Beyond Body Language: Learning to listen

Happy New Year!

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m looking forward to 2018. It just feels like it’s going to be a great year. I’m posting Body Language Monday a day early. It gets to be the last official post of 2017! And, New Year’s Day marks the launch of the first online course for the year – the topic is Body Language. We’re going to talk about how our horses interpret OUR body language. When we learn to understand what they are telling us about how we make our requests they become our best coaches!

Here’s one of my favorite horse coaching human stories.

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This image is one of my favorites from the summer I spent diving deep into learning to listen to my horses.

The bay horse on the left is Rio.  He’s the horse I had decided to spend time with that day.  He had some issues in his right front that I thought had to do with his shoulder.  My intention was to do body work on him.

The chestnut on the right is Kastani.  The entire time I was working with Rio’s shoulder Kastani stood behind me.  He just would NOT leave me alone.  At first he stood quietly behind me, breathing on my back between my shoulder blades.  Jack, the palomino in front, stood at a respectful distance practicing his supportive grounding, deep breathing.  How sweet, they are being so supportive of this work I’m doing with Rio.

Pretty soon Kastani starts poking me in the back with his nose.  Shrugging my shoulders while trying to maintain my focus on Rio doesn’t phase him.  Now he’s nibbling on the rim of my hat.   When I ignore that he starts tugging on the rim of my hat.  Exasperated I turned to face him.  “What!? What do you want? Can’t you see I’m trying to work on Rio?”

Undaunted, he ever so gently nudged me into the position you see me in in the photo.  The back side of my heart resting against Rio’s body.  The moment I let myself lean into Rio and rest there Kastani dropped his head, took a deep breath and just stayed that way.  I found myself enveloped in this nurturing heap of horse love.  I’ve never felt anything like it.

This was an exercise I’d learned in a workshop some years prior.  The idea is to stand or sit back to back with another person and lean into each other.  It’s meant to give you the felt sensation that someone has your back – you are supported and it’s safe to open your heart.  It was so clear that that’s what Kastani wanted me to do with Rio.  Something I would not have thought of on my own!

What a gift from Kastani – to get me to connect with Rio in this way and to accept some love, support and nurturing from them.  I’ve always been a giver to horses and see it as my job to be there for them and take care of their needs.  It never occurred to me that they might want to reciprocate and offer me some care in return.

It would have been all too easy to halter Rio and take him somewhere where we wouldn’t be bothered, or to chase Kastani off.  The commitment I had in place that summer was to listen, to try to understand what they wanted instead of reflexively following my own agenda.  What gifts they gave me for taking that time!

Horses are gifted communicators who often have great ideas for things we can do together.  That summer they taught me how to be still and listen deeply.  Then they taught me how to stay quiet on the inside even when we are in motion together.  I don’t think there is any human coach out there who could have taught me what they taught me when I stopped to consider their side of the conversation.

What is your horse telling you?

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FREE Introduction to Body Language Online Mini Course:  January 1-12, 2018

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4 thoughts on “Beyond Body Language: Learning to listen

    • All the time Marion, at least I did. I had a hard time letting go of the notion that I didn’t want to take anything from them because so much had already been taken by humans. Hazard of working with rescue horses I suppose. Boy did they teach me!

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  1. This is beautiful. Thanks for sharing. Oh, if I could only make myself slow down, be quiet and listen! I want to, I really do want to, but I know I am fighting so many years of hurry up and get this done right now mentality. Thank for reminding me – again – of what I need to do.

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    • Thank you Celeste. I have faith in you, having come from the same place. You have no idea how hard it was to just stop that summer and let the horses take the lead. What a struggle. So glad I took the leap though.

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