Horses Acting Out as a Form of Communication

Venture with Anna into the world of communication and the frequent disconnect between humans and horses. Not many clinicians will put a participant in the horse’s place so the audience has the added benefit of clarity around the concepts in the way that Anna can.

Listen closely and then take a chance to question your methods and practices. Are you doing what you have always done for lack of a better option or simply because it is what you were taught one, two, or even three decades ago? How does what you do come across to the horse? Are you clear, and if you think you are, how does the horse know what you want? Get honest and vulnerable enough to ask yourself these questions and more in order to develop a relationship with your horse that you may have only ever dreamed was possible!

For more videos from Total Integration Tv, go to Ti-Tv.tv or, visit Dr. Vickie Wickhorst’s page at ColoradoSageLearningCenter.com for more on Quantum Healing and Health!

Reaching Out to Horses in the Round Pen

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Once more, our lovely friends at The Horse’s Hoof have featured Anna in their online publication.  We are so pleased to be partnering with them to reach more and more people who are interested in Natural, Holistic Horsemanship!

Reach Out to Horses by Anna Twinney

Horses have walked this Earth for more than 54 million years.  While some do not consider them among the brightest of the animal kingdom, most are unaware that through their lengthy tenure on this planet they have created an effective non-verbal language that some have coined “the language of Equus.”  This is a language that goes well beyond the unspoken.  Through careful observation, humans have been able to interpret and adopt this method of communication.

Originating from the horses’ body language, behavior, interaction and herd hierarchy, humans can now speak with them through our own body language, gestures and even our intentions.  This language, like any, requires patience and practice.  It can be taught to anyone but fluency only comes from time spent observing and communicating with the native speakers.

Not only can horses read the body language of every member of their species they can read humans just as easily.  They can, almost immediately, see your agenda and how you are feeling.  They will highlight your strengths and weaknesses.  In effect, they know who you are and what that means to them in a very short period of time.  You can lie to yourself but you can’t lie to a horse.  Therefore, it’s important that you begin every interaction with a clear mind, leaving “all your baggage” at the gate.

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One place to start the conversation with your horse is the round pen.  Using the round pen as your classroom can be very helpful in creating a trust-based relationship.  This type of conversation is the foundation to all interaction, every ground session, ridden work and ultimately your success.  A 50-foot round pen is suggested as it allows free motion for horses of most sizes.  It’s also important to make sure you have appropriate footing, which is essential to maintaining health and fitness.

This is an example of a typical session in the round pen.  It’s important to note that this is an overview and is not intended to be a formula or a “quick fix” to solve behavioral issues and requires dedication and commitment to learn and apply.  Remember that communication takes place whenever you are together.  Each gesture and motion you make says something to your 4-legged partner.

Familiarization:  Horses need the chance to explore the round pen at liberty.  They naturally check out their perimeters, take time to settle and to explore the vicinity through their senses.  Each horse is an individual and as such will react in different ways to different circumstances.  This 15-20 minute period is an ideal time to observe their character and learn to read thier personality.

Orientation:  This is the official introduction and there are many important steps in this portion which include:

  • The introduction to the four directions (N, E, S, W) of the round pen
  • Introduction of body language
  • The opportunity for handler to read horse and horse to read handler
  • The time for the adrenaline of horse and handler to subside
  • Creation of a comfort zone in the center of the round pen
  • Creation of a safe distance between horse and handler
  • Manipulation of speed and direction by the handler to gain leadership

Communication:  In a natural herd environment, hierarchy is determined through many factors, one being the manipulation of speed and direction.  As mentioned in the orientation process, the handler adopts this practice in the round pen environment.  The connection between horse and handler takes place before or during the orientation, with a herd of 2 being formed.  Once the herd has been formed and the orientation has been completed, the handler asks the horse to leave by driving them away using body language.  This is the time to make character assessments, to complete a health check, and to begin forming the partnership with the horse.

A higher-ranking horse will use his body language to communicate or punish another by sending them out of the herd.  This gives a strong message as banishment is a grave risk to their survival.  Through the position that the handler takes of driving the horse forward, he will retreat.  This is a form of advance and retreat, also known as pressure release, and has been used by horsemen for centuries.  The handler then adopts equine body language by squaring his shoulders, placing his eyes on the horse’s eyes, and advancing forward in an assertive manner.  The combination of proximity, speed, movements, and eye contact can mean a number of different things.

As prey animals, horses naturally run for ¼ to 3/8ths of a mile before they stop to assess what made them flee.  This distance is roughly translated to 7-8 revolutions in the round pen.  The fleeing that is induced should not be through fear, but rather a request for forward motion.  The handler takes possession of any area the horse stands in at any given moment, hence gaining leadership.  A speed slightly beyond their natural gait is best and will often be in the form of a canter.

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When it feels like the right time to change direction, the horse is asked to change direction towards the round pen wall through the handler’s body positioning.  The same process of asking the horse to leave is repeated in this direction.  Unlike humans, horses only transfer about 20-50% of all information from the left to the right side of the brain and, as such, they consider this to be new ground that they are exploring.

Once the horse has explored both directions he is then asked to return to familiar ground, pressure is reduced but an active involvement is maintained.  An assertive walk forward is continued, while allowing the horse to reduce his speed and maintain focus and attention.  The handler’s body language becomes a little softer as his intention changes.  This procedure is also helpful because the horse will often reveal his history during this time.

The horse will begin to communicate his desire to return to the herd of two.  He will relay very clears signs, such as reducing the size of his circle, relaxing his jaw and neck, and many other gestures that require some study for the handler to recognize.  These are all desired responses that need acknowledgement through a release of pressure resembling a drop of the eyes, a relaxing of shoulders, slowing of the walk, or a hesitating in the line throwing.  This is what makes it a conversation, rather than a demand or simply talking at the horse.  Each try by the horse should be acknowledged in this manner.   Overall, the handler is looking for a complete feeling of unity and a commitment from the horse prior to inviting them back to the herd.  This will come with experience and the whole of the “Reach Out” process generally should take no longer than 15-20 minutes.

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Reach Out to Horses:  A suitable moment is identified to invite the horse to become part of the team again.  The invitation takes the form of a sweeping motion in front of the horse and is similar to the natural gesture of displaying one’s flank, while eating.  The passive nature of the maneuver asks the horse to slow down and step closer.  He will choose to stay close to the wall, come part of the way or all the way to the handler.   If the communication is done correctly but the horse does not return to the handler this may possibly point to a problem, issue, or habit the horse developed before the session.  Ultimately, the greatest compliment is that the horse comes up to the handler and reaches out towards him with his nose.

Close Connection:  An invitation to the horse is given to come into the heart space where he receives lots of reward and reassurance – creating a close connection.  A rub on the forehead will reinforce his positive behavior.  The ultimate reward for a horse is the release of pressure, which translates to walking away.  Horses naturally move in arcs and angles so, when the time is right, the handler walks away in a clockwise direction to perform a figure 8.  The qualities of a leader are displayed to bring the horse back to the center of the round pen, which becomes a familiar comfort zone.

 

Reaching out to your horse is the foundation of all communication.  It can take on many forms and will allow you to learn to read and communicate with your horse, while building a trust-based relationship.  It is the beginning to all success and will aid in improving existing relationships, embarking on new partnerships, and assessing character and health.  From here, you can lead into starting young horses, problem solving, improving ground manners, teaching to lead & load, eliminate kicking, biting, and rearing, just to name a few.  Creating this trust-based relationship with your horse can be a magical experience and the moment you feel that true partnership is a moment you will never forget.

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The First Hello

Coal was gathered from the Little Book Cliffs in October of 2018, recently brought to the BLM holding facility and onto auction. His first impressions with humans was unkind; losing his herd, home, and identity. He was adopted on Saturday, by a young lady named Jade, making her dreams come true. This was Coal’s first gentling session with Anna, his first hello and first impression. Less is more in the beginning. Quiet confidence while communicating with a gentle purpose are a few of the key elements to your relationship with a Mustang. “If you ever have the opportunity to spend a day with Anna Twinney, please do. When it comes to connecting with Mustangs she’s one of the very best.”

~ George Brauneis

Mustang Demo with Jade and Cole and Anna

Above, Anna instructs Jade with regards to the Mustang’s unique Language.

Watch below the video of Anna saying Hello to Coal for the first time.  Simply click on the video to watch.

Read the story of how Jade met Coal and the lengths she went to to bring him home with her in this article in The Daily Sentinel:

“During a hike with her grandmother in the Little Book Cliffs last March, Jade Walker caught sight of a magnificent wild horse — a blue-gray beauty with black marks and a long black mane.

The girl was thrilled when the horse came toward her a ways over a small hill. She, in turn, followed him back.

“I think we have a connection somewhere,” Jade said Saturday as the Mustang waited nearby in a pen with other wild horses.”

Read the Rest of the Story Here

Equine Wellness Magazine Features Anna’s Guide to Better Communication

Anna is a regular contributor to Equine Wellness Magazine, one of our favorites.  Here, she describes how we can better help our horses succeed in training sessions.

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Through the Eyes of One Viewer: The Intuitive Riding Experience

 

If you asked me what I believed a good horseman to be when I was ten, I would have said someone who could ride their horse in a halter.  If you’d asked me when I was sixteen, I would have said someone who could ride a high-performance horse in a halter, mostly because I’d never seen that.  If you asked when I was twenty, I would have said someone who is gentle and who can get the most out their horse without resulting to physical abuse.  If you’d asked me when I was thirty, I would have said first of all I’m twenty-eight, and someone who loves each horse with all they have even if they aren’t life-long companions, and someone who can interact and train with body language rather than with aids.  And if you asked me today, after attending the Intuitive Riding Clinic, I would say someone who can work with horses gently and by thinking about it from the horse’s perspective.  Someone who treats the horse like an equal and who has dialogue with them rather than dictating to them.  Someone who knows how to show the horse what we are asking for intuitively.  Someone who reads their eyes, as well as their bodies and hearts, and who knows how to help them work through things.  I would say, someone like Anna Twinney.

      I have a unique perspective from which to say such things because very luckily, I get to work for Anna.  Sometimes that actually means you guys reading this get to see her more than I do because she gives everything to the horses and their people, including all her time and dedication.  And it’s not just horses, because she works with animals of all types and locations during her consulting hours.  In short, Anna has dedicated her life to the betterment of the lives of thousands and thousands of horses and their people, and countless animals around the globe.  I like to think of her as a bridge connector; two halves are reaching towards each other, but they just can’t quite find that level ground on which to meet and become whole.  Anna is like the human subconscious in that way; ever driving those people and horses they love towards that seemingly elusive wholeness.  That level ground on which to connect is made available to everyone in every place Anna goes, and both the people and the horses can feel it.
       What is an “Intuitive Riding Clinic,” my neighbor asked.  “I’m not entirely sure what to expect,” I told her.  I knew what we were going to cover I just didn’t know how it would be covered.  How each topic would be broached.  I knew there would be riding, and I had the privilege to audit, so I wondered if that might change the experience.  Turns out observation is exactly what was needed.  In a group of the most sweet and loving individuals I may have ever met in one place, we learned how to communicate with the horses using our eyes and our bodies to help show them what we were requesting.  We learned different ways to touch them that help calm the nervous system and get their attention.   We discussed what it is to dialogue with a horse and to see them as an equal, to partner with them instead of dominating them.  We learned how to approach difficult obstacles in the arena that would be harder to calmly conquer for most horses, and how to move through them with little to no resistance on the horse’s part. We learned how to help the horses understand our bodies and how we move in the world as humans by using their language to explain it to them.  We learned about holistic health and how to determine what is needed in the horse’s diet.  We learned about intuitively connecting with the horse to help them see what we were asking of them.  We learned about animal communication and the amazing clarity it can afford us when working through issues with a horse. We learned how we can view horse as teacher instead of the other way around.  We learned about so many things, too many more to count or to list here.  But very importantly, and I think very different from most clinics, we learned the most about ourselves and how we interact with the world: how do we approach problems in the world?  Quickly? In haste? With due caution? Or with excessive caution and fear?  Do we blow things out of proportion?  Are we patient when learning, especially with ourselves?  Do we give it our all, or do we easily give up and get frustrated?  Do we refuse to attempt things because we are afraid?  Do we place circumstances outside of us that aren’t really there?  Do we make time for ourselves?  Do we move thoughtfully throughout the world?  Do we have balance in our lives?  Do we reach out to the world softly?  Do we focus on the problem instead of the solution?  Are there things we can do for ourselves that we have been putting off until we have help we don’t really need?  Are we looking for the answers out there and the means by which to come to the solutions, or are we stuck being afraid to walk through the gate?  Are we trusting what we feel and know to be right and true?  Are we truly feeling what we feel?
       I can only say that to sum up and conclude the Intuitive Riding Clinic experience would be missing the point,  because these aren’t learnings that complete your education, but rather they are learnings that start your re-education back in the correct direction.  These are things you can take with you and apply as often as you like and with however much gusto you so desire.  They are a terrific start to the new conversation.  You don’t need a horse to apply what you learned here.  It does make it a little more fun, though.  So I won’t sum it up, but in ten years I will write another summation for a clinic and it will say, “my actual understanding of horses all started with an Intuitive Riding Clinic with Anna Twinney, and it changed my whole life.”
        Love always to a tremendous mentor and her fantastic husband, both of whom have guided me more even in this short period of time than any people with whom I have ever worked.  I do have the job a thousand people would love to have.  I know because I see the emails.
Reflection by Lacey Knight, Administrative Assistant at Reach Out to Horses.

“Don’t LOOK at me in that tone of voice.”

 

 

Occasionally we are fortunate to have the opportunity to experience out of the ordinary situations. During the Holistic Horse Course at Ray of Light Farms in East Haddam, Petie, a PMU yearling colt, reached out to a Swedish student. Suspected he may be partially deaf and going through a huge growth spurt, flexibility within the RP was key to establish a trust-based partnership to assess his personality.