Do you really want to know what is going on under the saddle? Do you wonder if there are certain types of bits that can help horses? Does riding hurt horses? Can horses be happy in domestic environments?
Never has it been easier for horse owners and lovers to study these animals.
Over the past decade or so there have been an increasing number of scientific and ethological studies available to help us answer many questions that arise in our modern relationships with horses. There is so much free information, sometimes it’s simply a matter of sorting through and finding reliable sources.
The following is one of the best current videos presenting some solid scientific information in only 5 minutes. A must-watch for all responsible horse enthusiasts!
What do you think? Add your comments to this blog post.
For more studies and information about the effects of riding and domestication on horses be sure to read The Path of the Horse ebook and audiobook available at this link.
Horses have carried us into other realms for thousands of years. If things seem to not be working: stop, breathe, look around. Share some space and time with a friend named Eclipse. You may be carried to the space where the heart speaks.
Today, we come silently, respectfully into his space, his presence can transport us to the place of pure presence within. Let’s take a 5-minute journey into presence with Eclipse at the OurHorses sanctuary in North San Juan, California on a sunny August afternoon in 2013. Share in the exquisite delicateness horses exhibit when they are honored as equals and thanked for being exactly who they choose to be; part of the harmonious dance of nature. Find more connections at www.ourhorses.org and “like” us on Facebook to be part of our latest creations.
Horses are being communicated with in different ways around the world. In Russia there are a number of people teaching horses to spell, count and communicate in Latin. Here is a 10 minute video of a woman, Tatiana with the horse Nora engaging in a Latin lesson.
From the Nevzorov Haute Ecole news:
This is a video of the talented students Tatiana and her horse Nora during a manège reading lesson known in the NHE School as Lectio Equaria Palaestra (LEP)
LEP is for the human, who needs to learn how to teach this way. Firstly, it teaches us to communicate with a horse without raised voice or touch cues. Secondly, it teaches us to respect a horse and to understand what an interesting and intelligent being she is. Thirdly, it allows the horse to understand that the human has an intellect, though a strange one: “It is the big mistake to be sure that a horse knows that a human is intelligent. One big and stupid mistake. A horse doesn’t know! It is a human who ought to prove it. To prove that there is logic and sense in his actions, that there is some meaning in the sounds he emits, that he is not dangerous.” Alexander Nevzorov.
This video of Tatiana and Nora proved that Alexander Nevzorov is not the only one capable of achieving such marvelous results.
More information on LEP can be found in the NHE Anthology volume 8 and the movie Lectio Equaria Palaestra (LEP) available at this link: http://horse-revolution.com/?PHPSESSID=c4bd908dc5992c6f46d0f700e0cdd3c4
We have been discussing this video in the OurHorses freedom Facebook group, here are a few of over 180 comments (edited). We here at OurHorses are humbled by the amount of new territory we humans are experiencing together with horses and other expressions of sentience. We’ve seen so much wisdom and willingness to continue exploring the mysteries of life and love and connection with nature as reflected in these comments. Give yourself some time to sink in with the following discussion along the path. If you’d like, you can read the full discussion in the OurHorses freedom group under a topic posted by Lois Beigli with the comment, “enjoy!” along with a link to the Tatiana and Nora video.
• If a horse is separated from the pasture to become free of distraction – is not it the proof of the absence of her free will?
• There are many ways to show horses that we have an intelligence we can share which don’t involve teaching it a dead medieval language. The written language is a construct of the limitations in human communication, horses can communicate fine without it. To me it just smacks of another egotistical party trick kept ‘exclusive’ to add false value. How on earth could teaching horses to read be misused?
• Watch carefully the video and you can see that she changes her posture toward the horse or away from the horse, to give space before the horse moves. She also has her hand often under the neck and close to the chin. When the horse searches the letters, he touches them with nose and can’t see them anymore, but changes sometimes to another letter. I think the horse has developed a very fine sense for the tiny unconscious signal of the woman, concentrating in the closed environment very much on observation.
Remember “The Clever Hans effect”
Researcher Pfungst made an extremely significant observation. After he had become adept at giving Hans performances himself, and fully aware of the subtle cues which made them possible, he discovered that he would produce these cues involuntarily regardless of whether he wished to exhibit or suppress them. Recognition of this striking phenomenon has had a large effect on experimental design and methodology for all experiments whatsoever involving sentient subjects (including humans).
• I don’t think it will alter his intelligence, but it will change the motivation why he is doing it. If we compare the horse to a small child that is learning to ride a bicycle, and each time he does some meters you stop him and put a candy in his mouth, would this alter his intelligence ? Would this motivate him even more ? Would this hinder the learning process ? Can we compare a horse to a small child ? If the horse is a cognitive being, why not compare him to a child in a learning process ?
• Yes, we can compare. But for sure I would give my child a candy if he was disciplined during the lesson. If he only plays – no food reinforcement. He is motivated by the game itself.
• And how on earth do we teach a horse to read if we do not reinforce (somehow) her correct answer? I remember my own motivation when I was learning English – I was happy to read some authors in the original language without the interpretation of the translator. But how a horse may be motivated by the fact she found the correct written answer to the question: what does the butterfly do? In Latin..
• Food is something we MUST have for survival, while praise is not. When the relationship is there, the praise, the approval, the enjoyment of the shared activity is always enough to motivate the other (horse, human, or otherwise) — LEP or anything we do in the NHE School is not for the human, it is a mutual shared experience between friends that benefits both sides of the equation, and that is all. Food being involved messes with the horse’s natural ability to focus (this is MY opinion only). Not only that, if it takes food to get the result you desire, what happened to the relationship? It is the RELATIONSHIP that motivates the horse — their sincere desire to please and interact with someone they love. No different than us. This is why LEP is such an advanced part of the School — no horse would be motivated to do this (again my opinion) without a seriously solid relationship already in place.
• I share you view about food, I have used it myself, but for about 4 months I haven’t anymore. I have realized, that the relationship has made a step forward, he enjoys more physical contact and is also more social with the donkey. The triangle relationship (me, horse and donkey) has become stronger. There is no more rivalry for food between them.
• What is the difference in a horse learning English, Latin, Russian or whatever…are they not just learning human spoken word…something that is not natural to them?
• Nothing we do with horses is natural to them, not even brushing their manes. What does it matter if it is ‘natural’ so long as no harm is being done?
• In my opinion anyway, whether the horse is truly reading or reading the signals from the human is only academically interesting. As long as this is a shared activity that involves complex responses from the horse and the horse is offering to willingly participate in it, this is all that matters. It would be interesting to see if the horse can still spell if the human does not know the positions of the letters, say for example has the eyes covered and the letters are reshuffled after that. But again, whichever point it proves it does not take away from taking the human/horse relationship to the level when such activity is possible.
There is a big difference between doing something for a tangible reward like food, and doing something for the joy of the shared experience. I’ve just finished an article where I compared using food rewards to offering your significant other ice cream in exchange for intimacy. I think that this extreme example illustrates the point. (Read the article here)
• “whether the horse is truly reading or reading the signals from the human is only academically interesting. As long as this is a shared activity that involves complex responses from the horse and the horse is offering to willingly participate in it”……- Yes I think you are right, anyhow the capability to read (I think it is more reading the human than Latin though) is extraordinary, his senses are all attentive to the woman and there are no signs that he getting annoyed, a lot of patients from both sides. Maybe we should concentrate on this rather on the fact if he really is understanding the combination of visual symbols forming a word that corresponds to the sound created by the woman’s mouth, which corresponds to the figurative symbol on the board, that represents a reality of nature which the horse can see best, when it is in movement.
• We are caught in the cage of our “super brain”, which makes us believe to be superior to other beings. We have this arrogant exaggerated opinion of ourselves to be the MASTERS of the world. But in reality we are the greatest destroyers ever existed on the planet.
On one hand our capability of complex abstraction has helped us to make incredible discoveries, but on the other hand we need some kind of consolation, which we seek in sorts of fairytale, mysticism etc. We still believe, after all the damage we have done to nature and other beings, that we are chosen to improve the creation of what ever initiated it, an incredible arrogation of which we will never be healed I fear. New generations will be born and they claim to have the right to be “creators” and destroyers too. We claim to be an intelligent species, but we are unable to learn from the errors of the past. The condemnation of mankind and therefore also of the our environment.
(Der Mensch) Er nennt’s Vernunft und braucht’s allein.
Nur tierischer als jedes Tier zu sein!
He calls it Reason—thence his power’s increased,
To be far beastlier than any beast.
All we do is in the sake of the welfare of the horse, or at least we claim so, is at the end just an excuse to justify our own desires.
First we put the horses in the condition to depend on our good will to do them welfare, then we give them back in more or less generous portions what are their essential needs.
We reached at a point, in which we can’t give back total freedom anymore, because we have reduced the space on this planet in such a way, that there is no room anymore for free living animals. Our own cage is becoming narrower and narrower. We put ourselves in the condition not to have a choice anymore.
But as I wrote before, we humans, or at least some of us, need some kind of consolation, we can’t live with this guilt and create a gentle excuse and justification for why we do what we do.
• I agree 100% with you. All we can do is increase what they really like (to live and share life with peers, HORSES) and be in touch with grass, water, fresh air (not only through the window of a box). I am also sure that spelling Latin words is not their priority. The more we respect their nature and increase our knowledge about them, even if it is limited, the less we want them to perform for us, the better it is. Even if not making them perform tricks for us, we can spend time with them and for them. Let us clean ourselves their pasture, provide ourselves for mice and safe environment, build ourselves shelters and so on and make hay…… They watch us and they understand very well what is going on.
• In the end, day after day you and your horse have to cope together above and beyond all and the only secret is your own capacity to dedicate hours of your life for the well-being of your horse. Nothing else counts, not NHE , not AL not Parelli not Hempfling. Only you and your horse. You may call it love if it suits you but the core is the inner generosities that melts and can be shared for the utmost benefits of both.
• I know for sure that I am a horse user – I can not just send my horses to a beautiful pasture to live in the natural state being happy. I need them close to me, like you need your children, your dog whoever. I care for them at my maximum. And I know that I want to pleasure myself too (no hidden illusions). I want to ride sometimes, I want to do tricks etc. I want to do it with as little pressure and harm as possible.
• First try to learn as much as possible about the functioning of horses but most specially yours. I never taught my horses to follow me but whenever I call them they come and even if I do not call them, whenever I am there around them they come around me. Why? Simply because in the inner nature of a horse, following is something natural. And because whenever I call them it is to offer something better than what they were doing at that moment. Let it be to change pasture, let it be a walk, let it be hay or yummies, or even shelter. So their mental association to me is something nice and not demanding. So the better we know our horses, know about their likes and dislikes, the more they know us, the better it is. Horses follows us because there is a purpose. Pass a lot of time sharing time in their pasture simply and you will learn a lot from them. There are no secrets only dedication of time with constancy and remain consistent by all means.
Add your voice. Share your experience with the video, the discussion, or your animal and human family in the comments section of this post.
by Stormy May
The beauty of reading with horses is you have something to do together besides trying to make them do what you want. You are sharing space together with all participants feeling safe. It’s something friends do.
Maybe they enjoy the sound of my voice when I read aloud, maybe they enjoy the content of the stories or perhaps they enjoy feeling my emotional state induced by good books. Reading books can be a doorway to an emotional state that feels good.
Here is one of my favorite recordings, taken with an iPod nano in 2010 with the herd that I was spending the most time with. I see traces of my horse trainer background in the interactions. I’m glad the horses seem to forgive me for it and like to be with me anyway.
by Edward Pershwitz
What is the nature of friendship, love, romance? When we enter relationships, what are they based on? Do the friendship with your college roommate you carried through the years and the friendship with your boss feel the same? What about intimacy with the love of your life and a casual fling, does that have the same meaning, the same power over you?
We enter relationships for different reasons and very few of them are truly genuine. They masquerade themselves for what they are not but deep inside we know which ones have this “what can you do for me” overtone and which ones are deep and unconditional. We’ve become such masters of pretense that we don’t even stop to think about it, and when we do we discover things about ourselves that surprise us, not always pleasantly.
We live in a society where instant gratification has become the norm, where pills treat the symptoms instead of the disease, where everything has to be easy to be popular, where friendships are about having a good time, and where sex is expected at the first spark of romantic chemistry. Long term investment into education, health, or relationships is a foreign concept to most of us.
Then we meet our first horse we call ours. And here, just like with the fellow humans, we enter this relationship for different reasons. One universal theme however, is that we want the horse to do something for us. It could be as simple as greeting us at the gate, or as involved as doing courbettes and caprioles, but we want him to do something he wouldn’t do on his own, and so we begin to train.
Equipped with all kinds of internet knowledge and a lifetime of experience with humans we bring a bag of carrots, a rope, and a whip. We give him carrots when he does well and use the whip when he rebels or just to help him understand the task at hand, and in most cases we can get him to do what we want. Not greeting us at the gate perhaps but things like piaffe, bow, or lying down. He quickly figures out that he can get a carrot out of the human by doing the trick, which is a much better choice than being tied or whipped. The human’s happy: look at what I taught my horse to do! Easy and nearly instantly gratifying.
Whether you realize it or not, the horse just entered a “friendship with your boss” relationship with you. It may appear genuine but it’s mostly based on the discomfort of not being in it – more danger of being punished and less hope for a spot award. He will do tricks for you as long as he gets treats in return and it would look like he really likes you. He may even meet you at the gate if he wants a carrot particularly badly that day.
You know who would also act like she really likes you? A red light district diva. She would also make you feel special and perform all kinds of tricks for a moderate reward. The ease of the relationship and the instant gratification may have a positive side to it but you must be delusional to call it genuine. You could be perfectly fine with purchased love, just don’t kid yourself, alright?
Is a hooker capable of a true love and a true intimacy? It would be hard to imagine this not to be true. No one is born a hooker. Selling your affections is a learned skill, a result of shattered dreams and physical or psychological coercion. A skill of being used. A bag of carrots, a rope and a whip turn love into a commodity. You cannot be trained to offer yourself; all you can be trained to do is shut off and offer your body.
Is true affection possible between the human and the horse? We must ask ourselves how true relationships form between humans. What makes us want to do things for others? How long it takes to earn their trust and build ours? There is nothing instantly gratifying about building a relationship – it’s full of ups and downs, moments of elation and anguish, discovery and uncertainty. You get to know the other person by trial and error, by watching their reactions in different situations, by learning what they like and fear, by getting “on the same wavelength.” This is what makes it real, authentic, genuine.
Being a social animal, the horse is naturally equipped for building relationships by pretty much the same mechanism we do. They spend time together, watch each others reactions, learn each others habits, signal a wide range of emotions to each other, and rely on each other for physical and emotional well-being. They will bond with us in the same fashion if we allow them to, if we lose the training mindset and start listening, and speaking, and taking interest in their lives, and sharing ours.
Most horses are shut off to us as a result of years of physical or psychological coercion. They offer their bodies and go through the motions but they are not really there. To bond with us is as hard for them as it is for the hooker to experience true love for one of her clients. But if it does happen everything changes. Offering yourself is no longer a learned skill to avoid beating or get paid but an art of making another happy. And the reward becomes simply doing so.
And then he will seek you just as much as you seek him. He will offer to do things for you just because it pleases you, like we do for the people we love. Yes, the exact same side passes, and piaffes, and pirouettes. Not as a learned trick for a tasty treat but as a gift to make you happy and to feel important and appreciated. And giving him a carrot for a bow will become as unnatural as offering your beloved ice cream for intimacy.
Karissa Danielle Hunter
To break through this illusion that we are doing the best for our horses, we must be willing to reevaluate everything that we currently take for granted. We must be willing to see things as they are.
We get sucked into destructive practices simply because they seem to be the only ones out there. We really lack alternative models, which in turn hinders us from thinking beyond designing new packaging to sell more of what we’ve been sold in the past.
from the book, The Path of the Horse by Stormy May
available as a free eBook here: http://ourhorses.org/download-the-path-of-the-horse-book/
When we come from compassion we change the world.
A master at coming from compassion is Michael Bevilacqua, pictured here. Check out his book, “Beyond the Dream Horse” here: http://www.beyondthedreamhorse.ca/
Photo by Brandy Setzer