Horses, as we know, communicate with us primarily through body language. They can tell us all kinds of things if we learn to listen, feel and observe. Sometimes they let us know in obvious ways.
Take Classy here. This is a photo I took of her the day she arrived for some rehabilitation work. She’s curious and interested in looking at me holding the camera, but she is unable to turn her head and neck comfortably. She’s telling me, by how she stands and turns her head that she has some problems in her neck and shoulders, maybe even upper back. She’s also telling me she’s reasonable trusting, curious and friendly.
I can tell these things without ever laying a hand on her or asking her to move. Her posture, the way she stands, the way she looks at me or doesn’t, all these things and more tell a story that informs me about how to approach doing things with her.
If I didn’t pay attention to these more obvious signs I might decide to just put her to work, but then I’d meet resistance that has nothing to do with her being disobedient and everything to do with her being uncomfortable. When we educate our eyes so that we notice this kind of body language, we save ourselves and our horses a great deal of trouble.
Here she is a few weeks later after appropriate care to alleviate the stress and tension in her neck and shoulders. What do you notice that’s different?
This will be the first in a series of short image-based posts about body language, which is one of my most favorite topics!