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Horses Never Lie: The Heart of Passive Leadership

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In his third book, Horses Never Lie, Mark Rashid breaks new ground with the idea that you don't have to be dominant to be a leader to your horse. He challenges the longstanding belief that an owner must be the alpha leader to work effectively with horses. Building on the primary concept of his previous books -- looking at the world from the horse's point of view -- Mark Rashid clearly defines the difference between alpha and passive leaders. He explains how to be a passive leader and illustrates with compelling stories how horses can change from being indifferent or unwilling participants to becoming enthusiastic partners.

192 pages, Paperback

First published May 1, 2000

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About the author

Mark Rashid

30 books100 followers
Mark Rashid (pronounced RASH-id) is an internationally acclaimed horse trainer known for his ability to understand the horse’s point of view and solve difficult problems with communication rather than force. He began working with horses at age ten, when he met the “old man,” who taught him to work with horses, not against them, and to listen to what the horse is trying to say. Mark’s clinics center on one-on-one work with horse and rider and are immensely popular with people around the world.

When Mark decided to study the martial art of aikido as a way to improve his horsemanship, he brought the same quiet determination to it that he exhibits in his work with horses. After years of practice, he has earned a second degree black belt in Yoshinkan aikido and now teaches the “way of harmony” in the local dojo.

Mark worked full time on ranches for many years gathering herds, managing stock, and training horses. When time permits, he still enjoys working on ranches near his home in Estes Park, Colorado.

Mark has been a guest on NPR’s The Horse Show and was featured on the Nature series on PBS. He is the author of nine books - Considering the Horse, A Good Horse is Never a Bad Color; Horses Never Lie; Life Lessons from a Ranch Horse; Horsemanship Through Life; Big Horses, Good Dogs, & Straight Fences; A Life With Horses; Whole Heart, Whole Horse; and his latest, a novel, Out of the Wild. He also has a solo music CD Song of the Prairie and enjoys singing and playing guitar with a local band The Elktones.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 106 reviews
Profile Image for Sarah B.
813 reviews13 followers
May 19, 2020
This has to be the best nonfiction horse book I've ever read! I just connected so much with what the author wrote in this book, which is something I didn't expect. I knew horses like calm silent people but I never knew that it might be connected to a passive leadership. I mean I never saw myself as a leader..yet often when I'm at the ranch I have a bunch of horses coming up to me, not just the one I'm working with. They often follow me and I never really knew why. Well this book tries to explain it.

Apparently horses don't really like the alpha horse. They fear the alpha. Who they do like is a passive leader - someone who is calm and can stay calm under different circumstances. The book gives examples of this so you can easily understand what that is.

The book is a series of personal stories written by the author. They are his experiences working with a variety of horses. Often he had to solve problems the horses had. Many times he had to get creative. All of the stories were so fascinating that the pages just flew by! I didn't want to put it down, which I have to admit is a bit unusual for nonfiction! The stories were entertaining and warm. None were dry, boring or sad! And dealing with animal related book, well, sadness is a thing you might be wary of. But I'm glad to say none in this one! The writing is a bit like a friend is telling you the tales and you just get captivated.

The book teaches you how horses see things. They don't think like we do. They want to please you most of the time but sometimes we are blind (we don't notice what they are doing) or they don't understand. By telling the stories he gives you many creative ideas on how to solve various horse related problems. And often the horse can help solve the problem himself if you let him!

I can't wait to try some of this stuff on the horses I know, once the ranch opens up again. Hopefully in June. It's been months since I've seen the herd.

And very rarely do I buy books but I'd happily buy a copy of this one! I think it would be well worth it, especially if one works with horses.
Profile Image for Nashoda Rose.
Author 24 books4,121 followers
February 6, 2021
Mark Rashid is a fantastic storyteller with such an eloquent humble voice!
An inspiring and informative book that makes you feel as if you're sitting around a warm campfire listening to him tell his stories. A book to read again and again.
Profile Image for Sarah.
541 reviews64 followers
July 21, 2014
I’ve never had a quiet mind. Since the day I was born, my brain has been over-analyzing, over-thinking, over-stimulated, over-worked (mostly as a consequence of my own silly choices). And in that constant racing, it’s been easy to forget the importance of being still.

I find that I need books like this (and folks like Mark Rashid) to remind me to hush occasionally, and to simply be present in the moment. This is an especially important reminder when working with horses; often the quieter you are, the more space you create for connection. Quiet leaves room for clear and creative thought, conscious communication, and honest attention to the powerful details that are instantly overlooked in the race toward meaningless goals and the implementation of technique.

Being soft yet direct and earning the trust of those who rely almost solely on consistency takes practice and serious commitment. It’s a skill that is not often come by or valued in our frantic and over-caffeinated world. But, when it comes down to it, there’s truly nothing more valuable if you’re looking to develop a partnership based on respect and understanding with a 1,200 pound being who speaks a foreign, yet much more natural and soulful language.

Become a passive leader, Rashid suggests. Speak with your body and your actions, lead by example. Most importantly, leave all the harshness and mindlessness of everyday life at the barn door. Make room for quiet.

Who knows, maybe if I practice enough, I’ll learn to let go of harshness and mindlessness altogether. A happy thought, if you ask me. I can’t think of a single reason to hold onto such destruction.
Profile Image for Shaun.
521 reviews179 followers
March 21, 2017
Anything written by Mark Rashid was recommended by the author of a book I recently read and quite enjoyed, so I ordered this particular book from Amazon.

Mr. Rashid is a renowned horse trainer who has years of experience working with both horses and people. He also just happens to be a very talented writer.

In a nutshell, the author makes a case for passive leadership, a phrase he has coined, and one which involves leadership that is less about control, power, and domination and more about building trust and laying the foundation for mutual respect, a situation that requires a horse owner to consider the feelings, thoughts, desires, impulses, and experiences of the horse.

Interestingly, I felt much of his advice could be extrapolated to relationships with any pet and even to relationships with humans.

Very insightful stuff and particularly useful for anyone who works with horses.
Profile Image for Christie Bane.
999 reviews11 followers
July 2, 2022
This just might be the best book about building and maintaining a working relationship with domestic animals that I have ever read. If I had to say what it was “about,” I would say it’s about communicating expectations to an animal and building its trust in your ability to lead, but I feel like that does not even begin to give enough credit. The author is a true master of horsemanship with the experience and skill to know when it is not only okay, but ideal to let the animal make the decisions. This is the book that I wish I was able to write about dogs. Everyone who wants to see what is possible when you spend your life learning how to communicate with another species should read this book immediately! (And even if you work with another species, like dogs, the parallels are so numerous that I’m willing to bet you will be able to find lots of stuff to apply to your work with that other species too.)
Profile Image for Kelsie Donaldson.
177 reviews25 followers
August 13, 2020
This book was recommended to me by a friend of my Grandma's who has trained horses before, and I totally see why it struck such a chord with him. Rashid offers a fantastic alternative to the alpha-type, constant punishment method of training that so many people deem necessary. Plus, he's actually a great writer, and the stories he incorporates throughout the book perfectly demonstrate the main point he's making: training a horse should be a partnership built on trust, not fear.

As I get back into riding, I'm definitely going to carry the lessons I learned from this book with me.
Profile Image for Pete.
447 reviews43 followers
March 19, 2015
Horses Never Lie is a great book by Mark Rashid. Of late, I have been pulling books from my horse book case to read and review. I like the way Mark compares alpha and passive leaders in horses comparing to the way humans categorize behavior to the way we think.

If you raise horses from birth in a comfortable environment, it really works like raising children. Owner’s behavior in dealing with a horse to keep the trust does not always have to show who is dominant, but who is friend.

When I was an early teen youth, I hiked to a pasture a number of miles from the ranch compound to sit with a stallion stationed on an outcropping overlooking a pasture down the valley. He was the boss and protector, a typical alpha leader, who learned to trust me and let me mingle with his mares and foals. We all became friends without requiring submission and dominance.

I think the economics of owners often plays a role when dealing with ornery horses and equally ornery humans. Being relaxed works to keep horses happy. This book is a wealth of information for us humans who like to enjoy their horses and have fun.
Profile Image for Rlouiseg.
34 reviews50 followers
March 3, 2018
This book is amazing! It sheds light on how horses think; how different things make them feel; herd behavior and gentle training. Mostly it shows how to have a beautiful relationship with any horse without you inflicting anything on them. It never puts any other trainer down. On the contrary it encourages the reader in building a quiet trustworthy character for a stronger relationship with horses and other people too. Mark has a nice writing style which is easy to read. He shares a lot of experiences making it light but the concepts are still deep.
I feel this is a terrible review, but get this out of it: You should read this book! Also it rings true horses never lie.
Profile Image for Khari.
2,303 reviews53 followers
December 19, 2020
This was also a good book.

He does have one annoying habit, he tells stories about the old man and they almost always involve his younger self being convinced of his correctness and then being shown the error of his ways by the man. It's a little bit annoying because why does he tell each story the same way? But then again, kids are pretty dumb sometimes. I used to think I was right all the time when I was a kid, I didn't have a whole lot of time for self-reflection and definitely no time to try and figure out what I was doing wrong. But, I guess that I am hoping for a bit of progression. It's like there are two types of Mark Rashid, the young know nothing kid who is convinced he knows everything, and the adult knows everything convinced he knows nothing. Is there some kind of in between stage?

That's just a personal opinion about style though. The content of the book is still great. I'm still learning a lot about horses. I'm kind of inspired actually. One of the horses at the ranch I work at is a little pony, and she hates having her feet worked on. I wonder if I were to handle her feet a little bit every day if she would get over that? I should ask my boss and see if I can try.
Profile Image for Leonie.
45 reviews7 followers
February 20, 2019
Dieses Buch hat sich mal wieder so angefühlt, als ob man mit einem Bekannten ein nettes Gespräch über Pferde hat, nebenbei erfährt man etwas von seinem Leben und die Pferde und Probleme die ihm im laufe der Jahre begegnet sind. Eine sehr angenehme Erfahrung wie ich finde.
Profile Image for Safiya.
72 reviews4 followers
May 2, 2011
This book ranks among those that change my life and the way I approach people, problem and my relationship with my children - so to say that it is an important book is an understatement. I'm not sure it would be of interest or use to those who've never approached a horse and have no interest in them whatsoever, but I believe it would strike a cord in most of us who are moved by stories of men and women whose main concern is the welfare, happiness and growth of those around them, whether humans or animals.

It was certainly not in the writer's intentions to make this a inspirational book for parents, but many of the techniques used to transform a horse's bad behaviour (and thus the reasons why this behaviour started in the first place) can be transferred onto a parent/child situation. I certainly could draw many parallels and have indeed used some of his techniques on my 8-10 yo boys with some success!

Hopefully some of you will also find this book as moving and useful as I have.

Check out his other books too. Thank God for Mark Rashid! (interestingly enough his last name means 'rightly guided'!
Peace and blessings
Profile Image for Carol.
517 reviews
March 5, 2011
I read this book in one day. It is interesting and the author has a great way of telling his stories. I would have liked just a bit more practical advice but I guess there are an overabundance of how-to books. As much as I love horses and working with them, there were a few times that I had to say, "really?"...
Profile Image for K L .
670 reviews11 followers
April 21, 2022
Now, I understand that this book would only be interesting to someone who is interested in horses (which I am – I own three ponies), but I actually feel it is worth writing about. Because this is a book for a very specific audience, I will keep this short, but it was interesting and helpful to me, so I wanted to touch on it anyway.

Because the way it is written and the way it looks at both equine and human behaviour, this is far from just a simple training guide, I think the audience could be a bit broader than just people looking for horsemanship books. Parts of it read as a memoir, and the author does a great job taking the reader through his own experiences and observations with excellent storytelling skills.

This book makes its point of ‘passive leadership’ through a number of examples that the author has come across, either with horses he himself worked with or clients who came to him with horses that had certain issues. He looks at the way the ‘problem horses’ behave and links it back to the way the people trying to train it project themselves and how that links back to the horse’s preceived problems.

I enjoyed this both as an inspiration to try and build a better partnership with my own beloved equines and as a book and reading experience. I enjoyed the audio book, but I also love the little illustrations in the paperback. If you own or work with horses, or even if you are just interested, I would highly recommend this one.
Profile Image for Rebbie Radtke.
4 reviews
February 16, 2021
I worked in the animal training field for many years. Never with horses but with large carnivores and guide dogs (not at the same time 😁).

Anyway, the thing I loved is that every day, every animal taught you something new. Good trainers change and learn their whole careers. Its fantastic for someone who gets dulled down by repetition.

I left the field in many ways still very green but I saw the brilliant trainers around me learn to really communicate. I had amazing mentors hold my hand and show me this world - true communication. Its amazing. Both human and animal are at their best when this is mastered. Its like watching a symphony.

I winced and gagged as many training books and tv shows for the general public showed really oversimplified dominance techniques. I have watched hack trainers dominate animals and dogs and watched the damage. I have watched people have the only tool in their toolbelt be punishment and punish fearful animals into oblivion.

I have never been perfect or brilliant in training - I was still always learning - and I made mistakes - many mistakes to be sure. Nothing ever made me so sad as to watch an animal that did not at all need a heavy handed leader get some weird dominance training from the misguided.

This book wont teach you how to be a master trainer. Honestly, no book will. Training is an art learned in real life. Books have their place. Many books have taught me great things about training to be sure. What it will show you is that there is another way. It gives a glimpse into the art of how it should look. It has applications for trainers and even people with oets and other people in their lives. May it inspire those that read it to understand more and force less.
9 reviews2 followers
September 17, 2020
This book talked about alot of good training methods. I highly recommend for anyone interested in horses or if you have a horse. The main take away for me was working with your horse in a assertive way because, I feel like that helps me with my attitude at home too. The main character describes his interactions with the people. He interacted with very well like, describing the horses movements when working with them and people expression and attitudes to their horses. My favorite part of the book is when the character I having a hard time with a horse and the man shows him some rabbits in the field. The old man then points out a coyote and the moms baby rabbits playing with each other because the babys were playing they ran out of energy so when the coyote came out it was able to catch the baby rabbits. Then the character then later figures out the old man showed him this so he would figure out the horse wasen't responding to him because the horse was trying to save energy. So then the man said he needed to make the horse feel the commands feel urgent by looking where he wanted to go. You should read this book if you like horses as well as his other books.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Ashley N..
225 reviews12 followers
August 11, 2020
Part thesis, part story-time, Mark Rashid has a wonderful voice in this book that captures a quiet way of training and connecting with horses. This is my first exposure to his work and philosophies, but I was immediately drawn to it. Rashid makes it clear that his book is not meant to to be read as a "how-to-guide," but rather, he hopes it offers a different perspective to its readers. Throughout the book, he tells several stories, both personal and of clients he has worked with, and how each "problem" was "solved." I really connected with this idea of "passive leadership," which Rashid fully admits is not the best terminology, but best describes the actions. I feel inspired by how he handled each situation, and could appreciate the quiet nature of addressing it. I'll be seeking out more of his books in the future, and will be trying to internalize some of what he has said in my own horsemanship.
Profile Image for Pam Moore.
5 reviews2 followers
October 11, 2018
I got my first horse 1 year ago without any knowledge about horses or training or anything about them. it was just destiny and I love it!. (I was looking for a dog and got a huge 1200 pound horse). So learning about everything I can from horsemanship, videos, classes, etc but lately I noticed that after some many clinics my point of view are changing to be more focus in techniques and inside of me my voice say... I do not feel it right. the expression of my horse when we do these techniques is not a relax or agreeable so I decided to stop going to clinics and focus more on what we want together as a team. I found this author and I fell in love with his attitude toward horses and the way he see things... I highly recommend this book if you are looking for a connection based in trust with your partner animal instead of a mechanical response without the heart.
161 reviews
April 25, 2022
Such an interesting book. I love analyzing behavior (people or animals) and adjusting perceptions to bring about change. The direction the author took with the horses often surprised me, and I was delighted to discover the intelligence of the horses, and see the handlers connecting with them to achieve a partnership. The author's tone is humble, amusing, very knowledgeable, and respectful to horses and people. I have no idea how to ride a horse, but he did a great job setting up each situation, so I could understand it. I felt both the frustration of the trainer seeking help, and the confusion or fear of their horse. During the setups I felt a lot of tension. Then the corrections were applied, there was understanding, from both the people and the horses, and my tension was released. My kind of entertainment.
Profile Image for Zonika .
1 review
December 5, 2021
My red head is honest

This book inspired me to actually realize my red head thoroughbred never lies. She is so honest and truly open to me even if I think she is just being a red head. I started to dislike the idea that people call her a typical red head. We decided to stop speaking it over her. She is beautiful rose gold and royalty to us and brought so much joy in our life.

I am now looking at her for answers, allowing her to show me what she wants and then trying to show her why I might or might not agree with her right now…

This book just opened a new approach toward my Maré. Thank you Mark for allowing me to open my heart more and closing off stigma and chatter in my mind…
Profile Image for Ken Oder.
Author 10 books128 followers
December 5, 2021
The author makes the case for a different perspective on training horses, putting aside the standard view that a trainer needs to lead by taking on some of the traits of an alpha horse. He explains the virtues and advantages of acting like a different kind of leader in the pack, the passive leader. It's an interesting insightful read based on a lifetime of understanding horses from their perspective. I have four horses. One is an alpha mare. She leads by intimidation and dominance. One is a gelding who fits the author's description of the passive leader to a tee. The other horses, even the alpha mare, like him the best and tend to follow him even though he doesn't demand their obeisance. This book opened my eyes. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves and enjoys the company of horses.
Profile Image for Suzanne Thackston.
Author 4 books18 followers
January 8, 2022
I haven't read any how-to horse books in years. Read so many in my youth that I've been full-up, although I do browse an old favorite here and there.
My MIL got this for Christmas for me last year. I was appreciative but not excited. Well, I finally got around to it, and my MIL is wise beyond her 89 years. This book was sheer delight. More, it was so helpful. It was just exactly what Fiona and I need to hear.
I usually don't like how-to books that are full of self-congratulatory anecdotes. This book turned that right around. Not only are the anecdotes NOT self-congratulatory, they're full of encouragement and good, solid, commonsense, helpful advice.
I'll be coming back to this book frequently through whatever years I'm spared.
Profile Image for Melanie.
57 reviews
September 5, 2019
5 Stars for sure! One of, if not the best books on horses that I've ever read. I've always done well ground training horses. I've have had great relationships with the horses in my life, including raising and training two colts that had never been handled much by people and those colts turned out to be wonderful, sweet, gentle and willing partners, so I feel like I understand the way a horses mind works and how to work WITH them and not against them. But this book taught me SO MUCH MORE! Mark Rashid is a naturally gifted storyteller and horseman. His words flow on the page as if you're sitting around on the front porch listening to a master tell you great stories of his experiences with horses that have taught him the most. I cannot wait to read his other books.
Profile Image for Stephani Hren.
123 reviews5 followers
February 3, 2020
This is my third Mark Rashid book in a row, and I'm still loving them. I will say that a lot of the ideas and themes that he covers in his first book are still present in each subsequent book (which reflects his values as a horseman). I've been taking notes as I read and find that I've got less and less notes as I go because I'm becoming familiar with the key ideas that make up the core of Rashid's way with horses. And yet, none of the stories he puts in his books have felt repetitive and I haven't felt a moment of boredom. Looking forward to starting another one!
Profile Image for Caroline Johnson.
54 reviews2 followers
February 10, 2020
Very insightful and tastefully written. I enjoyed all the wisdom tucked inside each story. The message he hopes to convey about being a leader for a horse is modeled in the way he leads us to that model. I enjoyed reading sections of this, then taking a break to ponder and even try his suggestions, make adjustments to my way of thinking, and then come back for more. I have enjoyed his blogs and social media presence for a few years, now I will enjoy his books too, and hope to find time to see him work or actually work with him.
Profile Image for Christine.
68 reviews4 followers
July 21, 2020
Must read for every person who handles horses

To put my feelings on this book into words is more of a feat than I think I can accomplish and do it justice, but let me just say this: if you handle horses, you WILL benefit from reading this book. And those horses will be better off for it. Please, do yourself a favor and read this book! Whether you’ve got years of experience in “natural horsemanship “ or you’re taking hunters to the winner’s circle (or both- hey, it’s happening these days!) you’ll be thankful you made the time for this book.
Profile Image for S..
253 reviews13 followers
November 19, 2017
Another great book by Mark Rashid, showing a different way to handle horses than demanding their respect and being the "alpha leader". I always enjoy reading about different approaches to horsemanship, and this book contained a lot of good ideas that I will try and implement. Especially the last chapter about mechanics vs. feel really hit home for me.
Profile Image for Andy Plonka.
3,344 reviews14 followers
May 4, 2020
I haven't ridden say about training horses a horse for decades, but what the author has to say about training horses makes a great deal of sense. Watch and listen to the animal and they will give lots of good hints about how to respond to them. I am into dogs these days, but the same applies to this species. Let your student be your guide.
268 reviews
December 9, 2020
Horse lovers will enjoy this take on horse training and care taking from this author's perspective. Based on the title I expected more interwoven thought on the parallels between horse herd dynamics and human leadership traits. There was a little of this, but I wish there had been more as that would be a unique take on both topics and would have made this book stand out from the crowd.
Profile Image for Rey.
202 reviews
October 15, 2018
Really an excellent introduction to horses, a topic I currently know very little about. I admire the fact that he urges people to consider the horses viewpoint in any situation. Seems like something we should obviously do. I'm going to try to remember this as I continue to take lessons.
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