How to Speak Horse: Language of Movement

Before I begin, I need to share a video with you.

It’s a touching tale for sure, and proof for a point…

While the advancement of the technique and some of the movements themselves are beyond my current state, when I talk about “playtime” with Mr. P and free-lunging: it is this. Just instead of fanciness, we play with jumps and twirling and more basic stuff, but the idea is the same.

I digress.

The point is simple: ANYONE CAN DO THIS.

YOUR HORSE CAN DO THIS.

YOU CAN DO THIS.

While the expression of movement and predispositions vary between individuals, the idea is universal.

I have such a hard time describing the intricacies of it all, but I will do my best for you. It’s like trying to describe music. How would you describe how to play Moonlight Sonata? Y’ know what I mean? You have to learn it and feel it to get it, but you have to understand the basics to put it together. It’s like collecting tools for your tool box. Better yet: it’s like grammar. Grammar is, essentially, tools, but how you use it is how you weave poetry, syntax, meaning, create literature, write masterpieces.

Without grammar you just get a big blob of words all in a row and maybe a sentence ends but maybe it doesnt you just cant know if you dont use grammar its basically a nightmare to try to read it hurts my brain when i have to read it and its hurting my brain just trying to write without it right now.

(Sorry. That was for demonstrative purposes only.)

I will try to give you the grammar that your horse writes with. Well, “writes” … you know what I mean.

So let us begin at the first most basic thing.

Movement.

Movement to a horse is language. It is also freedom, comfort, and safety. When you “talk” to your horse (and from now on “talk” means communicating with your body and gestures), you have the power to influence even the most flamboyant gestures from your horse by the most subtle of body angles, curves, and, when applicable, use of your arms.

It is an art of dance and meditation all in one. How? Because you must be present, aware, and completely open to “feel” their responses, to anticipate their reaction, their direction, their choices. You must give them the option to make a choice. If you attempt to control them like a puppet, you will not have a chance of achieving the extent of things that are possible.

You must allow them to move, because that is how we are going to undergo learning the basics of equine grammar.

K, I changed my mind about that term. Hm. Let’s just call it…. Horse, but with a capital “H” to differentiate it and pay it the respects due an official language. Just like how “English” gets capitalized. (See how useful grammar is? Even though I occasionally butcher it with excessive use of sentence fragments. But that’s a method of employing grammar in specific ways to create a specific syntax. All is not lost. {A complete sentence at last.})

I digressed again. (I love English grammar and I evidently ate too much sugar today.) So, without further adieu:

The “Push & Draw”

(I’m pretty sure I’m borrowing this terminology from Chris Irwin (amazing trainer – look him up. I mean it). He was the first trainer I’d ever seen who could teach what I felt but didn’t know how to put in words. I borrow his terminology with a dutiful tilt of my hat and a flourishing bow.)

When you break Horse down to its simplest, most basic form, there is either moving away, or moving towards. These simple acts determine hierarchy. Thus, we have the Push and the Draw.

The “Push” is a gesture of assertiveness, be it a subtle step or a cracking whip (predominantly exclusively for the auditory effect). The Push can even be as gentle as the change of your body angle, but we’ll get into that later.

The purpose is asking your horse to move away from you. Simple as that. Whether you are sending him out on a circle to lunge, or asking him to move out of your space, the “Push” means “move away from me”. This is, usually, the easy one.

Thus, the “Draw” is the opposite. It is an invitation to come back. Sometimes just a matter of “softening” your body (specifics for another post) and letting them approach you, or a more persuasive sequence of Push and Draw to get your horse to walk, then relaxing your posture to say “it’s okay to come back to me now”.  As a herd animal, the horse will naturally want to “join up” (a Monty Roberts phrase) with his person when he feels safe with them. (A perk of the “prey animal” psyche.)

It is upon the “Push  & Draw” that the core fundaments of Horse are built. It is being able to interpret when you need to Draw, rather than Push, or how much to Push before inviting a Draw. Through your horse’s movement, you can read his mood, his attentiveness, his focus, and, with practice, his intentions.

My goal, in this series of as-yet-undetermined-length, will be to try and communicate what many of these subtleties are, to translate Horse into English to the best of my ability.

I’ll leave it that today. Maybe next time I’ll have a piece prepared on body angles. I will even draw pictures! I think I was supposed to write about half-halts, too, as part of the Ride With Your Seat… ho hum. So much to write!

How to Speak Horse: Language of Movement
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