The Communication Factor Between Horse and Man
Communication is just as important to horses as it is to humans. Horses have a desire to be able to communicate; there is also a need to fulfill that desire since it will fill a void within their lives that is also common to mankind.
Once that you do realize that there is an avenue of communication that can be established between you and the horse you will start to realize that the horse has the capacity of having a thought pattern. Next you will start to move from a one-sided conversation thought pattern to one that will allow interaction from both sides and a relationship will start to develop.
Being able to understand that there are structured thought patterns that can be developed by a horse and that they are also capable of communicating with you; it will be realized that the method of communication is quite simple and easy to understand.
To properly understand how a horse communicates you have to be willing to accept that the horse does not have the ability to reason, in plain terms, they can not figure out that there is more than one way to do the same thing. All that they do understand is that they have a specific method or way of accomplishing a task and that is the only way that it can be done. This is the precise point that explains why you cannot deviate in any manner when you ask the horse to accomplish any task. Horses are extremely structured in their society and following that specific pattern, step-by-step, calm them and allow them to understand what is happening.
Our ability of being able to understand that there are many different ways to accomplish the same end result, thus being able to change as well as adapt has allowed us to expand and grow our mental ability. Our ability to reason has placed us in a situation that we take this ability for granted; for since it is second nature and happening without thought we feel that other creatures that we come in contact with can accomplish the same results. In fact the exact opposite is the truth, this is one of the unique features of our species that has placed us above the others. Thus, our ability to reason along with our memory that does allow us to realize that we can file away and categorize past experiences; while allowing us to be able to refer back to specific memories for use at another time.
Although the horse does have a memory, it is somewhat limited in relationship to our own. It has been my experience that the memory of the horse does not include the ability to file experiences away and be able to pull upon that experience for reference at a future date. What the horse does have is a memory that notes experiences, but without the use of any timeline, that is to say that there is no distinction as to how many times an experience was good and how many times that same situation was bad. It remembers the initial experience as either good or bad, therefore every time that the horse is put into that situation where that memory is called upon; it is either good or bad.
I have found that bad experiences can be altered and have the horse start to respond in a favorable fashion. This depends on how the foundation was laid and all experiences from that point on were built upon either a good or bad foundation. In order to make changes in a horse’s response to a particular situation you need to tear down what has been built and rebuild the foundation making it a good experience. This goes back to the fact that the horse feels that there is only one way to accomplish what you are asking them to do. So it is better to start out understanding how the mind of the horse does operate before you get started.
It is now becoming known that the human mind goes through various stages of development and when these stages of development happen there is a great surge in the learning ability, the creativity and overall development of individual skills. I believe that horses go through various stages during their development that will allow them to be able to increase their ability to comprehend, learn and develop their motor skills as well. It is our responsibility to watch for and make full advantage of these various stages of development that the horse goes through.
The mental state of the rider/handler is one of the greatest determining factors in the relationship of the horse. You, with an understanding of equine communication, can accomplish a great deal of progress in a relatively short period of time. This can happen in the saddle or on the ground.
The overall concept that needs to be understood is that the rider or the handler needs to be in total control through the projection of both confidence and trust. For once that you have developed the initial trust between you and the horse, the horse will continually turn to you for guidance and reassurance in uncertain times. It is at this point that the horse will start to turn to you and allow you to guide them to the next level. Confidence will develop and build within you as you start to change your outlook and method of operating around and on top of your horse. With the understanding of the communication method of the horse will come the confidence and with the confidence in place the trust will start to build and grow. This will change the mood on and around the horse to be one of calm that will allow the horse to realize that you are no longer something to be constantly watched and analyzed. You are now a friend that has allowed friendship and confidence to build the bridge of trust.
Here is where we need to stress consistency and confidence of the handler that will allow the horse to become consistent and confident as they progress through the process of building a relationship. If you are confident and consistent the horse will be the same. They are looking for the right path to follow and they do want to please you. It is in their nature to want to please and be a member of the herd. If you are confident and consistent, the path to obtaining the necessary trust will be shorter and the relationship with the animal will be built upon a stronger foundation. Once that the foundation is put down and is solid, the building of the relationship will be stronger, more level and will lead to a life-long friendship. There are no leaders in this relationship, only members of the herd having specific jobs to perform. Everyone pulls their own weight and does the tasks that are required of their earned position within that herd.
Introduction of any new horse into a predetermined group of horses and people will start the process all over again; there will be a jockeying of positions and responsibilities of herd members. This can be from the new horse being higher or lower in the overall picture of the herd. Don’t forget that there will be an adjustment period any time that a new horse is added to the herd. You must remember that the herd social structure has to follow the required ritual steps that are carved in stone and do not waver. Here is why consistency has to be always foremost and present when dealing with any member of the herd. Consistency breeds confidence due to an unwavering method of accomplishment. This refers the horse’s inability to accept change readily and that when change is introduced to quickly they usually react with a “flight” instinct and look for the easiest way out of the situation. We have the ability to pre-judge a situation, its outcome and the reaction that will most likely be received, so it is in our best interest to use that ability each and every chance that we get.
The Physiology of Fear
Fear is a factor in daily life for both the horse and the rider/handler; both horse and rider/handler can conquer it. It has to be done in a manner that both can understand and is best accomplished by the rider/handler taking the initial step and then guiding the horse through the process of calming, starting with relaxing and finally through the projection of trust and confidence. I do need to explain that both the horse and the handler can experience fear, but humans have the ability to reason and then to conquer the fear that has become foremost at the time. We do so by analyzing the point that we at first sense the fear and then process the memory of such an item and then determine if it is worth fearing or not. That is how we analyze fear as human beings, now for the horse’s answer ~ I have got to run away! What we need to accomplish is to analyze the fear factor and how both the horse and the rider/handler respond to the fear factor and how it can be controlled.
Most riders that get have problems with a horse over fear compound the problem through the use of their body language to the horse. Let’s say that the horse becomes startled at some object, the horse will stop and take a good hard look at the specific item in question, at this point they are waiting for your guidance. It is in the next few seconds of time and the actions that you do and how that is transferred into body language that will determine how the horse will react to your actions. The sudden stopping of the horse has startled you and you are just as unsure as the horse is about the specific item that startled them, you then tense up through most, if not all, of your body, you grab hold of the reins and start to pull back on the bit, your legs clamp around the body of the horse and your mind is racing at the speed of cars running around a NASCAR race track.
Your actions have told the horse the following things to do:
1. Your body tensing up means that you are fearful and that there may be a greater threat than they have found after all you are supposed to be in charge here and if you are ready to run away, the horse will certainly not want to stick around.
2.Your next action was the grabbing of the reins and pulling back on the bit, this lets them know that you are wanting to stop and stop now, no second guessing here and then with the increased pressure of the bit it becomes painful and the horse now has pain in addition to fear to contend with.
3.Once that you legs clamp around the body of the horse it is the same as if someone came up behind you and grabbed you around the waist when you were not expecting it, you go straight into the air and scream, it is no different with the horse except with the inability to process all of this information at one time the horse will revert back to the instinctual thing to do, run away.
It is at this point that you have lost total control of the situation and there is no way to get control, in fact the horse will now bolt to get out of there so fast that the only concern is their preservation and they feel that they cannot depend on you for guidance at this point so you will most likely end up on the ground and the horse far away from you.
The horse does not need to react this way when it becomes startled by anything. In fact if you have the trust of the animal and project confidence at the same time the horse will turn to you with all of its ability and ask you what it should do. And it can be handled in the following manner, same situation only this time we interject a team effort.
The horse has been startled by anything and stops to look at it and then tries to determine what it is. Again it is the first few seconds that are crucial to the total outcome of the potential accident waiting to happen.
1.Once that the horse does stop you will feel the entire body of the horse draw into your seat of the saddle, at this point it is looking to you for the confidence and the guidance as to what it should to in this situation.
2.You MUST remain calm for the sake of both of you. DO NOT tense up, relax, remember you are the one that is in charge ~ so act like it.
3. It would be best to give the horse a loser rein at this point and allow them to see that you have no fear of the item they are startled over, let the horse have a minute to realize that the whole situation meant nothing to you and that there was no need to get so upset.
As you learn to be this way, the horse will build the trust and confidence in your abilities and the fear factor will tend to reduce. Now it may be there with other people who have the tendency to do as the first rider did and tense up, but once that you understand that you can control the situation through your body language to the horse, the better the horse will be in situations that need understanding and positive actions.
Next we must understand that the fear that is in the mind of the rider/handler is one that is transferable to the horse through the use of body language. There are times that the horse shows much more compassion to man than man shows to the horse, there are also times that the horse will not venture into territory that it does know is unsafe, but mankind has to show its superiority and venture in and then have to confront the situation that they create.
The rider/handler can learn quite a bit from just watching and noting a horse’s reaction and response to any situation that it does come up against on a daily basis. You can buy all the books you want on the behavior of the horse and you will never learn as much as when you take the time to observe and learn from the horse in their natural settings. Take the time to watch them in the field both alone and within the herd atmosphere. What a horse does on their own is quite a bit different that what a horse will do interacting with other members of their herd.
One other point that needs to be brought out here is reactions that horses have are confused with what we feel they are. Let’s take the example of a horse moving away from you, they can move in one of three ways. First they might try to walk over the top of you, with no regard for your safety that is because they have no respect for you. Second, they may push away from you, that is a fear reaction and are just trying to get away form the danger. Third, they back away from you and this is bad news for anyone that has built a relationship with a horse since they are taking their trust and the position that you have been granted away from you.
Until next time “Ride for the Brand”.
The Communication Factor Between Horse and Man
My work with horses and owners is dedicated to the thousands of horses that I have had the distinct pleasure to meet, learn from and allowed into their lives. That acceptance has given me the insight that is necessary for the understanding of their world and how I had to alter my thoughts and actions to become the same as theirs. These horses started out as my clients, became my friends, then my teachers and finally my mentors. For that I am forever grateful. Learn more about Bob and subscribe to his blog at http://www.BobBurdekin.com
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