Body language when communicating with horses

Updated: Apr 7, 2020

I don’t do groundwork just to do groundwork. I have the benefits in mind of building a bond with the horse, strengthening the gaits, and help the horse relax after being up. Also - the patterns of movement and cues used on the ground come in handy when riding.

Horses use body language when communicating with each other. For body language to work as an effective way of communicating with horses, we have to be honest, like they are. Picture the leading mare in a herd of horses. Her walking towards the waterhole with intention, will make the other horses move away. If not, she will pin her ears and so on, until the last thing she does is confront. She does what it takes to get the other horse out of her way, she doesn’t change her mind halfway. That’s why the other horses respond to her subtle body language from far away.

She doesn’t lie by saying, “Never mind,” and she always asks politely first, with body language. She knows that she cannot teach the other horses to respond to her body language, if her first cue is not body language, but pressure. We might want to try to do the same when handling our horses....

If you study her, you will also notice that she walks in straight lines; she does not zigzag along. She will not say one thing with her ears and another with her body. She is herself and does not pretend to be anybody else — she is clear and honest. That’s what we also need to be when around horses.

The video below might give you some inspiration on how to use body language when training horses:

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