Roger Thompson: Horsin’ Around 5-16-11
Fort Collins, Colo.
You all know how to greet and get along with people and have spent a lifetime learning how to read them. However, do you know how to read your horse? Do you know what they are thinking by just looking at them? You can understand your horse better if you spend some time trying to read them. I’m talking about reading the expression on their faces and the posture they take. It takes some time studying them but it will pay off in the end.
Pay attention to the eyes, ears, posture and attitude. These positions can tell us a lot about a horse’s attitude. We learned in the beginning that if the ears are laid back flat, foot raised, eyes moving anxiously, he is about to kick, bite, run or show displeasure with some physical action. It may be what you are doing or some other horse. Try to find out what is bothering him/her. Ask him questions like, “What’s the matter, flies bothering you,” etcetera. Of course he can’t understand you but it is the tone of your voice and the actions you take that will likely help you identify the reasons for his action. There are always reasons, sometimes we will never know but we can be more considerate on those days.
All horses listen to us even though they may not understand exactly what we are saying it is the soothing sound of our voice. Whether it is to brush or saddle him, precede all action around horses with your voice. Years of experience, by experts, with horses indicate the value of talking to the horse. Of course we have all heard of the “Horse Whisperer,” men who control or subdue fearful horses by whispering to them. Of course Hollywood made a big show about the Horse Whisperer but there are many true stories of incredible reactions of horses to the human voice. It is your best tool in training and managing horses.
Your voice could save your life some time if used with discretion and tact. Loud, shrill, demanding tones have little value in the education of the horse or as a deterrent to a frightened animal. I am guilty of this type of voice command with my own horses. I tend to use my sergeant voice I learned in the military which gets the attention of my kids and most of my horses. But for my young filly, it tends to threaten her and if she is already afraid, it sends her into more fear. I will have to work on that to calm her down.
I have trained my older gelding to lead by holding a length of main just behind the ears, but this is not a good way to lead a horse to control him and some times he will pull away from me and go off to do his own thing, a halter and lead rope are best.
Prior to his retirement, Roger Thompson was a CHA certified instructor of advanced Western horsemanship and beginning English riding.
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