Understanding pain in horse language!

Horse language indicating pain is not always easy to evaluate especially when it is a slight pain that only occurs when doing certain manoeuvres or movements. It’s very easy to mistake this horse language for dominance and your horse just not wanting to do the task you are asking for. Check out this quick video of Mr. Tay trying to use his horse language to tell me he is in pain.

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Fear based Horse Language!

What makes horse language so complicated to us humans? Well it’s because we just don’t know how to listen with our eyes which is a horse language must. When it comes to learning horse language the most important parts of the language that every horse owner should learn are fear based and dominant based. If you pay close attention to this horse language and learn it well it will keep you and your horse much safer.

The problem with these two kinds of horse language is that it can be difficult to know the difference between dominant based horse language and fear based. Many people misinterpret the two because a horse can seem dominant when he is really just trying to get away from a fearful situation which essentially puts him into the choice of flight or fight. One of the main differences between these two is that dominance will be more slow and calculated with warnings when fear will be a quick reaction that you didn’t even see coming.

Many horse owners have had at least some experience with fear based horse language. Haven’t we all seen that horse on the end of a lead rope prancing around with a neck like a giraffe and eyes as wide as saucers? In these cases it’s quite easy to see the fear based horse language. When a horse’s adrenaline comes up his body will plainly display this type of horse language for flight mode. Some obvious things to look for are high head, bulging eyes, tight muzzle, stiff ears, tight muscles and a high tail. Some more extreme fear based horse language may be a tail that looks like a “J” shape or sad to say a horse that has finally just given up and gone totally inside itself. When you see this happen you are sure to think twice before you push a horse too hard. Then there is a horse that feels trapped and that fight is their only option. This horse will display a very scary horse language that nobody wants to experience. This horse language has the potential of being so very dangerous because it will be quick and can even be deadly. This horse will kick, strike and bite very quickly, so quickly that you don’t even see it coming. Some people don’t even expect it because they don’t know how to read the early stages of this horse language. Sometimes fear can be so well hidden that we don’t even know our horse was under stress until he starts showing signs of coming off the adrenalin. A horse will start blowing through his nose with short hard blows or shaking its head or starts yawning. Paying close attention to the early signs of this horse language is your only way of not letting your horse go there.

Then there is dominance, a whole other horse language for a whole other write up. The hardest part for us humans to understand about this horse language is that this is the only way the horse knows how to survive or to keep its position of alpha. Too many people take this horse language personally instead of recognizing this is your horse’s survival.

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Horse Language – an overlooked component in training!

How many people actually include horse language into their training? I’m finding out fewer than I thought. In my opinion horse language should be the first thing you learn if you intend to spend any time around horses. I just think how hard it is to go to another country and try to communicate if you don’t know the language. Well horse language is the same way but we just don’t think of it like that. For some reason horse language doesn’t even enter into many peoples thoughts when it comes to being with horses. We just think we need to tell the horse what to do and if he doesn’t do it we have to make him with mechanics and fear. It’s like we think a horse language doesn’t exist and they are just stupid animals that need to be told what to do. This is so not true and if we would just spend the time to learn horse language we would be so much further ahead in our training and our relationship with our horses.

If you watch two horses together communicating with their horse language you will notice them move each other around in many different ways. Many of us have seen horse language as brutal, like when another horse bites or kicks its companion. Sometimes you will notice horse language as just a little nip or a warning with the legs but then other times it looks and sounds like they are going to kill each other. Now because we are predator and horses are prey we definitely don’t want to use the brutal looking horse language or our horses will for sure know we are predator and our relationship will be lost. We also don’t want to be sinking our teeth into our horses to try to get some horse language across to them so start thinking about using your fingertips to move your horse. I know it seems crazy to think you could move 1200 pounds with your fingertips but if you think of it as another form of horse language and use varying degrees of pressure your horse will soon put that into his dictionary. He will look at it as another form of horse language without the teeth. Remember you are trying to convince your horse you are prey like him and not just another predator.

I’m sure many of you have seen your horse use the horse language that says “move over there” with just a glance or you might say they are driving the other horse. Now because we aren’t big like horses to be able to use this type of horse language very effectively a long stick or whip with a string on the end of it can help you communicate. Again don’t use this tool for fear and making your horse do something because if you do then this is no longer horse language. So use this by driving the air toward the area of your horse you want to move. With this horse language remember to use varying degrees of pressure so your horse can learn what you are trying to communicate. Nobody likes to be yelled at.

The biggest thing to remember in this horse language is to release as soon as your horse tries so that you are communicating clearly. You want this human – horse language to be as natural as possible to your horse.

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How to speak Horse Language with your mouth shut!

Do you know how to speak horse language? Well let me tell you, horse language is very different than the human language. Because horses don’t actually speak, other than the odd whinny, they use their bodies to communicate with one another. To really get good at understanding horse language you need to take the time to deeply observe horse behaviour in a herd environment. Note to self there will always be one dominant horse in a herd even if it’s just your herd of two (you and your horse). Horse language can be as subtle as a glance or an outright kick, strike or bite. Because we “speak” our language it can be quite difficult for some humans to use their bodies as their first means of communication when it comes to using horse language. Try to spend a whole play session with your horse and not make a noise! And what seems to compound this issue is we are also so use to talking to our household pets.
When we try to understand horse language we have to be careful to keep our human thoughts out of it. We always seem to be so devastated when we see how brutal horse language can be when the dominant horse moves the less dominant horse with its teeth. If you watch two horses together you will see them move each other with their body expression, their teeth, their legs and always their ears. Most people can pick out some horse language just by watching their horses ears. Are they back giving a warning or flat back ready to fight or forward wanting to play or moving around like antenna trying to follow something moving. Now we can’t move our ears but we can use phases in our horse language so we give our horses warnings when we are training. When working with our horses on the ground and in the saddle we can teach them that our horse language means move away from pressure when we drive them or when we touch them be it with our leg aids or our fingers.
One extremely important tip about horse language is that you always have to assume the role of the dominant horse and be able to have a strong body language when necessary. Now this doesn’t entitle you to be mean it just gives you the role of 51% leader so you can build a partnership using horse language your horse will understand. Always give your horse the opportunity to do the right thing. Before you know it you will be speaking horse language just like you are part of the herd.

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