October 2015 - Book Review
Written by CRM
Wednesday, 30 September 2015 19:47

Good Horse, Bad Habits

Good Horse, Bad Habits
Written by Heather Smith Thomas
Reviewed by Patty Vinikow

Whether you are an apprehensive first-time horse owner, or a seasoned ranch or stable entrepreneur, the new book, Good Horse, Bad Habits, will be your indispensable guide. Author and long-time horsewoman Heather Smith Thomas combines her exhaustive experiences with horse behaviors into an organized and helpful compendium.

The book can be read cover-to-cover, or by individual chapters or sections featuring specific horse challenges. It logically addresses the complicated world of horse actions and interactions by headings such as “Bad Habits in the Stable” and discusses ground manners, behaviors under saddle and problems on the road while riding or trailering.

After describing each behavior, the author immediately offers multiple solutions to consider in an easy to read format entitled, “How to Change This Habit.” At the end of each situation, she freely acknowledges the difficulties in horse psychology by proposing further options in, “What if Nothing Works?”

What are some of the topics covered in her book? Is your horse “buddy or barn sour,” refusing to leave the arena or companions? Bucking, behind the bit, refusing to lunge, or apprehensive while trailering?

There are over 300 pages to explore and ponder and find practical answers to your horse’s peculiar habits.

I thought I knew “everything” after rescuing over 15 horses in five years and attempting their rehabilitation. Yet there were solid, thought-provoking action items in her chapters which were new to me, and that I will certainly remember. The author stresses safety and kindness through the perspective of our equine friends. A point of view that ensures a good result and a win-win for both horse and human.

If there was any suggestion for her book, it would be to include photos of certain behavioral examples. We all enjoy looking at horses, and while the cover exhibits a gleefully cribbing horse, I looked in vain for further illustrations inside.

Good Horse, Bad Habits would be an important reference in any horse person’s home library or horse club bookshelf. Heather Smith Thomas is a prolific writer of books and articles, and this newest entry written from her Idaho ranch further enhances her horse credentials.


Patty Vinikow is a plod-a-long trail rider in the beautiful horse paradise of Washoe Valley, NV, where she lives with her palomino, Buttercup. She no longer rescues horses, but carries the memories (and scars!) of that privilege.