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Why I hope to get you “Thinking Horse”! By Kate Farmer of the RV Harmony Centre

Pferd KariWhen I started riding, which was a long time ago, I learned that there was one “correct” way of doing every with a horse – and I, like most other people, never really questioned that. No one ever explained WHY the correct way was correct, it just was, and if you followed the rules, things usually worked.

Then, about 10 or 15 years ago, alternatives started springing up which challenged the traditional “corrects”, and most of them congregated under the natural horsemanship banner. Now there is a horse whisperer on every street corner, hundreds of different methods, and a multitude of different “corrects” for everything from how to put a halter on to how to ride a flying change. But there’s still remarkably little understanding of why any of these “corrects” are right, or why they work.

In 1997 I had an extraordinary stroke of luck. I met a horse who clearly hadn’t read the books, and didn’t know what was “correct”. In fact, she stumped a whole succession of instructors and trainers whose help I sought when my own versions of “correct” failed miserably to dissuade her from rearing up and trying to tap dance on my head. Eventually, I found Richard Thompson, an extraordinary horseman with an enormous insight into the way the horse sees the world. It gradually started to become clear to me not only what was happening with my little tap dancing mare, but also what is going on behind all the other training methods that makes them effective or not.

Putting what I learned from Richard together with the findings of modern research on equine behaviour, I realized that what I had learned from him was only partly about technique. Far more importantly, it was about understanding the equine mind and how to communicate with it. This is being confirmed by scientific research all the time, but is largely missing in most other methods.

Communicating with a horse is, in a very general way, similar to communicating with someone with a not just a different language, but also a different situation. If you are trying to communicate with someone who French speaking and blind from birth, you can have all the French words for colours that you like, they aren’t going to produce meaningful conversation because that person doesn’t have a concept of colour. It’s similar with a horse. Some human concepts, such as anger, punishment, or naughtiness, just don’t have any meaning for a horse. Others, such as leadership, are much bigger and broader for horses than the human equivalent. Just as Eskimos have dozens of different words for snow, if horses had words, they would have dozens of different ones for leadership, which has a very different role in horse society from our own. 

Horse language is a body language, so it’s all about movement and posture. That’s one hurdle for us poor humans, who have put so much faith in spoken words, that most of us have lost touch with our natural body language and we have to learn it all over again. The next is to understand the horse’s own society and interpretations of that language so that we can communicate in a way that makes sense to the horse. Common sense tells us it’s no good asking the blind person to tell you when the traffic light turns green, but how often do you see someone angrily punishing a horse for being “naughty”?  

I made the “Thinking Horse” DVD to show how important both the body language and the understanding of the horse’s world are for effective, harmonious communication with our horses. I hope you’ll find food for thought in there – and that you, too, will start “Thinking Horse”!

For more information contact;

Kate Farmer
Reitverein Harmony Centre
Laaber Straße 8
2384 Breitenfurt
Tel: 0664 1974668