Talking With Horses

July 5, 2016

Years ago, before others started taking over all the jobs I once did by myself, I’d sometimes spend the evening writing a blog. The writings were nothing more than a few pages of deep thoughts about horses, love and the value of coffee along with an occasional rave about man’s inhumanity to animals. Those stories were my relief valve to a very stressful life.

Things have changed since then. We have some highly qualified folks working with us, folks who are probably far more capable than I was back at the beginning. Knowing that Habitat for Horses is in good hands I’m able to relax a bit, which is a wise thing to do, according to the doctors.

“You used to write so well,” a few people have said. Maybe they’re just trying to boost my ego which, according to others, really doesn’t need to be boosted. But I do enjoy writing, so I am reclaiming this small portion of the internet and start once again to ponder deep thoughts and rave at injustice.

Join me, if you will. It makes it worthwhile to know that I have touched someone.

Let’s start by talking about talking with horses.

There is no basis in fact for the following, other than a very wise old man who taught me how to talk with horses. He was the picture of the old West, a tobacco-chewing, spittin’ old cuss who knew more about horses than anyone else I’ve known This was back when I was a teenager, so naturally I knew everything. But he knew I didn’t, which frustrated the heck out of me, and there were many an afternoon he’d want me sit and listen to his horse stories.

At first I resisted, but as he talked, I found out about another world that I never knew existed. I’d give anything to go back again, now that I’m old enough to know that I don’t know anything. Sometimes, when you find out that you really want to learn, all the teachers have passed on.

Horses don’t speak English, he told me. You can talk to a horse all day and he’ll never grasp the concept of psychoanalytical expressionism. But if you draw an image in your mind and send it to the horse, he’ll see it in his mind. If you’re very, very quiet, and if you clear your mind completely, you can see the horse’s thoughts as images in your mind. “That’s the way to communicate with your horse,” the old man said. “In fact, that’s the only way.”

Let’s just say that you need to clean your horse’s hoof, something you do all the time. The only thing different is that you just saw your truck tire is flat, your back is hurting, and your best friend just yelled at you. You grab that hoof and jerk it up. Your horse pulls that hoof away and stomps it down. You grab it again., he jerks it again and your horse turns and nips your jeans. By this time, you’re fuming, red-faced and ready to spit fire.

It’s at that point we should realize that we are just not communicating. Far too many people respond by thinking they need to teach the horse a lesson by slapping him hard on his rump, which does nothing more than teaching fear. If you want a relationship with your horse, fear is the polar opposite feeling your horse should have for you.

Any good horse person knows that it’s time to calm down and do it right to build a relationship based on trust and respect. Of course, we are going to do the latter. We’d never let our anger get in the way of an opportunity to build a better relationship, right?

Here’s the magic part, the part the old man taught me: Stop the internal conversation. If you’re talking inside your head, the horse can’t understand. Make an image of him lifting his foot for you. Make it feel good, relaxing. See it happen as your hand goes down his leg. Now ask him, in pictures, to do it for you.

If he doesn’t, find out what’s wrong. Clear your mind and let the horse’s image come to you. As it does, grasp the feeling that comes with it. Is it pain? Fear? Excitement? There is a reason for his resistance and that reason is available to you if you let yourself see and feel as the horse sees and feels.

In other words, become like the horse.

IMG_0860There is a fine line between anthropomorphizing and communicating with animals. You must keep yourself out of it if you are to hear what a horse is saying. Our mental filters can destroy everything and lead us down a false path if we’re not careful. Horses don’t know about jobs, bad marriages, and delinquent kids. Concepts of money and bad hair days are not part of their world, but I constantly see people throwing those filters into what they think their horses are saying.

There is no proof, but horse people know that horses understand love and hate, fear and respect, pain and loneliness, and other human emotions. To hear a horse talk about those things, you must put aside your emotions. It’s done through images, pictures drawn upon a blank screen within your mind. Listen to the horse within you. Become one with the horse.

It all makes sense, doesn’t it? When the feeling of calm surrounds you, it surrounds your horse as well. You work as one. You know, your horse knows, because you each see the pictures of the other.

Way back then, back in the days of my youth, I stopped seeing horses as “them.” I started understanding, communicating and learning from the horses instead of teaching.

“Horses want to do whatever it is you want them to do,” the old man said. “There’s only two reasons they don’t. The first is trying to understand what it is you want and the second is overcoming fear.”

From trailer training to overcoming the fear of mailboxes, you can use mental imaging, or you can use fear. Far too many would raise a whip as a sign of dominion over the beast. Far too few use their brain to provide a path to understanding, respect and love.

If we could take that lesson and apply it to our own lives, how much better our world would be.

Jerry Finch

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Author: Jerry Finch

President and Head Stall Cleaner of Habitat for Horses, a non-profit equine sanctuary

3 thoughts on “Talking With Horses”

  1. Not only horses, but all critters, wild or domesticated, communicate–the language is mental. Even plants communicate. Like you said, Jerry, we have to keep our ego out of the picture. Like your writing very much.

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