Horses Horses Horses! » Smart Horses http://equismarts.com For the love of horses Sat, 04 Aug 2012 03:29:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.1 Talking to horses in the round pen http://equismarts.com/2012/08/01/talking-to-horses-in-the-round-pen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=talking-to-horses-in-the-round-pen http://equismarts.com/2012/08/01/talking-to-horses-in-the-round-pen/#comments Thu, 02 Aug 2012 00:43:53 +0000 Kaki http://equismarts.com/?p=244 Talking to horses might be possible. The round pen is a wonderful place to try your hand at talking to horses.  It is a place where we can hold a sort of body language dialog that the horse understands, and gives the horse the ability to try to reach us as well.   From our human... Continue Reading »

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Talking to horses might be possible.

The round pen is a wonderful place to try your hand at talking to horses.  It is a place where we can hold a sort of body language dialog that the horse understands, and gives the horse the ability to try to reach us as well.   From our human standpoint, the dialog begins with two simple ideas: move… and stop.  As simple as these two ideas are, our ability to communicate with freely moving horses around these two ideas is magical.

Most horses like to move.  Getting them to move requires only a little encouragement.  We can get horses to move outside the round ring as well, but on the outside, a loose horse can gallop off, leaving us in their dust, thereby ending “the conversation”.   A round pen is shaped in a circle, so that the horse can run but never leave.  Eventually, even the most athletic or scared horse trotting around the circle is ready to try to communicate with us, so that they can stop.   Talking to horses works best when horses want to listen, but from the horse’s point of view we have to be listening too – with our eyes.  If I can get a horse to start trotting around a round pen, and then wait, eventually the horse will use its body to try to communicate with me that it wants to stop.  The horse might do something very subtle, like turn an ear toward me.  It might do something more obvious – lick its lips.  It might even try something dramatic, dropping its head to the ground while it is still trotting around, as if it is sniffing the earth. None of these body cues are words, and yet I believe that all of them are the horse’s attempts to talk with me.  Can I communicate back to the horse?  As crazy as it sounds, if I take several big steps backward from a trotting horse that has dropped its head to the ground and licked its lips, it will usually stop in its tracks.  It is magical!  Why does this work?  I don’t know – my mental model is of a force-field.  When I am close to the horse, my body’s force-field pushes on the horse. Squaring my shoulders, or waving my arms or yelling all increase the strength of the force-field.  When I back up, the pressure goes away, allowing the horse to relax.  I wonder if this would work with a dog or a cat?

Pressure on to move.  Licking lips to understand. Pressure off to stop.  We will together have developed the beginnings of a way to communicate.  Talking to horses might not be impossible after all.

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Talk to Horses-Can we? http://equismarts.com/2012/08/01/talk-to-horses-can-we/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=talk-to-horses-can-we http://equismarts.com/2012/08/01/talk-to-horses-can-we/#comments Wed, 01 Aug 2012 18:40:46 +0000 Kaki http://equismarts.com/?p=237 Is it Possible to Talk to horses? When I was little I worshipped a movie hero who could talk to horses and other animals.  I desperately wanted to do the same.  I wanted to be Dr. Dolittle.  I would sit for hours with little scraps of bread in my open palm, held open on the ground, trying... Continue Reading »

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Communication happens like an invisible bridge between man and horse. Both horses and humans can feel the connection.

Is it Possible to Talk to horses?

When I was little I worshipped a movie hero who could talk to horses and other animals.  I desperately wanted to do the same.  I wanted to be Dr. Dolittle.  I would sit for hours with little scraps of bread in my open palm, held open on the ground, trying to entice some local squirrel or chipmonk to come and eat out of my hand.  Once or twice one actually did grab the bread from my fingers.  While not a resounding success, I felt that I was on my way to skipping in Dr. Dolittle’s footsteps.  (I also tried to entice all of our neighborhood’s cats, but never brought along any catfood, and they were wiser than to let a child near them.)  As I grew older my life grew busier, we moved to a more urban setting, and I forgot about my career plans to become an animal communicator.  I fell far from my dream.  As a young adult I didn’t even have a dog.

Then a miracle happened – my family moved to a ranch.  I now run a business that involves horses.  I love working with, training, and just hanging out with horses.  It has given me the time, and indeed, required me to look at horses.  I am finding that, with just a little encouragement, many horses do their part to bridge the grand canyon-size gap in horse-human communication.  We speak our words to them, which they most likely do not understand. Most horses don’t seem to notice their own name.  But as we speak we move our hands around, we speak softly or loudly, fast or slowly, we lean in our out, maybe we raise our eyebrows or tense the muscles around the corners of our mouths.  Our bodies give off a thousand little clues about our mood and our intentions.  I think horses pay attention to all of these other “communications” that happen while we talk away.  For their part, horses try to communicate back.  They lean in or out, and they look at us or away.  Their ears flick toward us, fix on us, point outward, or pin back against their necks.  Sometimes horses hold their head up away from us, but other times they drop their heads far down to the level of our legs.  All of these changes might be their own communications back toward us.  We just need to listen with more than our ears.

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Horse herd dynamics. Horses “decide” to play together during a sudden rainstorm. http://equismarts.com/2012/07/17/horse-herd-dynamics-and-horse-consensus/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=horse-herd-dynamics-and-horse-consensus http://equismarts.com/2012/07/17/horse-herd-dynamics-and-horse-consensus/#comments Tue, 17 Jul 2012 17:03:01 +0000 kennerranch http://equismarts.com/weblog/?p=115 Do horses individually think in horse herd dynamics? We are also curious about whether horses “thought” about anything other then a flake of hay.  More than that, we were interested in what it means to think when you are a horse.  Do they scheme, plan, organize, or engage in any of those more complex thinking... Continue Reading »

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Do horses individually think in horse herd dynamics?

We are also curious about whether horses “thought” about anything other then a flake of hay.  More than that, we were interested in what it means to think when you are a horse.  Do they scheme, plan, organize, or engage in any of those more complex thinking & communication activities?  Or, do horses act as individuals when it comes to horse herd dynamics.

We couldn’t really know.  Horse herd dynamics are complicated.  But we did see the strangest thing not too long ago when it started to rain after a long dry spell.

, in a somewhat organized fashion, left the back pasture, wandered (en masse) down to the arena, and proceeded to let loose.  Mind you, this is no straight forward effort.  The entrance to the arena, though it adjoins the back pasture, does not benefit from a direct connection.  The horses had to stop what they were doing (eating), group up, and rapidly wander down to the arena in order to cut loose as the pictures here show.  Horse herd dynamics here indeed.  Mind you, it had just began to rain when they all magically arrived within the arena.  They showed up in the arena very rapidly.

We were so surprised by the size and location of this carefree exhibition that we pulled the camera out to capture it.

It is not uncommon for cooler temperatures and a little rain to spin the horses up.  But they chose the arena for this playfulness.  Why? Sure, the footing is softer.  But it really seems they had to be premeditated and organized to do it the way they did.  They came and let loose together.

They had to first “think” that they wanted to run about as the rain begun to fall.  Then, it seems, one of the horses had to say to the others, “hey fellers, if we’re going to jump and kick about, it would make a lot more sense to do in the arena.  The ground is much softer there.  And Wally, you can use the mud there to make a filthy spectacle of your yourself.  What do you think? Last one there is a rotten egg!”

Many horse owners will give their horses credit for being very perceptive.  But thinking … that’s a stretch.  We however, do see some of our horses do the strangest things. I do not want to get caught assuming these critters are “dumb” just because they don’t verbalize like people do.  I mean really. They may return the favor to me and assume I’m dumb just because I won’t shut up and listen.

So, I listen and observe.

 

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Do horses remember you? Yes, I think they really do. http://equismarts.com/2012/07/02/do-horses-remember-you/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=do-horses-remember-you http://equismarts.com/2012/07/02/do-horses-remember-you/#comments Mon, 02 Jul 2012 18:19:39 +0000 Heather http://equismarts.com/weblog/?p=24 Do horses remember you? Do horses think?  Do they remember us?  Just what do they think about and what do they remember?  I think that they remember more than we imagine they do. Horses have huge hearts. We ask them to do our bidding and expect them to participate in our own desires.  We establish relationships with... Continue Reading »

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Do horses remember you?  They often do.

The KENNER Ranch horse Tess peering around a tree as I photographed her.

Do horses remember you?

Do horses think?  Do they remember us?  Just what do they think about and what do they remember?  I think that they remember more than we imagine they do.

Horses have huge hearts. We ask them to do our bidding and expect them to participate in our own desires.  We establish relationships with them that can be dynamic and rewarding.  But do they last?  Do horses remember you?

Even after years off from work, a horse will still remember the cue to canter or the meaning of “whoa”.  They might need to be reminded, but the knowledge is there. But do they remember specific people after a long absence?

I had been back in horses for a year when a friend mentioned to me that she had seen my old horse for sale at a barn a few hours away.  Ziggy and I had formed quite a successful partnership in my teens.  He had been a best friend to me all through high school.  The bond had been there, but I did not know whether it had survived in the ensuing years.  My father and I set off the next day to visit our old buddy.

Walking down the barn aisle, I was disappointed not to see his familiar face looking out the barn door with eyes open and eager to greet a passerby.  Looking into the stall, I could see his dark, familiar shape in the dim light.  His head hung low like a three day old helium balloon.  When I softly called his name, he slowly turned his head and took a step towards the doorway.  He extended his head over the stall guard for a pat.  I reached out and petted his soft nose.  Although the shape was familiar, the vestiges of time had taken its toll. His body was skinny and his coat was greying and splotchy with a fungal infection, which left bare spots on a dull coat.

As I petted him, he raised his head to my shoulder and blew a warm breath across my neck.  Suddenly, he began to nuzzle his nose against my ear, twirling my hair against my cheek.  Amidst happy tears and laughter, he gave me a greeting like the old days.  Quick and deliberate he nipped me purposefully on the arm.  It was clear he was happy to see me, but I was chastened for being gone so long.

As I started to walk away down the barn aisle to talk to the trainer, we heard a loud snap.  Turning around, I saw Ziggy standing three feet out of his stall as though it had taken every ounce of energy to get there. His body looked spent, but the splintered wood was a testament to his determination.  He had broken through the stall gate with his shoulders in an attempt to follow us.

When I looked into his eyes, the message was clear: You had better take me with you.  You left me behind once before, you aren’t doing it again.  For me, the question whether Ziggy would remember me after so many years was answered. Horses do remember. The imprint they make upon our lives is returned in kind. As I put on his halter and went to talk to the man about a horse, I knew I would be bringing home an old friend.

 

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Are horses smart? Some horses think before they act! http://equismarts.com/2012/07/02/are-horses-smart-a-story-about-dancer/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=are-horses-smart-a-story-about-dancer http://equismarts.com/2012/07/02/are-horses-smart-a-story-about-dancer/#comments Mon, 02 Jul 2012 04:50:57 +0000 Kaki http://equismarts.com/weblog/?p=11 Are horses smart?  Maybe.  I think sometimes clever. Horses clearly think before they act.  Here is a recent example: It is summer now on the Ranch, and we have a bumper crop of rattlesnakes this year.  I was riding a young red roan quarter horse, Dancer, through the long dry grass of our meadow at a peaceful walk,... Continue Reading »

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Are horses smart?  Maybe.  I think sometimes clever.
Are horses Smart?  Dancer is one of the KENNER Ranch's cleverest.

Are horses Smart? Dancer is one of the KENNER Ranch’s cleverest.

Horses clearly think before they act.  Here is a recent example:

It is summer now on the , and we have a bumper crop of rattlesnakes this year.  I was riding a young red roan quarter horse, Dancer, through the long dry grass of our meadow at a peaceful walk, just the other day.   Suddenly, both he and I heard the faint but unmistakable rainstick sound of a rattlesnake.  It didn’t sound close, but rather a few dozen feet up the trail and off to the right.  I am not sure that the snake was even rattling at us.   It didn’t sound aggressive.  The sound came and went, as if the snake’s tail was simply rattling with its movement as it slithered along.  Nonetheless, Dancer’s head shot up and he stopped about as abruptly as a horse can plant its feet on the ground.   His ears zinged toward the rattling sound in the grass up ahead.  I couldn’t see the snake; it wasn’t on the trail itself.  I asked Dancer to walk forward, thinking that we could maybe walk along the trail and pass quietly by it, but his horse smarts warned him against moving anywhere near that rattling.  I then asked Dancer to turn off of the trail to the left, to walk around.  He nixed that idea too.  I sat on him, unable to move either forward or off to the left, listening to the on-again off-again rattle, and wondering just what I should do.  Finally,  I thought to myself, “Dang-it Dancer, I don’t want to put MY feet on the ground, but I guess now I’ve got too!”  I swung my leg over, and stepped down onto the trail next to my horse.  Slowly, carefully  I stepped off the trail and into the grass away from the direction of the snake. Tall grass.  Thick grass.  Ooooh, it was nerve wracking.  Are horses smart?  Hmmm.  Step by step, I started walking, making a big semi-circle around the rattling sound.  Each footfall was as carefully placed as you can imagine.  As soon as I stepped off of the trail, I felt something that made me smile, in spite of the tall grass and the hidden rattler.  A little warm breathe wafted onto my lower back, and I somehow felt the feather light presence of Dancer’s head.  It was so close behind me that sunlight probably couldn’t have sqeaked through.  He didn’t bump me at all, but as I took each wary step forward, he took a step right behind me.  I think that he was walking right in my footsteps.  He carefully shadowed me all through the long grass, until we re-connected with the dirt path, about a hundred feet up the trail.  Back on the path, and now downtrail from the rattler in the grass, I stopped and patted him on his neck for trusting me enough to walk through the grass behind me, and got back on.

Did Dancer think about the rattler in the grass, and where he should put his feet? I don”t know, but I do know that his reaction endeared him to me even more.  I will remember his warm presence at my back for a long time.  Are horses smart?  Oh what a smart  and endearing horse!

 

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