What Horses Have Taught Me About Being a Communicator

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that there’s been a little horse drama in my life. It’s a long, sordid tale (ok, maybe not that sordid) with the end result of needing to find a new home for my Thoroughbred mare, Journey. It turned out splendidly. The whole process had me thinking hard about what having horses has meant to me generally and specifically about what they’ve taught me about being a better communicator. Sometimes you can learn to be better at what you do in surprising places.

  • Honesty: A horse that offers few surprises with her intentions is called “honest.” You know what to expect because she tells you how she feels. And, by extension, you can trust her. That doesn’t mean she does exactly what you ask every time, but when she doesn’t, it’s not a surprise.
  • Authenticity: You have to be yourself with horses. No point in trying to fake expertise or skills – the horse will be confused and won’t be able to respond the way you (or she) wants to. She’ll know when you’re off balance, nervous or even upset (ever had a horse-hug?).
  • Patience: It may take try after try, day after day or even month after month to perfect a skill. Being patient about how quickly you can both learn new skills and translate that into perfect execution is important.
  • Clarity: Be clear about what you want your horse to do. You can’t send mixed signals and expect to get a positive result. If you’re clear about what you want, you can translate that into voice, leg and hand cues that will help her figure out what you need.
  • Humor: Owning horses is not terribly glamorous. You have to shovel their poop, for crying out loud. There is always room to laugh at yourself.

Horses are remarkable creatures and make you a better person. I’ve been very lucky to be involved with them for most of my life (although only an owner for about 6 years).

Are there unexpected places, things or people who have taught you about being a better communicator?

Picture: me with Journey in 2006

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  • Condo Blues

    For me it was rehabilitating my abused rescue dog. He lost an eye at the hands of his abuser and is very visually oriented. I had to pay very close attention to his body language and my to figure out what triggered his fearful behaviors. As a result I started to pay better attention to human body language which is something I wasn’t always good at.

    PS:After years of work I have a very confident dog now.

  • Rachel .:. A Step Ahead

    I’ve ridden horses my entire life and competed for more than 10 years. Horses taught me so much.

    1. Persuasion. Sometimes getting a 1,000 pound animal to do what you want is like pulling teeth. But you learn to persuade the horse into doing what you want it to.

    2. Keeping calm and collected. When I was showing, I realized how important it was to keep myself calm and collected, even when things weren’t going my way. I now can keep a “poker face” even when things are falling apart because I realized sometimes the judges haven’t noticed what’s going on.

    3. Body language and confidence. Both of these go a long way in the show ring. You can be the best, but without confidence you don’t have a chance.

    Great post!