- August 4, 2017
- Jolyn Young
When working with horses, most people emphasize the importance of using our eyesight. We look for our horse to lower his head. We observe our horse’s behavior around other horses to learn if he is assertive or passive. We watch for cues like cocking a hind leg and flattening his ears to indicate he’s about to kick.
But, what about our other senses? Horse enthusiasts can universally recognize and appreciate the salty aroma of horse sweat. We all know what it feels like to run our hand down a horse’s neck and touch the animal’s hair over his muscles, especially soft and clean underneath his mane. Taste doesn’t particularly apply to everyday horsemanship. This sense is usually reserved for when an unmanageable horse is out of second chances, but this isn’t a cooking blog.
Besides sight, smell, touch, and taste, have you given much thought to the importance of hearing as it applies to horsemanship? A person can tell what’s happening in the barn across the driveway or around the corner of the fence if they use their ears.
When you feed your horse a bucket of grain and head off to turn on the water trough, you can tell when he’s done eating without walking back to check. Just listen for the sound of grain rattling; if you hear it, he’s still eating. If all is quiet, he’s done and ready to ride.
If you’re in the house and your normally calm, quiet gelding nickers sharply and repeatedly, it’s probably a good idea to step outside and investigate. He most likely noticed something routine and commonplace, like a new horse across the fence, but it doesn’t hurt to check it out. Sometimes, horses sound distressed because they are distressed, and they might do something unpredictable like crash through a fence or cut their leg running through the rocks.
The sound of horses quietly munching hay resonates comfort and tranquility throughout a corral. If you just listen, you can tell when they pick their head up to look at something in the darkness because they’ll briefly stop munching. Then, when they are satisfied that no danger is near, they’ll put their head back down and resume chewing.
A horse blowing air out both nostrils in a soft, contented “woof” is the second most comforting noise in the equine world, behind the sound of their eating. Just listen for this when you walk past a pen of horses, and it will reassure you that all is well in the corral. Possibly the world. Or at least your world, anyway.
A horse blowing air out both nostrils in such a way that he emits a sharp whistling sound is one of the least comforting noises in the equine world. They typically throw their head up when they make this “train whistle” sound, and it signifies that they are in high-alert mode. What danger do they sense – a fire truck coming toward the rodeo grounds, an approaching baby stroller with a flapping blanket, or a stud horse with his neck arched? This is a time when you might not want to just listen for the fire alarm, crying baby or stallion’s territorial whinny – you should proactively look around and look for what has your horse so stirred up.
When working with horses, it’s important to remember all our senses. We can use them together to improve our horsemanship abilities.
Ah, the contented sound of horses eating – my favorite kind of noise.
About Jolyn Young
Jolyn Young lives on the O RO Ranch in northern Arizona with husband and their two small kids. To learn more, visit www.jolynyoung.com....