What sort of communication should occur between a human and a horse in an ideal relationship?
Communication, in an ideal horse-human relationship, occurs on many levels in a constant, dynamic back and forth flow. At the physical level both horses and humans shape their bodies in a constant stream of communication. This is conscious on the part of the horse but – initially – not quite so conscious on the part of the human. Becoming conscious of our own body language and learning to “speak” horse with ours; is one of the gifts bestowed upon us as we work in connection with horses (in our human to human communication, up to 80% is through body language so this is a useful skill).
At the emotional level horses are highly evolved to tune in to the environment, the emotions and the intent of other creatures around them. Research has shown that they are aware of the heart rate and even the blood pressure of the humans who are with them. With practice, we can also learn to detect what a horse is feeling by tuning our emotions in to theirs and developing our intuitive skills.
Communication also occurs at a social level. Both horses and humans are social animals and can genuinely enjoy each other’s company and form strong bonds, if trust and mutual respect are a part of the relationship. From an intellectual point of view, communication is constant. In an ideal horse-human relationship the human has control over the environment and uses their physical body language, their emotional awareness of how the horse is feeling and the bond between them to communicate how things are for the benefit of both parties. The horse uses these same strategies (in horse form) to reflect back its understanding and awareness of what is supposed to be happening and what is the safest thing for them to do.
– Cathy Foyston