Updated: Jan 5, 2021
The keys to connection Vol: 2 The 3 A's Awareness, Acknowledgement & Attention.
Over a period of 65 million years horses have evolved to become extremely observant and are acutely aware of their environment...their lives depended on it. They have lateral and binocular vision, excellent memory, rotational ears for locating sound and superb athletic ability enabling a swift departure from attack.
Picture your horse grazing and something appears at the top of his paddock, he is immediately aware of it...acknowledges whether it is a potential threat, his attention is fixed on this situation, this all taking seconds.
His lateral vision allowed him to catch sight of the object at first, then he has stopped eating, his head is now up and he is using both eyes, his ears are directed straight towards it, his body firm and poised should he need to flee. He may flare his nostrils to breath in the scents around him, he may move his feet a little to seek a better angle. Body language displaying full attention.
What we see from the horse is a strong display of body language which everyone can see and identify.
As owners and trainers obtaining an understanding of body language and what each individual action means builds a picture of how the horse is feeling and what his intentions maybe. We must be aware of all the little nuances exhibited like ear movements, head direction, eyes shape, eye direction, neck position, body tension, leg positioning, nostril shape etc. From these -often fleeting - cues we can interpret whether the horse is tense or relaxed, attentive, or distracted excited or uninterested for example. The important thing for us is to recognise and learn micro expressions of body language to fully connect with horses and gain their complete trust.
The more we engage in learning and refining the more attuned to our horse we can become.
Equine language is predominantly visual and therefore horses are excellent visual interpreters, so imagine how much white noise they must learn to drown out when watching and learning from humans, especially if we are ignoring their body language. A tremendous amount of our movements around them are meaning less so it is easy to understand how they may become zoned out or switched off to us or confused and stressed out.
Intention plays a large part in how horses interpret human body language and shouldn't be overlooked.
See my blog: Intention: The Keys to Connection Vol: 3
When horses do become switched off or overly stressed and excitable the situation can be improved simply by letting your horse know you are present and are listening to them by reading their language can make all the difference to improving behaviour and connection. You may be surprised what a difference this will make to your horses awareness, acknowledgement, and attention.