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Use Your Body Not Your Voice

Do you talk to your horse?

Do you talk to him while you are riding or doing Ground Skills?

Did you also know that using verbal language can actually mask the level of partnership that we can share with horses?


If your words come out verbally instead of visually, the potential of heightened awareness of being able to 'speak horse' will actually minimize your efforts of being the best partner you can be with your horse.

Horses are visual and sensory thinkers…they are not verbal animals. Humans, on the other hand, are very verbal and have a natural ability to express themselves that way. 

For instance, effective interpersonal communication is essential in the workplace, in social situations, and at home. It plays a key role in bringing people together, feeling connected, solving conflicts, and expressing our feelings. 

If we have strong verbal communication skills, we are more likely to experience success in many areas of our lives. Verbal communication is so important that we sometimes judge others in our society who don’t have strong verbal skills or who may have uncomfortable overt verbal practices as inferior in some way or are lacking intelligence. 

This got me thinking about how this strong verbal aptitude that we possess as humans, actually handicaps our understanding of how horses think and communicate.

For instance, if you know a little bit about those that are affected by specific forms of autism, you will know that they aren't always able to use verbal language in the same capacity as most people. They instead, categorize things and events through visual pictures and senses. 

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..back up please...

This is extraordinarily similar to horses. Horses are visual thinkers and associative learners!  

If you would like to read more about the topic of how animals see their world, I would highly recommend reading some of the works by Temple Grandin, who is autistic, and who has written many books on the way animals think.

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Now if you have been around me long enough, you know how much I talk about shutting down the auditory language with horses and how important this is to the connection with them.  I feel strongly about not verbally talking to horses as it obstructs the practice of using our body, for the exact same reasons as was just pointed out. Horses are visual thinkers and associative learners!  you will often hear me say to students" Don't talk!"

..slow down please...

Now, this does not mean that I never talk to my horses because I do. But those are very special situations when I am spending undemanding time with them or when not in a focused conversation about a particular kind of exercise that I am teaching him. I need my full focus on what my body is saying so that we both can get in tune with each other's energies.

Try changing your coat from the one that you usually wear when you are with your horse, one that is longer, bulkier, or makes a different sound and watch for a subtle.."Is that you?" reaction or for more sensitive horses, you may see them take flight for a second or two. You look different and the visual association may mean "Friend or Foe"

When you use verbal language you are not fully using the capacity of your body as the main tool for communication. It is like you are dividing its effectiveness and for horses, it just doesn't compute.

The following talk by Temple Grandin may pique your interest in her advocacy on this topic. It is worth a watch and then I would love to hear what your opinion is on this topic! And the next time you say to your horse TAROTTTTTTTTT!.. I bet you are saying it in your body.  :-) 

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