The three F’s in Horsemanship

The three F’s in Horsemanship

grey warm-blood releasing tension in the jaw through yawning

The three F’s – do you know what they are?

  • Flight •Freeze  •Fooling around

These are three very different responses from horses when they cannot cope with the task at hand.

The first two are very common and widely acknowledged, and are instinctual responses.

But often the third one isn’t noticed, which is basically when the horse plays the class clown and does silly things, which I call fooling around. 

The most common action I see which falls into the fooling around category is when a horse starts pulling faces. Often we find this amusing and or endearing. But there are physical as well as mental reasons for this as the horse could well need to release one or all of the following;

  • his jaw
  • his hyoid, which is his tongue bone
  • his TMJ which is a joint just below and in front of the base of the ear

Often these horses need to relearn to swallow and roll their tongue and have the freedom of the movement. They also need to be able to cross their jaws and actually yawn.


To enable this, a loose noseband or no noseband would be ideal, although I appreciate this doesn’t seem to be in fashion. 

A very quiet bit that rolls on the tongue would be a good option, and a straight one is preferable. 

⁃ Let’s just say, for now, the most common bit at the moment is not always the best or kindest option, and looking for the right bit is a time consuming albeit rewarding task. It is a stage in rehabilitation work.


A horse doesn’t start yawning because he is bored. He starts yawning to release the tension and as a workaround in an overwhelming situation.

We all are creatures of habit, and changing a pattern of behaviour and movement takes time and repetition. It is so rewarding to work through this though and let your horse feel better be happier and be less prone to fooling around.



Grey Warm-blood releasing tension and crossing over the jaw


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