First Thing First
What is your horse really telling you?
How often do you hear someone say, I can tell what type of day this is going to be, just by looking at my horse. Some may wonder, how can you tell that? The answer is that you have to learn the body language of horses. Horses communicate with us very clearly, they are just non-verbal.
How many times have you approached a horse, and looked at their eye? Is it full of life? Is it dull without life? Is it content? Is it nervous? Is it sad? One of the most common body language cues we get from our horses, is pinned ears. Ears that are pinned back, generally means, “I’m Angry” or “I don’t like that”. But have you ever noticed any other signs? A tense chew, shallow breathing, very little blinking, tense muscles, tense neck?
Learning how to read and communicate with horses can take some time, and its best to look at several different horses as you may pick up something new. Listening to your horse, and listening to what they are telling you, is vital to building your relationship with your horse. You should be so in tuned with your horse, you should know exactly how they are feeling when you first walk up to the stall, as soon as you sit into the saddle, and as your walking them around.
Let’s go over a few examples. Let’s say you mount up on your horse, and they walk off quietly. While walking, they are bright eyes, ears forward, looking around and enjoying the view. On a horse like this, I would say, they are going to have a good day today and are enjoying their time out. As they are walking, they pick up a little prance or trot for a few steps, and then bring it back down to a walk. Some may say, “No, you need to walk! Your’e not listening!”. I would say, “I can see that you’re telling me you feel good today, we should have a good ride.” This does not mean you should allow your horse to become crazy, or let them do what they want.You just need to recognize when your horse is asking you something, or telling you something. They should remain engaged with you at all times still.
On the other hand, lets say you get on your horse and you ask them to walk off. They are walking with a low head, angry eye, and do not have will in them. If you touch them, they pin their ears and you feel some resistance. A horse like this does not appear to enjoy what they are doing. A horse that does not enjoy what they are doing will eventually turn sour, and bad habits will develop. Somewhere along the way, it should have been incorporated in the horses training program different activities to keep this horse happy mentally. Now, some horses may just not be feeling well, and this is something that should be recognized at first site when your horse is in the stall.
Working with and communicating with your horse is oh so important. You want your horse to feel comfortable with you and allow them to express when they are happy. You also need to listen to your horse when they are expressing that they are upset or do not like something. Constantly listen to what your horse is telling you, and watch your relationship with them blossom.
Remember, your horse should be happy in what they do and it is our responsibility as owners and trainers to ensure that our horses are happy. It is hard to enjoy a horse when they are constantly in a bad mood or do not want to perform. Do horses have bad days? Yes, sometimes. Again, it is our responsibility as owners and trainers, to put together a training program that allows your horse to remain in a positive space mentally and in healthy shape physically. All you have to do, is listen.