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You've found the Mary-Dixon page about horsemanship.  Horses are my passion and my obsession.  They have helped me become a kinder, more confident, more patient person.  What they have taught me about them and taught me about myself is immeasureable.  I now try to teach folks about the nature of horses and how to understand each other which leads to a more confident human and a more confident little darling.
Adventure Horse Riding in NYS

8/27/11

Tip # 29 Handshakes

Approaching a horse quietly says a lot about you to your little darling.  Instead of reaching out and petting  his nose or neck, ask for permission by easily placing your hand in front of his nose for him to smell.  This is often referred to as "the horseman's handshake."  When he sniffs your hand, he has given you permission to touch him.

If he doesn't give you permission, that is okay - it is his perogative, so simply rest your hand on top of his withers.  Doing that is very calming to horses - it  is where they often groom each other, or where they lay their head across the withers of another horse when they are relaxing, and once in a while, if you are really lucky, you'll see a bird sit atop the withers.

When you do these actions, you are showing respect to a horse.  You wouldn't like it if someone just out of nowhere reached out and touched your face or started rubbing your back.  That would be pretty rude for us to do to each other, so don't do it to the little darlings.  They'll really appreciate it.

Mary Dixon        Adventure Horse Riding in NYS               RideNYS.com