Horses often communicate relying on their eyes and their very large and mobile ears, which they use to signal to other horses where to direct their attention, in order to locate food or to evade predators. Horses are social animals living in large groups and they are also prey animals – so, young foals learn how to stand up soon after birth and how to run with the herd by following mom’s lead. Horses feel emotion without too much rationalizing. They understand us and scientists say that they pick up on our moods from our facial expressions and tone of voice, similar to dogs. Experienced riders know how to pay attention to their horses’ ears in order to help determine what their horse is thinking/feeling. Equally important in the equine vocabulary is tail position – as you can see from the diagram.
As you can see the hunched / clamped tail position very clearly indicates a tense / anxious, individual and to other horses, this signals submission. A flicking tail may simply be practically swatting flies away or if the swishing is vigorous, accompanied by lifting a hind leg and at the other end the teeth are bared, this indicates anger, feeling threatened and is intended to ward invaders away! Aggression in horses involves biting, kicking, rearing, and striking out with a foreleg, however, this is more common under domestic conditions where there is competition over resources – food / water / shelter. Generally, in wild herds, apart from a new stallion approaching the herd or a mare defending her foal, horses do not go out of their way to exert dominance, instead they try to avoid conflict, so when threatened by a stronger opponent a horse will depart, holding its head low with its tail tucked in. Horses interact with one another mainly on bilateral levels that include all members of the group and not according to a rank order. An incorrect belief that the person handling and training a horse must be in a top position of a dominance hierarchy [ i.e. an alpha position, being a leader] may have a negative effect on the horse, compromising its welfare and can trigger fear, resulting in avoidance behavior – particularly when the desire to dominate encourages and involves the application of punishment. To discover more about calm and consistent training principles which are infinitely preferable, and to enhance horse welfare and improve the horse-rider relationship please check out the International Society for Equitation Science – Learning Theory in Equitation.
Horses Communicating Preferences
It was previously believed that only dolphins and apes could learn how to communicate their preferences e.g. by pointing at symbols but a study in 2016, by scientists from the Norwegian Vet Institute, shows that this applies to horses too.
How was this accomplished?
The horses [a total of 23] were trained, using carrots, to approach a board on a fence. Then how to tell the difference between three symbols: ____ for [blanket on] and | for [blanket off] as well as a blank board for [no change]. The scientists also used hot and cold temperatures to help the horses differentiate.
The speed of learning varied from horse to horse but after 2 week’s training, all 23 were able to go to the board to indicate, rug on or off, and express their own preferences. They tended to request ON when it was wet, windy, or cold and OFF when mild, dry, or warm. The study was published in the Applied Animal Behavior Science Journal and Karen McComb, professor of animal behavior and cognition at the University of Sussex said;
‘This is a really interesting, innovative study that has conceived a very novel way of getting at what is going on in the mind of a horse.”
Horses and Humans
The adoption of the horse was one of the single most important discoveries for early human societies. Horses and other animals were used to pull wheeled vehicles, chariots, carts, and wagons with horses increasingly being used for riding, in the Near East, from at least 2000BCE onwards. The relationship between man and horse, involving workers, farmers, kings, and enthusiasts has been evolving for centuries. However, horse meat is still eaten in around 22 countries and indeed beef eaters in the UK were horrified to learn that some of the beef in their food was, in fact, horse meat – Britain like the US generally has an aversion to this, indeed in the Wild-West, horses became a sort of mythological creature in American National consciousness. Horses, like cats and dogs, are considered as companions and pets but definitely not food. My novel Spirit of Prophecy features a painted American Apache horse called Espiritus, who reincarnates as Totem, a top event horse who was unwittingly exported for slaughter, whilst his owner Juliet Jermaine was away competing. In this extract Juliet is on a lunch date with the Irish hero, Tommy Rafferty. Juliet has just shared the guilt that she feels and describes how Totem’s tortured screams haunt her dreams:
She thought of Chateaubriand, red and bloody on some French Madame’s plate, and shivered with revulsion. “The French eat horses,” she moaned. And she pushed her food away untouched.
“They do, that be right. But, let’s not think of that now, can you think of a nation more sentimental about horses than the Irish? I mean, for us, horses are in the blood. Petting, betting, buying and selling. Oh, and art of course. Don’t you be worrying about the French.”
Note, in the paragraph above the word “use,” is also contained in “abuse,” and it is well overdue for humanity to become fully aware that animals – all animals are sentient beings; they feel love, fear, pain, just like us and at a soul level they are certainly not “lower beings.”
In fact, like Leo Tolstoy, a staunch vegetarian and the author of War and Peace stated:
“As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields.”
He wrote in one of his journals:
“You must treat animals as well as people, the way you’d like to be treated.”
So, he clearly values the lives of animals, and by implication there is nothing to justify harming animals, being apathetic about their abysmal welfare, or eating them for that matter – it is no longer a genuine necessity. Perhaps a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is necessary to free humanity from violence?
Beef Farmer saves his cows from the Slaughterhouse – Watch Jay Wilde, former organic beef farmer doing his bit.
On an equally uplifting note, you can’t fail to be moved and inspired by the love between humans and beautiful equines when you watch: “The Horse – My Horse and Me – What’s your Horse Story?” Martin Clune, the British actor and chairman of The British Horse Society conveys the tender beauty, admiration, and respect that exists between him and his horse.
The story of my horses, [Red and Henry] and me, is one about how I came to believe in Reincarnation and Karma and as noted earlier here, that became the central theme in my novel Spirit of Prophecy.
My first pony was called Chocolate who transitioned over the rainbow-bridge some years ago. More recently, I had an Angel reading and asked, why had Chocolate returned as Jester [my daughters (formerly) first pony]? What message did he have for us, and what did he have to teach us?
Angel Raphael replied:
“In a previous lifetime he was a being who was silenced. His passion is inter-species communication.”
After the reading, I pondered a while and took this as a nudge from the universe that I should go see Jester and his new loan family, together with an Animal Communicator [the amazing Rebekah, who can be contacted at Paw Prints (Animal Communication and Healing)], so that he would have the opportunity to speak through her.
Connection via an animal communicator (a silent, telepathic communication that works via deepened intuition) which is covered in an earlier blog post, is both awesome, and exciting. The sessions were videoed and will form a series on my: Jill Hughes Author, YouTube channel, called: The Pony Escaping the Story.
Would you like to find out what Jester had to say? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll let you know when the video has been edited and posted to YouTube.
Have you ever heard of the Wilhelm Scream?
Odds are, if you are involved in the film industry, you absolutely know exactly what I’m talking about. If not, well, like me, it’s all-new, fascinating and perhaps even just a little bit weird. Let me enlighten you.
The “Wilhelm Scream” has become one of those almost mythical icons of Hollywood. It is a stock sound-effect that has been used in over 400 films and TV Series since it was first recorded in 1951, for the Western film, Distant Drums. It is frequently used when someone is shot, falls from a great height or is blown backward in an explosion. Examples of the Wilhelm Scream can be found in any numbers of blockbuster movies down through the ages, including the Indiana Jones franchise, many Disney movies and most notably, Star Wars. The name Wilhelm Scream comes from a character, Private Wilhelm, who uses it in a 1953 Western, The Charge at Feather River, when he is shot in the thigh by an arrow.
So, what exactly does this scream sound like? Check it out here on this YouTube video:
In the spirit of the Wilhelm Scream, De Wolfe Music, suppliers of sound-effects and music to Hollywood have decided to allow a previously unknown horse to achieve its own form of cinematic immortality. Partnering with Equilab (an app. and social network for equestrians) they ran a competition where users of the app. recorded a short snort, neigh, or snicker and submitted it for judging. This could all be done via the Equilab App. The closing date for entry of a horse’s wonderful “words” was September 1st, 2019, so it will be amazing to discover which horse’s vocabulary could be immortalized, forever, as part of Hollywood legend. Horses communicating indeed!
The initiative was supported by Redwings (the U.K.’s leading horse charity).
Redwings’ Nic de Brauwere stated they had loved this project and added; “horses use a variety of noises which, when combined with body language communicate a wide range of emotions. But when it comes to the big screen an image of a horse is usually only accompanied by a classic neighing sound and often in situations where the horse would be unlikely to make that noise anyway.”
He noted that at their horse sanctuary they observe the many ways horses communicate with each other and with humans on a daily basis. It will be good to highlight, especially to Hollywood and the movie audiences there is a much richer selection of horse communication to help portray a more realistic view of our beloved four-legged friends.
About Redwings UK:
Redwings Horse Sanctuary care for over 1,500 rescued horses, ponies, donkeys, and mules every day at sites across the UK. The charity, which is 100% funded by donations, rescues equines from neglect or abuse and gives them a safe, “forever home” at the Sanctuary. The charity’s own highly skilled veterinary and behaviour teams provide the expert rehabilitation and specialist care its rescued residents need. Horses capable of living outside of the Sanctuary’s paddock fences are given the training to help them find loving, new homes, as part of Redwings’ rehoming scheme.
American Wild Horse Campaign:
For Americans and something closer to home, consider the plight of the wild Mustangs. Google: Unwanted Horses of the West. Rescuing and repatriating them is going to be the central theme of my next novel, the sequel to Spirit of Prophecy when Olympic event rider Juliet Jermaine is moved to buy a ranch……………….
It is also my intention that next week’s blog will highlight and champion the terrible fate that has befallen these magnificent animals – so do keep reading
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Till Next Time I’m Sending: Love, Phire, and the Violet Flame of Peace