Are You Listening to Your Horse?

how to communicate with your horse starts with being able to listen to what they have to say.

Your horse is continually communicating with you. 

But the real question is whether or not you are listening in on that conversation? 

Many of the ways a horse communicates with us is a subtle “whisper” so it can easily be missed if you aren’t paying close attention. They are quiet behaviors.

Behaviors that come before a “scream/shout” like flattened ears, a bite, pull back, turn and bolt, rear, etc.

So, how do you become a better listener to your horse?

I have 2 steps to start with…Plus some great questions to ask yourself to see if you are hearing the whispers.  

#1 Get on the horse’s time zone

I don’t know about you, but my life runs at a million miles an hour. It’s a wonderful reminder to slowwwww down and take a pause before we join our horses in their world.

“When you take the time to slow down and join the horse at their pace you can discover a lot about them.”

Where do we start…by observing the horse’s world and deeply seeing the horse for who they are. 

Once in the horse’s time zone, you’ll be able to listen to the “whispers” the horse is saying about their world. Allowing them complete openness to show us what they like/dislike, more of their personality, natural rhythms they follow and much more. 

#2 The Desire of Obedience

What if we shift our focus on what our horses want, enjoy and feel during their time with us. Trying to genuinely understand them as well as how they feel about interacting with us. 

Instead of focusing on what we’d like them to do for us or “obey” everything we ask of them. 

In my opinion…obedience does not equal willingness.

communicating with your horse and learning how to listen to what they are saying

For example haltering. If a horse knows they have the choice and has been shown this is a positive experience…then they are happy to oblige and “willing” to be haltered, because they know the good stuff is coming next! 

So, instead, if you shift your focus about haltering your horse, away from seeing it as a task they should “obey” and towards what is the horse trying to tell us…

You’ll discover tiny behaviors that can give clues into exactly what the horse is trying to say about the situation. 
Often these behaviors are misinterpreted or misunderstood as the horse being disrespectful, ignoring the human, uninterested, bored or “testing”.
When in reality the horse is trying to communicate conflict, tension or stress.
A horse will display a variety of these subtle behaviors when under stress, tension, uncomfortable, pressured or conflicted. When you see them it might seem odd or out of place for the situation….or misinterpreted as the above.
These behaviors are called “calming signals”. Some common ones are, side ways ears, tilted head, touching a foreleg, grazing or “snatching” at grass, walking away, stretching the head down, licking the lips, bobbing the head and tail swishing. 

Try asking these questions:

  • What are they telling us about how they are experiencing the situation? 
  • What emotions are they experiencing? 
  • How do they feel about the interactions with us?
  • And how do they interpret this piece of equipment (ie.halter)?

So WHY is it so important for you to slow down and listen to these subtle behaviors? 

To show your horse you’re different, and you ARE listening. You are communicating to them that they don’t need to wait for the shouting, you can hear the tiny whispers. 

Nobody likes to shout or be shouted at 🙂 But everyone wants to be heard. 

Learn to slow down, watch and observe how your horse is feeling. Let them tell you, don’t assume an emotion or that they are happy just because they are obedient to your request. 

-Erica 

Curious how to improve your communication with your horse? Check out this post on my Top 3 Secrets to Improve Your Communication with Your Horse