Horse Whispering: Myth, Magic or Mystery?
A study of the great Horse Whisperers, such as Monty Roberts, Buck Brannaman and Tom Dorrance might lead you to believe that it takes very special skills to “talk to horses”.
But, in reality, it is possible for anyone to develop the skills necessary to communicate with our equine friends. When training students at Myerscough Equine College I found myself liking “talking to horses” to learning a new language such as Spanish or French. It is possible to travel through either Spain or France without speaking a word of either language, but you will never gain the in-depth knowledge of the country and its people that use of their own language in conversations will give you.
To really enjoy a fulfilling and equal relationship with your horse, and experience the depth of feeling and successs that partnership brings, it is essential to communicate with your horse in his own language. This language is largely non-verbal and relies on your body language and empathy. Taking the time to learn how your horse thinks and working with his nature will develop a confident and responsive horse willing to work with you to achieve your goals.
Horses are very forgiving, their main aim is to please you and they will try their hardest to understand exactly what it is you are asking. It is important when working with your horse to be honest, fair, firm and consistent.
Your session with your horse begins before you even reach the yard gate. How are you feeling today? Are you in a rush? Are you happy? Did you sleep well or are you tired and snappy? Your horse will whinney as you reach the gate, expecting the happy partner he worked with the day before, but he will soon know if you are not “in the moment”, and will adjust his own reactions to mirror yours.
How often have you said “my horse was in a foul mood this morning, just wouldn’t stand still”. I did it myself just this morning. I was already thinking ahead to the rest of my day before I even opened the stable door and Berry wouldn’t stand quietly to have his rug done up, anxious to get on and out into the field – and on with the rest of his day!
Whenever I recognise that I am not present I always take a deep breath, a few moments stillness, and re-focus on what is right in front of me. We are not perfect, our lives are busy and stressful, but it is important to take the time it takes when working with and caring for our equine friends. This time will be repaid many times over in those little whinneys, less spooking, better dressage results, fewer refusals and a much happier and relaxed yard.
So, Horse Whispering is not a myth and its not magic, but maybe it remains a little myserious? Over the following weeks we will look at the “language of the horse” and attempt to de-mystify it.
“Gentle in what you do, firm in how you do it” – Buck Brannaman