“OUTER ZERO” VOL­UME

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The best way to clearly com­mu­ni­cate with horses is with planned, de­lib­er­ate ges­tures. When your in­ner in­ten­sity level is calm or Zero, it does not mean be­ing too quiet or ten­ta­tive. Horses pre­fer us to move with pur­pose, be aware of the en­vi­ron­ment, and be con­fi­dent lead­ers. Quiet, con­fi­dent as­sertive­ness equates to “calm” for horses. It tells them, “All is well.” In ad­di­tion, be­ing calm pro­motes mu­tual trust be­cause horses as­pire to stay in this state.

Most of the time horses whis­per with their body lan­guage. A peace­ful head nod, tiny twitch of the tail, the in­ten­tion to pick up a foot with a shift of bal­ance, these say all they need to an­other horse. Oc­ca­sion­ally, a horse shouts or yells a mes­sage at an­other with ex­treme ges­tures or move­ment, but usu­ally horses say what they need to at the low­est vol­ume nec­es­sary. Even if they “turn up” the vol­ume, they are ex­perts at then turn­ing it back down, cal­i­brat­ing the move­ments of their lan­guage pre­cisely.

Horses do not want to waste en­ergy by bick­er­ing with one an­other all day or hold­ing on to a grudge. In or­der to en­sure safety in the wild, they want to stay quiet and not call the at­ten­tion of preda­tors with noise or hoof­beat vi­bra­tions through the ground. When a horse asks an­other for space, he may sim­ply swish his tail, then throw his head, stomp a foot and, fi­nally, kick or bite. As soon as the other horse moves, ev­ery­thing goes back to Zero on the out­side as well as on the in­side.

Horses are good at this, but we have to prac­tice. For the sake of mu­tual con­ver­sa­tion, it is vi­tal you un­der­stand how to ad­just the vol­ume of your own move­ment in re­sponse to theirs. You can learn to mimic their lan­guage and ad­just your vol­ume with the ap­pro­pri­ate in­ten­sity.

To make this eas­ier, I have as­signed num­bers to rep­re­sent the lev­els of in­ten­sity of phys­i­cal move­ment or vol­ume you might use in a con­ver­sa­tion with a horse. I use five num­bers: Zero, One, Two, Three and Four. As the num­bers in­crease, so does the size and/or em­pha­sis of your move­ment. I like to use num­bers to la­bel these “lev­els” of con­ver­sa­tion be­cause there is no emo­tional at­tach­ment to them. In­deed, there should never be any neg­a­tive emo­tion in any of the con­ver­sa­tions you have with a horse, no mat­ter how large your ges­tures be­come.

In gen­eral, Zero on the out­side is like Zero on the in­side: it means com­plete calm in mind and body. What does Outer Zero look like? Zero in­ten­sity, en­ergy or at­ti­tude doesn’t mean you are not do­ing any­thing; Outer Zero is the way you are do­ing it, phys­i­cally. Zero has dif­fer­ent pos­tures. You could:

• Bend one knee to cock your own hip side­ways---the way horses do.

• Put your hands in your pock­ets, soften your gaze, and drop your head slightly while breath­ing deeply.

• Look at the ground and “blow out” a sigh.

• Make your body look limp like a rag doll.

We all de­velop our own ver­sions of Outer Zero around our horses.

The next phase of in­ten­sity is Level

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