The Code of Conduct of Horses

Sep 22, 2021

The Language of Horses

Stepping Into Their World, Not On Their World 

A few months ago I was teaching a Resnick Method Liberty Training®️ clinic (The Waterhole Rituals™) and at the end of the clinic the students were sharing their “aha” moments and one student shared with the group that the reason that she resonated with our training method, and how we communicate with horses, was because we step INTO their world, not ON their world. This is a very important concept and why I am so passionate about sharing this way of “being” with horses.

One of the most important skills for sharing the horses’ world is listening to their language. I believe that most horse owners want to build a connection and trust with their horse, but often they do not know how to communicate with a horse in a language he understands. 

If you want to begin to build a deeper bond and develop a more trusting relationship with a horse you need to understand the language of horses. As Ray Hunt says, “horses know what you know and they know what you don’t know.” You want your horse to know that he is free to express himself and that you will not punish him for being a horse.

To begin this process, it is necessary to first give up your own personal agenda, so that you can clearly hear the voice of the horse, and step into his world and culture. You want him to know that you understand that there is a code of conduct of horses, that you are looking for harmony, and that you are willing to wait for him to connect with you on his terms. This is important to remember every day when you go out to reconnect with your horse. Allowing the horse to show you who he really is will give you the opportunity to be able to shape his behavior and begin learning the language of horses. 

Horses are often skeptical of humans because of how they perceive us. Carolyn Resnick shares in her book Naked Liberty that “unlike dogs, cats, and other domesticated animals,  wild horses naturally fear humans. They fear us because we behaved rudely toward them.  Not that we know we’re being rude, we simply don’t understand the signals horses give us for keeping our distance. We often invade their right to be left alone and we don’t understand their rules of passage. They’re also instinctively suspicious of anyone who is not a herd member.” Carolyn observed that in nature horses follow a code of conduct in a herd and by following this code humans can interact with horses in a language that is innate to them.

To be effective in communicating with horses it is important to understand the code of conduct of the herd. Understanding the code of the herd is helpful in training a horse, as we establish leadership and gain a horse’s respect and cooperation. As humans, if we follow this code of conduct when interacting with our horses, and we put our focus on building a partnership, we can connect with our horse in a one-minded consciousness. This consciousness is how horses live in harmony with one another in nature.

There are two parts to the code of conduct.  The first part acknowledges that a horse has the right to his personal space. In nature when a horse approaches another horse with the intention of joining that horse, the horse being approached has the right to his personal space and can decide if he wants the approaching horse to join him or not. The horse that is approaching is always looking to see if he is welcome or not. If not, he would turn and leave. 

The second part of the code is that when a horse approaches another horse with the intention to move him/her, in a harmonious herd, that horse will always move. When this code of conduct is followed there is no pecking order, there is only harmony.  The purpose of pecking order is for the herd to discover the code of conduct. This keeps harmony in the herd. When harmony is flowing through the herd every horse is at the right place at the right time. Horses in unity seem to find their place and work in step magnetically connected, much like the connection that geese have in the unity of flight. We can see this connection in schools of fish, migrating birds,  stampeding horses, or the harmony of a foal shadowing its mother in flight. While it is beautiful to watch, it is more powerful to experience.

So, how do we practice the code of conduct with our horses? If you follow this code you will not ever be in a position to have to face up to the horse. The code will eliminate bringing out fear, hostility or aggression in a horse.  

How to practice the code of conduct: 

First, you will never enter a horse’s personal space without his permission. By honoring his personal space you will gain your horse’s trust and he will know that you understand the code.

Second, you will ask your horse to move off of his spot and he will respect your request and move when you ask him to. This demonstrates that your horse has respect for you. This is important, as once you ask a horse to move, you have to be sure that he moves, or he will not respect you and he will take leadership over you. When we honor the code of conduct with our horses it lets them know that we share a common language and gives us the key to unlock their marvelous world. This is a universal code of conduct.

This mutual respect and understanding allows us to step into their world, not on their world. 

The Waterhole Rituals provides people  with a system of communication that resonates with horses,  gives horses a better deal, and helps humans to heal. This is what makes the Resnick Method so uniquely magical.


Nancy Zintsmaster 

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