Advancing Horsemanship Through Yourself: Leadership vs. Authority


Throughout the years I have really struggled with this concept for many reasons, but I feel that the scales are slowly starting to tip more and more toward quality leadership instead of an authoritarian approach to horsemanship. Unfortunately, I still have my moments of struggle, frustration, and doubts which lead me to try to force my desired results upon the horse instead of helping to lead the horse to the other side on their terms. The great thing about these “failures” in which I use authority to get desired results is that I discover even more reasonsnever to go there again. It never produces anything worthwhile.

Leadership (Feel):

True leadership is done by changing the mindset of yourself, others, or the horses with the result that you reward free thinking and creativity instead of focusing on the desired results. A true leader is able to step back from the current moment and look at the overall mindset of the team (horse and rider) so that he is able to focus on the big picture instead of a single element of a picture.  This allows the horse to determine the speed of progression as much as the rider.

Authority (Force):

The rider dictates where he wants the horse to be, decides what goals are to be achieved, and directs and controls all movements without any meaningful participation by the horse. This rider has full control of the horse leaving little room for collaboration between the horse and rider. The rider has a vision in mind and forces it upon the horse. The horse is expected to move in a very specific and robotic manner, while unlimited authority is granted to the rider. The horse’s response to the rider’s cues are either punished or rewarded.


If you feel you’re a little more on the authority side of the relationship between you and your horse, maybe it’s time to explore becoming a true leader for your horse.  Think of your riding as asking or demanding.  Are you asking your horse through lightness or are you demanding through punishment?  Are you taking in your horse’s mental state, or are you forcing the horse to do certain movements based on your desired results?  There are hundreds of question you can be asking yourself, but the main thing is at least to be asking yourself these questions every day.  There will be no miracle cure overnight, but with specific attention and time dedicated to questions like these you will see positive changes in your life.  Be aware of the differences and make the necessary changes to benefit yourself, your horse and others.


Application to Daily Life:

In all interactions with others there is always influence at play; how are you receiving and how are you delivering influence?  Everyone interacts with people in their lives, so it’s very simple to explore the differences between leadership and authority within the conversations you have with others.  The main factor is becoming aware of the influence you’re putting out or receiving in order to change future encounters with others.  Start small and try becoming aware of your influence. Who knows where it will lead you in your progression.

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