Using Body Language to Communicate with your Horse at Liberty

Nov 02, 2020

I was watching the speaker, Ken Robinson, on Ted Talks, and he made a joke about college professors saying that they feel that the only reason they have bodies is to transport their heads around to wherever their head needs to go and that in no way can they dance. 

From this image, you can imagine that a college professor would not connect with a horse either. By being only in your head, your body language would lack energy. From that image, you can also imagine that a college professor would not know how to vary their body's energy by bringing energy up and down to communicate with a horse. 

Imagine shaking hands with a pilot who would give you a limp handshake. How confident would you feel flying on his or her plane? You would not. 

If you do not bring the right amount of energy to your horse, your horse will not have confidence in you or understand your body language. Like in the limp handshake, greeting your horse by feeding treats, with a lack of energy, will make your horse more aware of the treats than of you. No friendship or respect is gained. 

Having present moment awareness and having intention in your body language come alive with energy brings about a true connection.  

Intention is simply a plan of what you want to do with your horse. 

Intention influences your body language, making it easy for your horse to understand you. Our posture will change to reflect our intention. Miming is a perfect example of intention mixed with body language. Feeling and projecting your body language's intention causes you to tap into an intelligence that knows how to communicate with your horse. This intelligence lays dormant and comes alive when we embody our whole being into our intention through our body language. We find that bringing low energy and high energy with our expression controls the horse's response and that a horse will naturally mirror our energy and follow our lead if there is trust and a bond. 

Here is the secret:

When using body language, be sure that you either move toward or away from your horse. It can be as subtle as just a shift from one foot to another, or it can be very dramatic. Body language is a way of influencing your horse through movement.

If you signal a horse through body language, and the horse does not feel that you are moving toward or away from him or her, the horse might not think the communication was for them. 

Suppose a horse stands in one spot with body expressions. In this case, they could be doing any number of things. They could be throwing their head, stamping the ground, swishing their tail, kicking, bobbing their nose, shooing away an insect, or even scratching an itch.

Horses don't recognize these movements as a form of communication. Imagine how impractical it would be in the fly season's height when horses are very active, shooing away insects and scratching itches. It would be confusing to another horse if these gestures were taken as communication toward them. This is why you do not want to stand in one spot using body language.

Often overlooked in Liberty Training™ is the importance of shifting your weight forward or backward, walking toward or away while communicating with your body language.

Communicating in a shift of movements gets the horse to respond to his instincts for communication. Horses will pay attention and react naturally to any movement that advances toward them or retreats from them. For a horse to respond to your body language, you must have the attention of your horse; moving toward or away is the key. 

Another critical aspect of communicating with horses is knowing how to raise and drop your energy to control your horse because he will mirror your energy.  

Two Exercises To Enhance Your Body Language:

Choose the exercise that would be the most effective; if you feel that you or your horse's energy is too low, pick the first exercise. If you or your horse is feeling nervous, choose the second exercise.

The First Exercise: Increase Your Energy

Let's reverse the college professor's image. 

Instead of the body supporting the head as it does with the professor, you focus on guiding the horse through intention and expression. Get into it. Think of walking as a dance. Listen to some energizing music with a beat while you are walking—breath life into your soul. Feel a sense of well-being. Imagine turning the world under your feet.

The second exercise: To Relax Your Energy

Think of a time you felt deep well-being or gratitude, listen to some music that relaxes you. Pause and close your eyes and bring that presence of well-being into your whole body. When you have this feeling in your body, keep this feeling alive and bring this calmness to your horse. Bringing well-being into your body language will grow the bond more deeply, and your body language will be easy for your horse to read. When your body language is backed up 

with vitality and calmness, the bond will deepen and grow, and so will the performance.

Communicating with your horse without tack:

When communicating with a horse without tack, the energy you put into your body language is what connects you to your horse. Becoming present in the moment and feeling energized brings meaning and purpose to your body language. This way, your body language can be understood and respected.

Horses see who to trust, who to respect, and who is weak from their body language. Your horse develops an attitude about how he or she will respond to you by your posture and intent.  

Before you go to your horse, listen to some music, or do some yoga exercises to wake up your body and revitalize your spirit. This kind of body language will bring out synchronicity of shared movements in harmony and unity. 

Learn more about using energy as your tack here!

Have a great week! Be on the lookout for new horse and human sightings, and may the "horse be with you."


~Carolyn Resnick 


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