A Horse, of Course
with Don Blazer
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Can You Hear Me Now?
Anytime and every time a horse fails to perform, don't blame the horse, blame the handler!
When things go wrong, what we have is a failure to communicate.
Horsemanship is nothing more than "communication"! And it is a two-way process…there is delivery and there is reception.
Horse and handler both send and receive.
Everything a horse will be asked to do-walk, trot, canter, jump, spin, stop, side pass, back, run, change leads, collect-he can do from the time he is four hours old. No one teaches him to do it; it is his nature.
If a horse's maneuvers are natural (yes, he learns to do them while carrying weight, which is not natural) then he isn't trained to perform; he performs in response to a request.
Since the handler is going to be making the request, then the handler is responsible for teaching "horsemanship" language, and for learning "horse" language.
The horse is never to blame for not knowing what to do or how to do it. The handler is always to blame if the horse doesn't understand what is being asked. And the handler is always to blame if the horse is sending a message which is not understood. (It's up to you to learn what horses are saying.)
The human is supposedly of superior intelligence. (Horses, and others, may have a strong argument against that assumption). So why is it the human always expects the horse to understand the message? Logic would conclude that on occasion the messenger is going to louse up the message.
Researchers estimate the horse's vocabulary at 47 basic messages with 30 variations of inflections, or a total of 1,410 communicative expressions.
The horse uses his eyes, ears, nostrils, tail, muscles and voice to deliver his messages.
A horse's nostrils quiver, expand and contract to register interest, suspicion, fear or temper.
A horse's tail is an indicator of his health or state of mind. To show elation, the tail is held nearly parallel to the spine. Exhaustion is signaled by a quivering tail and a switching tail indicates fear or pain. If the horse clamps the tail down tightly, he is being asked to approach something that terrifies him.
Experts say if a stallion is used exclusively for breeding his vocabulary is limited to enthusiastic and noisy outburst at the sight of a mare. However, if the stallion is put to work and placed in varied situations, his vocabulary usually expands rapidly.
A stallion used under saddle seems to have more winning ways with broodmares as a result of his enlarged vocabulary. (That apparently holds true for humans too, as the macho man may initially be exciting to women, but generally loses out to the more stable smooth talker.)
It has been proven that when a horse realizes you are trying to understand what he or she is saying to you, the horse's vocabulary will increase, sometimes double. The horse will make a genuine effort to communicate with you.
Since the horse will try to communicate with you, it is also true the horse will better understand what you are trying to say to him.
The horse can tell you what he or she is thinking.
The best horsemen listen.
A horse, once he learns the language of cues, can understand what you are requesting.
Therefore, the best horsemen are first the best teachers of language expressed in cues, and by extension become the masters of horsemanship.
Are you getting the message? Or are we experiencing a failure to communicate?