2018 Series 3

Body Language Fundamentals

Week 4:  When our horses can't hear us


May 21 - 27, 2018

course content for week 4:

When our horses can't hear us

Welcome to week 4!

Introduction to week 4

All of the wonderful capacity for mutual dialogue hinges on our horses feeling as though they have permission to communicate with us AND the time to say what they need to say without being interrupted.  If you think about the vast majority of training methods out there, horses are not given any opportunity to speak.  Their opinion is not wanted. They are expected to ‘keep their mouths shut’ and do the job we ask.

Since most horses aren’t used to being allowed to speak, one of the biggest challenges we’ll face when we first start to interact this way is that our horse has learned well how to keep his opinions to himself - so well he won’t say a word.  These horses may appear to have nothing at all to say. In reality, they just need the time and space to realize we are listening now and are prepared to wait as long as necessary to give them a voice. 

On the other end of the spectrum is the horse who anticipates and gets antsy and worried for fear of being punished if they don’t get the right answer.  They may do all kinds of crazy things to express their anxiety. Make no mistake, if we pause and give them room to think it may feel threatening to them.  They’ll be looking for the right answer. 

Either way, give them the time and space to find their voice.  Once they do, be prepared to let them talk for as long as they need to in order to feel heard.  It can feel like long – run on sentences that never end.  Body language signals don’t happen in isolation, they happen in sometimes rapid-fire sequences. Our goal is to wait for our horse to finish their sentence before we speak.

A great many things might get in the way of our horse being able to respond accurately to our body language. This becomes problematic when we are learning. How do we know if the inaccurate response originates with a lack of clarity in us, or if it’s something going on with them?

I look forward to seeing where our explorations take us this week!

Welcome to week 4 video:


Course Content for Week 4:

when our horses can't hear us


Links to PDF Documents for week 4:

PDF:  When Our Horses Can't Hear Us

Audio Transcript:

A conversation with sundance

A conversation with Gin

video demonstrations:

Here is the second session I filmed with Kastani and I. I actually intended to film yesterday but somehow the camera didn't record the session. So, this is the third session in a series of recordings demonstrating how things might progress from session to session.

Yesterday and the the first session haltering took what felt like the longest time. Today he was quite willing and it only took a few moments for him to offer to take the halter. Yesterday we did a lot of work on his neck and shoulders and a bit with his postural reflexes.

I've found since last year that he doesn't want to go left. Yesterday I felt a strong sense that it had to to with his early training - back in the days when he and I would butt heads about things. It's possibly a pattern that turned into something that is structural or it might have been structural all along.

I'm working with him to help him find his balance and change the pattern around going left.

My ultimate goal is to ride him out on some trails this summer. I'll need him comfortable with contact and taking direction if we are going to do that safely. We at least need to feel good about negotiating with each other!

haltering kastani over 5 sessions:

Here you'll find all the clips of me haltering Kastani between May 18 and 25. What I'd like you to notice is that it took me nearly 8 minutes to get to the point where Kastani offered to put his head in the halter on the first day and less than a minute and a half by the 5th day. Also notice how he reacts post haltering. On the first few days he goes right back to eating and by the 5th day he's right with me, and he's on pasture.

What I hope you'll take away from this is how the process of haltering is, in fact the beginning of our session with our horses. It doesn't start once we get to the arena it starts when we go out to get them. This is the interaction that sets the tone for the rest of the session. I can either let him know I'm listening or that I'm not. He'll respond accordingly for the rest of the session.

I love the first image on the video below. Kastani looks so skeptical. I'm so glad that's changing.

Please pay close attention to my body language, posture and tone and his responses to me. This is a conversation in action. It's not always perfect. Sometimes I have to be willing to experiment to figure out what's going to work for us. We're feeling each other out and developing our unique language with one another.

May 25: Live Chat on Facebook

Topics covered:

1. The distinction between intention and tone and how to make intention and tone match.
2. How do I negotiate with my horse when they are apparently saying 'no' or when they are otherwise engaged - say eating - without force?
3. How do I do practical things like put fly spray on or go for a ride and apply these ideas? ie - things that have to be done or things that might be stressful.