Thursday, February 6, 2020

Body Language 101: the Value of Quiet Work

by Mary Gallagher

Nina and Mary working quietly.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the deeper aspects of communicating with our horses. We all know, more or less, that we humans tend to express ourselves with words, and that horses are more about body language. Most of us are accustomed to our horses watching and responding to us in our daily interactions. For an obvious example, your  horse notices when your hand enters your pocket, right? and responds by asking for a treat? Or when picking out your horses feet—does he offer his hoof to you before you ask? or even better, does he shift his weight as you prepare to ask? If your horse can do this, how much more might he perceive?

Things go along pretty well as we use all the horsemanship tools we’ve been given to direct the actions of our horses. We even call it ‘schooling’, with us as the teacher and the horse as the student. Horses pretty much buy into being schooled, as they are hard-wired to accept leadership. But if we really pay attention as we school our horses, we may discover that they are teachers in their own right. How many times have we thought we have things going pretty well, only to have our horse show us something we missed? Or maybe it’s just that we aren’t getting the result we were looking for, and despite our best efforts, we seem to be at an impasse…?