Humans and animals are known to form close bonds, and reading and interpreting body language of each other is one of the factors that brings about this understanding.
It has long been known that when animals and humans live in close proximity to each other, it is inevitable that both understand the gestures and facial expressions that each one displays, which is interpreted as communicating through body language.
While many parts of the face and body are used when using body language as the form of communication between humans, this form of communication is also apparent when you consider one skill that does wonders to an animal. One example is horse whispering.
If you have seen the 1998 film, The Horse Whisperer” with Robert Redford and Scarlett Johansson, you will understand the strong bond that can be formed between a human and an animal. However, horse whispering has more to do with listening than whispering, contrary to the term. The skill, which is practiced by professional men and women, focuses on how to read and understand the horse’s body language. They are also trained to understand the animal’s psychology. Just like with humans, body language says more than spoken words.
A traumatized horse, through accident or abuse, may have behavioral changes that are difficult to deal with. It can also result in the horse being thought of as dangerous. Oftentimes, owners call in a horse whisperer to help the animal.
Horse whispering is comparable to what translators and interpreters do. Horse whisperers spend several years studying the horses and their behavior while in their natural environment. They spend a considerable amount of time to read the animal’s body language that is a silent but potent communication signal. A horse whisperer must learn to translate and interpret all of the horse’s body language, from the rolling eyes and rearing gestures, to foot stamping, tail flicking, to the movements of the ear, drooping of the lower lips to their changing facial expressions.
It is wonderful to watch a horse whisperer and an untrained horse during public demonstrations of horse whispering. The horse whisperer and a young and untrained horse will first meet in a small enclosure. There you will see how the horse whisperer builds trust and at the same time study the horse’s reaction. Initially, the horse might take flight or fight. The human will initially send the horse away, which is actually a reverse form of inviting the horse to come closer. Later the professional will invite the horse, when he has found that the horse is ready to listen. There will be a push-and-pull scenario as the whisperer studies how well and how fast the horse responds to his requests, which in turn establishes the type of partnership they will have.
Although it may appear as if the whisperer will take all day to make initial contact with the horse, the actual introduction of the two participants will only take a few minutes. There is no shouting and there will be no fear, which is very different from the usual “breaking” of horses. What ensues is a positive and calm understanding between the two, as the whisperer has already assessed the body language the horse displayed during that brief moment, which will become the basis of their partnership later. Trust is built when the whisperer presents himself or herself as a “safe haven,” a person that could be trusted.
There is no trick involved in horse whispering. The whisperer uses the only thing necessary, body language, which is the world’s oldest language.