continued to occur. Although I have edited what I wrote at the time, I have not made any attempt to hide this evolution, as I feel that this may be more appropriate for any reader who, like me, has started out with little more than a conviction that they want a meaningful, mutually beneficial and joyful relationship with an equine friend rather than a dutiful creature who does their bidding instantaneously and unquestioningly.

Hempfling and Janosch. Yes, there is conditioned behaviour but the relationship is extraordinary.


In my case the inspiration came in the form of the mutually trusting relationship between Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling and his loyal chestnut gelding, Janosch, on display in the DVD originally published in German in the early 1990s and entitled Dancing with Horses when it was subsequently issued in English at the turn of the century, a video which I only saw for the first time in 2007. At the time I had largely abandoned attempts to do anything with horses, because I simply could not see the point of making such a splendid creature do or not do as I required. Then I saw that living example of a mutually trusting relationship between horse and human exhibited in Klaus and Janosch, and I immediately knew that it was precisely what I could treasure having with a horse if only I knew how to achieve it. And so I took the first step towards a horse-friendly way of being with horses and the learning curve that I came to experience in the ten years since then is largely reflected in this collection of articles.


The articles

The first two articles were inspired by Hempfling’s book, Dancing with Horses, which contains a few gems of wisdom that I immediately recognised as such. Given the limited development of my new, horse-friendly approach at the time, however, my understanding of them was more of an intellectual acknowledgement of the direction in which I should be heading and the articles read as such. Yet my experience with horses since then has largely confirmed the conclusions that I drew after rereading the first two chapters of Hempfling’s book.


Dancing with Horses: The Shimmering Star

This article sets out a number of fundamental prerequisites for any meaningful relationship and interaction with horses. When I first read them in Dancing with Horses, I recall that I was really excited because they invited me to embark on a very different path to the horse from the cul de sac I had previously travelled on and had abandoned. I was called upon to feel, to have fun, to enter the ongoing moment of being with the horse in which the journey becomes the destination. A decade later I can confirm that the horses have shown me the truth of what was then little more than an intellectual acknowledgement.


Dancing with Horses: Communication, Dominance and Trust

Although again largely inspired by Dancing with Horses, the book rather than the DVD, by the time I wrote this article I had also come to be inspired by Empowered Horses, a book written by another German, this one a woman called Imke Spilker. While this article contains much that I subsequently came to reject, such as Hempfling’s insistence on “dominance” and “leadership”, it does highlight an element which is absolutely indispensable if a human ever wishes to relate to a horse as a fellow sentient being, namely, the need for self-development within the human, both physical and “spiritual”. Here the latter term is not used to refer to some pie-in-the-sky religious belief system but rather the development of the awareness and consciousness which the human will require if they ever wish to truly enter the realm of horses. Again, this was more of an intellectual exercise at the time, which has since been confirmed to a large extent through experiential learning with horses.


On Top of the Mountain: Achieving a Magical Connection with Your Horse

This article was inspired by a series of two videos entitled Immediate Connecting with Horses, Parts 1 and 2, published by Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling on YouTube. Again, it also draws on Imke Spilker’s Empowered Horses as well as the writings of a horseman who has played a huge role in helping me find my direction with horses, Michael Bevilacqua from Canada, in particular his book, Beyond the Dream Horse. Essentially, this article deals with the prerequisites for establishing an energetical (which I referred to as “magical” at the time) connection with a horse. Intellectually, I knew what needed to happen and the article reflects this but all my experimentation was getting me nowhere with our horses. The more I tried, the further off the connection seemed. More water needed to flow under the bridge before I stopped trying and expecting or hoping, and instead started to feel and sense at gut level without expectation. It was then that the magic happened.


Yielding to Pressure: The Reality of the Myth

Over the years I have studied various aspects of the nature of the horse as part of formal studies, such as those for Equine Touch bodywork and saddle-fitting. Knowledge of equine physiology and anatomy, amongst other things, I have supplemented with observations made while watching and interacting with horses in a variety of environments in various countries around the world. This is the first article I wrote which actually draws on this and it was prompted by an observation made by the well-known ethologist, Lucy Rees, to the effect that it is not in the nature of a horse to yield to physical pressure but rather to resist it, something which I had already observed with our own horses. And yet yielding to physical pressure is at the heart of horse training as part of both the conventional and “natural horsemanship” approaches. The article challenges this notion and also covers other forms of “pressure”.


Horse Training: Living the Dream or Creating an Illusion?

There is this virtually unquestioned assumption in the equestrian world that, if you have a horse, they need to be trained. After all, what else do you do with a horse apart from ride them and ensure that they are physically healthy? Even those of us who are committed to living the dream of a new, horse-friendly way of relating to horses have been and/or are still tempted to assume that the most effective way of doing so is to train them to come to us, walk and trot with us at liberty and do anything else which could show the “close” relationship between horse and human in a YouTube video, as though it is possible to teach friendship, understanding, trust and unconditional love. This article examines the question of whether training enables us to live our dream of the type of relationship that we are seeking with our horse or whether it merely creates the illusion of doing so, and if it is merely the illusion, why this is the case.


Contemplations on Riding a Horse

These contemplations comprise a series of three relatively brief articles covering issues that arose while preparing to ride my mare, Pip, for the very first time after she had not had a human on her back for several years and I had effectively been out of the saddle for ten years or more.

The icing on the cake - just what have we achieved?

The icing on the cake – just what have we achieved?

The first of these articles, Riding What?, considers what is required in relation to the horse before contemplating riding.

The second article, To Ride or Not to Ride? This is the Question, considers the pros and cons of riding in relation to the horse, covering their physical and mental condition, tack and natural collection or self-carriage.

The third article shows the evolution of my approach from the second article in its title: To Ride or Not to Ride: Is This Really the Question? Various commentators reveal their approach to the question of riding or not but ultimately it is my horse’s “comment” which makes the greatest impression. This is followed by one of the most profound revelations which had been staring me in the face for some time but for which I required the assistance of a horseman on the other side of the world to finally acknowledge.


It’s about the Horse, Isn’t it?

It is very easy to be attracted by a particular approach to horses, whether Western, classical, “natural horsemanship” or anything else, so much so that we become not only enthusiasts but downright uncompromising disciples. The approach assumes such an overriding importance that it is very easy to lose sight of the creature that is its subject, namely, the horse. And when we finally realise that it is about the horse, what implications does this have for us and the creature in front of us?


Lessons Taught Me by My Horse

Five years after Pip came into my life, I looked back on our experience together and reviewed what I had learnt from her. These lessons are profound and have made all the difference in the ongoing development of our relationship with each other, as well as between other horses and myself.

So you feel that connection is essential for communication?

So you feel that connection is essential for communication?


Horses and the Myth of Leadership

The “natural horsemanship” movement has made and is still making a major impact on the horse world. Central to its approach to interaction with horses and training them is its insistence on a leadership model which has the human acting as the leader and the horse the follower without any choice in the matter. Said to be derived from horses in the wild, this model has been and still is being embraced by other sectors of the horse world very often without question. Yet how reliable is this leadership model? This article argues that in relation to horses the concept of leadership is a myth and explains why.


From Natural Horsemanship to Holistic Horse-Humanship

Drawing together some of the threads dealt with in previous articles, this is a no-holds-barred rejection of the “natural horsemanship” approach to training, which in many instances is proving to be more harmful to horses than the abuse which it claims to abolish. It is simultaneously a passionate plea for a new paradigm in our approach to the species, one which I have called holistic horse humanship for the reasons outlined in this article.

Pingo greeting his mares, Anaïs and Pip

Pingo greeting his mares, Anaïs and Pip


Horses and the Art of Followership

This is one of the most radical insights that horses have shared with me. For some years the idea had suggested itself to me but, being the bossy little man I can sometimes be tempted to become, it was not one that I entertained readily. After all, following is a concept which suggests a lack of initiative and a passivity which reeks of submissiveness, is it not? Perhaps it is … until in the course of a brief but intense light-bulb moment I was able to view all of the scattered signs together and connect the dots. It was then that I fully realised how powerful true followership is and how potentially subversive and transformative it could be if transposed into the human situation.


The Power of Being with Horses

I shall always be grateful to horses for showing me the power of being, because it has changed not only my relationship with them but also my life and outlook on it. And ultimately, it is so easy to gain access to this power. There are times when I regret that I did not do so earlier in my life but then I recall how blessed I am to have discovered the power of being before it ends and I am profoundly thankful to the horses for this.


Ebook pre-orders now open

Amazon, USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076DC7T4T
Amazon, Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B076DC7T4T
Amazon, United Kingdom: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B076DC7T4T
Amazon, Australia: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B076DC7T4T
Amazon, Netherlands: https://www.amazon.nl/dp/B076DC7T4T
Amazon, Germany: https://www.amazon.de/dp/B076DC7T4T
Amazon, France: https://www.amazon.fr/dp/B076DC7T4T
Amazon, Spain: https://www.amazon.es/dp/B076DC7T4T
Amazon, Italy: https://www.amazon.it/dp/B076DC7T4T

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/when-horses-speak-and-humans-listen/id1296050497

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-horses-speak-and-humans-listen-andrew-glyn-smail/1127226458?ean=2940154584941


Free copies

I am offering a free copy of this ebook to anyone who has provided me with feedback on the original version of one or more articles contained in it. To claim your free copy simply contact me through the Contact page or on Facebook and let me know the format that you require. If possible, please also mention the article(s) which you commented on.



Horses and Humans on Facebook

May I remind you that we now have a Horses and Humans group on Facebook. If you would like to leave a comment, you can do so on this blog or on the the Horses and Humans Facebook group page. All new posts will feature on that page along with additional content posted by any of our members. Please feel free to join us at:


There is also a Horses and Humans publications page, which contains information concerning the publications released under the Horses and Humans imprint. Some of those publications will be free of charge. You will find it here:


I also have a Facebook page through which you may contact me. You will find it at:



Equine Touch

Our Equine Touch business is called Humans for Horses, you can find our website at:


and our Facebook page at:


One Response to “When Horses Speak and Humans Listen”

  1. Patrick says:

    greetings from Patrick. I request to have a free copy of your latest book in e format……I am an occasional commentator to some of your articles. Goodbye meantime from Patrick