EQUUS - - Eq Tack & Gear -

if you never thought so be­fore.

Ob­serv­ing your horse is an “ap­proach” mes­sage: He will know you are watch­ing him, try­ing to see and un­der­stand him, and as a re­sult, he will be­come more en­gaged and trust will grow without you even re­al­iz­ing it. One day, your head-shy horse will bring his muz­zle closer to you for a breath ex­change or he will do a huge head bob as you come to­ward the gate. Your at­ten­tive ob­ser­va­tion is reach­ing out to him in a new way---and it is one he un­der­stands. You are now lis­ten­ing to his body lan­guage.

When we are not pay­ing at­ten­tion with reg­u­lar ob­ser­va­tion, a horse has to re­sort to the equine equiv­a­lent of “shout­ing” at us, which means he com­mu­ni­cates his hap­pi­ness, fear, con­fu­sion and pain in grand ges­tures. Some of these big move­ments may even be called vices be­cause we don’t know why he is do­ing them. For ex­am­ple, he fid­gets on the cross-ties, steps on your foot or rushes out the stall door. We might la­bel him as stub­born or stupid, but we are the ones be­ing cal­lous. We just haven’t no­ticed the more sub­tle ways he has been try­ing to tell us about his con­cerns.

Some horses shut down and do not even at­tempt to show us what they think or feel. They have learned there is no point in mak­ing the ef­fort. Why try to com­mu­ni­cate with a species that doesn’t take an in­ter­est in learn­ing, see­ing or ac­knowl­edg­ing their per­cep­tions?

Half a con­ver­sa­tion is lis­ten­ing and the other half is talk­ing. If you as­pire to “see” your horse’s lan­guage, you must re­mem­ber to lis­ten even when the horse is say­ing things you don’t want to hear. When your horse gets emo­tional and you do not know what to do, keep your­self safe, then go to your In­ner Zero. At least this will af­ford you the right state of mind to ob­serve your horse and per­haps come up with a help­ful strat­egy. You will see your horse with a whole new level of aware­ness once you know the words he uses.


Dogs, cats and peo­ple dis­play emo­tion in a di­rect way. Cats and dogs come up to you when you come home from work, fol­low you around and wrap them­selves around you. Horses, how­ever, be­ing prey an­i­mals, dis­play emo­tion in­di­rectly---they ex­press af­fec­tion, for ex­am­ple, by giv­ing you space and by pay­ing at­ten­tion to you. They ex­press love by treat­ing you as they treat their horse friends: by be­ing calm, bond­ing, let­ting you into their space and some­times ini­ti­at­ing touch in the way they do with other horses.

We en­joy the way we feel around horses. We can feel en­veloped in the state of peace and calm, which is the horse’s In­ner Zero. We ride to merge with this body that is so much larger than ours. We want to feel that our heart is at one with his enor­mous heart. I be­lieve we all still have this need. It is deeper than a learn­ing tech­nique, deeper than an award-win­ning per­for­mance, deeper even than hav­ing fun. It is the need to com­mu­ni­cate love and af­fec­tion to your horse and to know---without a doubt---your horse of­fers love and af­fec­tion back to you.

Mother Na­ture en­dowed horses with a sense of hu­mor, cu­rios­ity and a huge “play drive” as if to com­pen­sate them for hav­ing to worry all the time about be­ing eaten. These are all ex­pres­sions most horse own­ers can rec­og­nize---for ex­am­ple, when a horse wig­gles his ears, he is demon­strat­ing his sense of hu­mor. Play­ful­ness and af­fec­tion are ex­pressed some­times via side­ways ears or big huff­ing breaths.

Then, there are com­mon de­fen­sive mes­sages: For in­stance, your horse might say, “No!” with a tail swish and a

Mother Na­ture en­dowed horses with a sense of hu­mor, cu­rios­ity and a huge “play drive” as if to com­pen­sate them for hav­ing to worry all the time about be­ing eaten.

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