Forms of horse communication
Experiencing horse behavior first hand leads us to a common language that is non verbal. Close observation of horses and how horses interact is the first step in opening up a window to this non verbal method of communicating.
To understand this language it is easier to break down the form of communication into three areas.
- Communication for handling and ground training
- Communicating as a rider
- Communicating as a rider and trainer
Horse Behavior – communicating for ground training
In the absence of a shared common verbal language between horse and human, we use body language to communicate.
Body language is a way of communicating with body movements, facial expressions and gestures instead of verbal communication. These body signs can be intentional or un-intentional on the part of the human.
A horse can read these signs and sense emotions in the human.
Humans need to learn to read the body language of the horse and learn to control their own body language in order to establish a reliable and consistent form of communication with the horse. Horses use their eyes, ears, position of their head, mouth, tail and specific movements to communicate through body language.
Horse Behavior – communicating as a rider
As a rider we use body language and add communication through touch and feel to “accomplish” the task the horse has been taught to perform.
Communication of touch is a continues flow of signals between horse and rider, based on what is physically transmitted and what is physically perceived.
Communication of feel is the heightened reflexive response to the physical touch of the rider and horse feel itself is the ability of the brain to receive and distinguish a touch, analyze its meaning and respond with the next message. And some say riding is not an intellectual activity!
Horse Behavior – communicating as a trainer
As a rider and trainer we use body language, touch, feel and a knowledge of the biomechanics of the horse to “Teach” the horse the task that we wish it to perform.
Biomechanics is the study of the mechanics of a living organism. By mechanics we mean the way the parts of the body (muscle, bones etc) interact.
In the case of the horse this interaction is of interest in as much as it produces movement. In the case of the biomechanics of the rider it is significant as it relates to the effect of the rider on the balance of the horse and the effect of the rider in communicating through touch with the horse.
The 3 essential forms of communicating with the horse are:
- body language
These, accompanied by a knowledge of biomechanics, are the tools used to teach a horse to perform the task that we would have him do: dressage, jumping, reining, racing etc.