They may not be able to talk, but animals communicate with us in all sorts of different ways, if we’re paying enough attention. Horse communication can be obvious, once you’re really paying attention.
Is your horse trying to tell you something about its saddle?
I remember years ago a friend (we’ll call him John) was having saddle issues. His horse was very ‘girthy’ (he would pin his ears, stomp a hind foot, and turn his head try to nip him when he was tightening the girth).
John had tried doing up the girth from the other side, using a different saddle pad, a different girth, and doing it really slowly – all to no avail.
He still wasn’t convinced he needed a new saddle – after all, he had paid a lot of saddle for the one he had, and it was made especially to fit this horse. But something was obviously up, so he started saddle shopping. He brought 2 new saddles back to the barn to try out on his horse.
What was really interesting was watching his horse’s reaction when he carried each saddle out towards him.
John carried out one of the new saddles first, and put it on a rail near his horse. The horse didn’t bat an eye. He carried out the second new saddle; again, his horse didn’t bat an eye, but remained standing relaxed and sleepy.
Everything changed when he carried out his current saddle.
Suddenly the horse was alert, and tense. He stopped resting his hind leg, his ears went back, and he started moving around. He tossed his head, and there were wrinkles around his nostrils and under his eyes. It was obvious that he wasn’t happy!
The same thing happened when John carried each saddle closer to the horse, and sat each one on him.
He left his current saddle on the fence, picked up the first saddle and took it towards his horse, and sat it on his back. The horse relaxed, his face softened and his head lowered. The same happened when he took that one away, brought the second saddle over, and sat it on the horse’s back.
However, when he picked up the current saddle again and took it to his horse, the tension returned, the head raised, the horse got restless again.
We were so amazed to see such different responses from the horse that we switched back and forward another couple of times – and the same thing happened each time.
The horse knew exactly which saddle he didn’t like – presumably because it had been causing discomfort or pain.
It’s really easy to assume that our horses are just being difficult or annoying when they ‘play up’ during saddling.
We get caught up in our own little world, with our plan of how the day is going to go and what our timeframes are. But remember, horses can’t talk – they can’t say,
- ‘Hey, you’re rushing me a bit today, could you slow down?’
- ‘Didn’t you notice I have a bruise there?’
- ‘I’m really not feeling so good today.’
- ‘Ouch, this saddle is digging into my shoulder’, or
- ‘that girth really isn’t comfortable’.
How would you feel, if you couldn’t talk and someone was poking and prodding you with no sensitivity to how you might be feeling? (And, if you have been in that situation, I’m so sorry that you had that experience – but it means you should have the empathy to not do the same thing to another living being.)
When it comes to problems saddling, it’s most likely that the problem is either pain related, or an issue with the saddle or related tack that you’re using – not just bad behaviour.
So next time your horse is fidgity or grumpy when you’re tacking up (or anything else you’re doing with him!), remember he may be trying to tell you
a) that something is wrong, and
b) what that is,
and see if you can slow down, pay more attention, rule out discomfort, pain, illness, and any of the other legitimate causes of his behaviour – as well as training – before you get grumpy back at him 😉
Keep Connecting with your animals,
Want to find out what a horse communication session could tell you?
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Trisha Wren has been an equine professional for most of her adult life. She rode, competed, and taught Western Riding for 15 years in Scotland, then horse and rider bio-mechanics in New Zealand and Australia. She’s been a full time horse and animal communicator since April 2016, and also runs regular Animal Communication online workshops. Find out more about Trisha here.