Wednesday, 23 July 2014
• VOLUME 46 • © HORSES For LIFE™ Magazine

ET call home. From the work of credible scientists working through SETI, trying to figure out the right way to communicate with other intelligent life forms, to a cowboy working with his horses, we are all involved in the process of interspecies communication. Without communication we cannot have our horses understand our wishes, our desires, or even our commands. The first step always has to be communication. Unfortunately this is not always the case,or along the way it is somehow forgotten. Trainers can be so focused on getting the horses to do something that they forget the need to put communication first in the horse-human relationship. Too often the emphasis is put into the role of humans as alphas, dominators and/or benign leaders, and in the process of trying to fit a role - they forget the first rule that all will be for nought, if the horse doesn’t understand. Communication always has to come first.

Meaningful communication relies on both species responding to the cues of the other.

In our search to understand and to speak 'horse', we may come across simplistic explanations of horse-human interaction. We are told that the horse that lifts his hind leg, cocks his hind fetlock, may or may not be warning you he is about to kick. Well, he might also be telling you that he is about to go to sleep. The difference between the two is huge, obviously. If in the effort of communication we cannot understand the horse, then any and all of our efforts to effect communication from the human to the horse is fraught with misunderstanding and lacks any kind of guideline, any kind of basis upon which to develop this communication.
Given the tremendous breadth of horse-horse interactions, it is striking how few interactions are required to train elegant responses in our horses. Perhaps because of how simplistic the aids can become - put your outside leg back for canter for example - we lose our perspective of how very complex and subtle communication can be.


Too often we expect that communication is all about making the horse understand us. But true communication can only be two-way. We cannot expect communication to be only based on the horse understanding us. It has to be first about us understanding the horse. How can we begin to know if the horse understands us if we do not have the tools to understand the horse’s reaction, if we don’t understand his language?


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