I was in a drugstore the other day and a man asked me “Excuse me, I’m looking for a stick. Do you know where I can find one?” Hundreds of different types of sticks ran through my head all at once. It was like spinning a card rolodex very quickly until it stopped on its own. I must have still looked very confused. He said “My wife said to get a stick. You know, the thing she uses to clean under her nails? I don’t know what that is.” Ohhhhhh….. yes, then I understood.
I responded with “you’re looking for a 1/8” wood dowel about 4 or 5 inches long cut at a 45 degree angle at one end and sharpened to a dull point on the other.” And he says “Oh, why didn’t she say that?” A few minutes later he passed me, held up his sticks and smiled broadly. Victory.
Good communication really just has a lot to do with understanding who you are talking to. This takes time on our parts to see through others eyes and their perception of the world around them. When a person assumes the world is only the way they see it, misunderstandings, negative feelings, and mistakes are the result.
I hear about this type of perception over and over with horses. “My horse is just naughty and doesn’t want to work.” “He bucked me off just because he doesn’t like me.” “I give my horse the best treats, so why is he so rude?” “She is sulking in the back of the stall, did I upset her?” Understanding perception is a large part of getting along with horses. Their response to their perception is called equine behavior. Behavior is addressed over and over when there is a problem. But treating them with respect to their horsie instincts daily alleviates bad behavior many times long before it can start.
Over the years I’ve learned about horse’s perception and instincts by having great teachers, reading lots of magazines and books and participating in clinics. But none of that replaces the value of spending hours and hours of time observing and interacting with my horse. The time I spent with my horses in every activity I could, as long as I could, was paramount to the understanding I have today. Knowing how their mind processes information is the key to understanding their behavior. As a result, communication with your horse can become much softer, lighter and easier. Go spend time with your horse! And on a rainy day, pick up a book on horse behavior and snuggle into the couch. Old books are awesome! They tend to come from those who used horses in their practical life.
By educating ourselves about the horse’s instincts and the way they perceive and respond to the world around them, we can be better communicators, caregivers and leaders to our equine friends.
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