Horse Listener

There’s been a lot of study in recent years along the lines of low stress livestock handling.  Temple Grandin has been a great resource in this area.  We’ve learned to interpret cow behaviours and how to use them to move cattle in the field and in the pen and chute so that we can treat disease and perform management practices such as ear tagging, loading in trailers, vaccination, etc.  

Meanwhile, horse training has seen a veritable revolution and an evolution from jerk, whip, and spur to the horse whisperers of the late twentieth century.  I am ever amazed by the ingenuity of mankind in the art of manipulating animals to do our will (to say nothing of the ability of politicians to manipulate our vote!).

Of course these arts depend primarily on mammalian psychology.  And one of the most important aspects of that is the ability to “listen,” but “listening” to a non verbal animal.  So you “listen” with your eyes, with your body motions and your nose, and your memory, as well as your ears.  Over time you learn to interpret the backing of ears, the raising of the head, the snorting and blowing, the swishing of the tail, and finally the licking of lips, the chewing and swallowing motions of the jaw.  As you watch for these things, you deepen your understanding of horse training, you go beyond being a “horse whisperer” to being a “horse listener.”

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