In the winter I have a bit more time to read and explore sites on the internet. I came across a debate concerning horses and whether or not they really understand a specific word or are responding to the handler’s body language. With our horses it’s very evident that body language helps them figure out what I’m asking verbally. Often, over a period of time and repetition, the horse demonstrates that the word is totally understood.
For example: I saw a video on You Tube with a lovely dog doing many tricks. One trick was “look left” and “look right”. I quite liked this and decided to teach it to Zelador and Zeloso. I’m always happy to find things to teach that don’t require a lot of space. It’s nice during the cold weather to be able to work on something in the warm stall.
Both horses quite enjoyed “look left” and “look right”. I did it in the stall, standing behind the horse, standing in front of the horse, standing on one side of the horse and in the arena while riding.
More often than not the horse was able to “look” in the correct direction. I was always at the ready to help the horse find the correct answer (if help were needed) by leaning to the required side and giving a treat.
One day both Bill and I were riding in the arena. I was sitting on Zelador and he was standing on a pedestal. We were both relaxed. I had dropped the reins and placed my cold hands in my jacket pockets to warm up. Bill was cantering Zeloso to the left, attempting to do this in a circle. The circle was nicely shaped when Bill and Zeloso were on the short side of the arena, but the circle disappeared as they travelled through the middle of the arena. In fact, as Bill approached the wall the circle had a ninety-degree turn. Horse and rider were out of balance every time Bill got to this point in the “circle” and yet somehow Bill managed to keep Zeloso traveling to the left.
I called out, “Bill, Look to the left.” In typical wife speaking to husband fashion Bill did not change what he was doing and I witnessed another non-circle.
I called out again, “Bill, Look to the left. Turn your shoulders to the left.”
I saw yet another ninety-degree turn at the wall.
This time I bellowed, “Look LEFT!!!”
And Zelador turned his head to the left, all the way around to my left knee.