As I reflect on what I have learned about horses over the past year, as well as previous years, one thing stands out in my mind. We hear a lot about horse – whispers, but not so much about horse listeners! Oh, I realize that horses don’t talk like we do, but they do express themselves. Aside from whinneys, grunts, and mutterings, their language is a lot more about facial expression, position, pressure, and movement. And if there’s one thing that has penetrated my awareness more than any other it’s that horses do not think like humans.
This seems to produce a lot of frustration amongst horseman. Statements like “I don’t know why he did that!“ Or questions like “Why won’t he do what I want him to do?” are far too frequent. We humans seem to feel like our way of looking at things is the only way. Like my dad used to say “There’s your way, my way, and the Navy way!“ Or Spike Van Cleve’s statement “There’s the easy way, and there’s the hard way, and then there’s Dad’s way, and that makes the hard way look easy!“
I found that what works for me is to spend a lot of time in a somewhat confined area moving around with a horse that has no halter or rope attached to it. I guess some folks wold call it liberty work. It’s more like a conversation with a stranger. I try to see things his way and figure out how to get him to trust me. If I can ever get the trust built, then I might have a chance to introduce some cooperation.
Sometimes it reminds me of the old movies about space invaders, where the hero tries to communicate with alien beings. Heck, we can barely communicate with each other, even those who speak the same language. I can’t imagine how we would communicate with a being from another planet when we can’t even fathom how to communicate with another species on our own planet. Maybe it would be like trying to think how to communicate with a red eared mud-slider.