BY JULIE GOODNIGHT WITH HEIDI NYLAND MELOCCO / PHOTOS BY HEIDI MELOCCO
How you can change
your body language to
connect with your horse.
Horses have extensive communica- tion skills through the language of postures and gestures. Of course, horses also communicate with sounds, but these are secondary to communicating with body language. Postures (how horses or humans position their bodies) demonstrate moods, intent and warnings. Horses are wired to see the slightest
change in movement and react quickly.
From the moment a horse is born, he pays attention to his mother’s postures:
the level of her head, the position of her ears and the direction of her movement.
She teaches the rules of the herd without making a sound.
In a large herd setting, horses’ postures change constantly as they scan the environment to see what may be coming. Horses may raise their heads to warn others
about a sound or movement. They may lower their heads to show that they are
subordinate and mean no threat.
To communicate well with your horse, you need to know what each of his
postures means—and to adapt your own posture to make sure you’re communicating what you intend.
POSTURE 1: Head Position
Any time the horse’s head goes up,
he is tensing; when the horse’s head
lowers, he’s usually relaxing. Picture
the horse’s head as the needle on a
gauge: if it goes up, it’s an alarm, and
the red line rises. If the needle goes
down, he’s relaxing.
When the horse is most alarmed,
aggressive or ready for flight, his
head extends as high as it can go.
When he’s most relaxed, his head is
all the way down—just as it is when
he eats or drinks. A horse only eats
and drinks when he’s in a relaxed
state. If there’s any tension at all,
he’ll stop eating or drinking.
When a dominant horse is irritated
by another horse, he’ll bare his teeth
and “snake” his neck at the offender.
to see what may