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Learning how Horses communicate

I was determined to ride Hidalgo but first I had to have two horses together again and step up my horsemanship skills. Once I had them both at the farm and settled everyone seemed pretty content. Wasn't too exciting thankfully. Frisky was not as attached to Hidalgo as she once was. Or, another way I see it is she felt safe and relaxed with me so going out together was a fun time for both of us. Having Frisky and Hidalgo at the farm together taught me a lot about how horses interact with each other. It is not very common to have a stallion free with other horses. However since Frisky was going to be bred for the share of the caretakers anyway, they were kept together and lived a more natural lifestyle. They were free to interact and be with each other which I think was a unique experience for me to learn from and ultimately they were happier.

In watching them, I realized whoever was more serious/ loud would get the other one to yield/listen. Lots of noise ( squealing) and thrashing out with the front legs or kicking out with the back legs. However, I noticed they never really made contact with each other. They would occasionally nip each other but very rarely. Hidalgo never struck or kicked Frisky. Frisky did however kick him a few times when he did not yield to her wanting him to move away. He never seemed to actually feel it or get hurt but he got the message and would back off in Hidalgo's stubborn fashion. Sometimes they would be separated for a week when they were at the caretaker's place and come back to our farm. They would have their usual greetings which got pretty mild over time. Usually, they were just eating in the pasture together in peace.

They never showed/directed this thrash noisy behavior towards me. Thank goodness. However, I did find myself between them at times but I could tell they were about to do their thing and I felt a little too close for comfort and didn't want to get caught in the crossfire. I learned that I could tell them both off in a similar fashion with my own human twist. Horses ain't stupid and I have no shame in looking like a weirdo. I would start screaming and using my body language to put pressure on them to go away ( waving my hands) accompanied by "No!" or a high-pitched "Ah-Ah" Heck I might have even kicked out at things and knocked stuff around me. Eventually, they just knew in order to both be close to me they had to not pull any stunt shows off. It might be normal for them to do to each other but I'd rather not participate haha. My favorite "corrective aggressive noise" as I like to call it is "Hssssh." At first, I was pretty dramatic about it but over time it took less and less to get my message across. I have also learned ways to not look like a weirdo and still pull off communicating my message of "respect my space." Usually, if I make a hissing noise my horses know that it means they are doing something I don't approve of and stop the behavior pretty quickly or at least redirect their focus on me. I am probably more vocal with my horses than most standards but I think our voice is just another way to communicate and comes in handy when your hands are full or the horses are far away. I also believe horses are pretty good at recognizing facial expressions as sometimes a look of disapproval could get them to quit messing around.

I didn't learn this overnight and I am still learning better ways to communicate and understand horses. For the longest time, I didn't even realize I was the reason why Hidalgo was the way he was. I use to be very timid and afraid to hurt the horse's feelings or hurt the horse in general. This was not a good mindset, especially with Hidalgo's personality being so different from Frisky's. Frisky appreciated the softness. Hidalgo saw it as a weakness a go signal for him to make the big decisions on his own. Yeah, horses are way tougher and smarter than we usually give them credit for. Frisky taught me a lot about setting boundaries and defending them when they are not respected. She may have seemed over the top but really she was a natural herd leader you did not want to mess with. I will say on some of our walks we would come across other horses usually tethered with ropes. One time we had a female horse and her foal come up to us out of nowhere, the rope was broken. This mare was a bit bigger than Hidalgo. Frisky didn't want much to do with them but the mare kept coming toward me and since it was a strange horse I was a little worried and started backing up since she had a foal. I wasn't sure if this horse was coming toward me out of curiosity or to protect her foal. I didn't know what to do in that situation at the time. We were also in an odd spot where there was not much room for us to move and we were caught in a corner. Frisky must of picked up on me feeling vulnerable and scared. I remember them both pinning their ears at each other. Then Frisky lunged forward onto the mare's neck and full-on clamped down on her. Lots of noise and squealing. Some kicking from the mare but no contact. Frisky released and the mare turned to run with her foal and Frisky chased her for a bit. I still had her rope in my hands so she felt the tension (as I literally stood there wide-eyed and frozen clenching the rope). She instantly came back to me while throwing nasty looks at the mare who was a good distance away from us. I was dumbfounded so was the mare I bet. Do you mean Frisky could tear off my head but chooses not to this whole time!? I saw another level of Frisky that day. Frisky treated me and Hidalgo like delicate roses by her standards. Holy Sh*t! I never saw her nor thought she was capable of that but tho she may be small she be mighty.

The mare was a relative's horse. My relative finally caught up with her horse just a few moments later which solved the problem of what to do with this loose strange horse and her foal. Her horse was not hurt or phased by the event. Frisky obviously was fine. Which told me horses are pretty tough. This got me thinking no wonder Hidalgo listens to Frisky. She is a tough cookie. This and reading books along with watching videos on youtube about training horses I started to learn how to connect and communicate with my horses better. I don't have a lot of videos for example. When not-so-fun stuff happened I was a little too preoccupied to whip out my camera haha.

Fast-forwarding a bit for these clips. The first clip is typically how Frisky and Hidalgo would greet each other. When they were not with me they were usually kept separate so when they were reintroduced they would have a ritual similar to this. Hidalgo is also blind in his left eye at this age. ( Which I will talk about in another post)

The 2nd clip is a while after and you can see the same foal is much older. (I called him Pixel, he belonged to the caretakers ). You can see I am way more comfortable with my little herd. Pixel is being a little mischievous (wonder where he gets it from hmmmmmm) but Hidalgo doesn't really care just slightly annoyed. I think I was getting ready to feed them so they were all hanging out. You see Frisky makes room for Hidalgo but no one is really that concerned. Even though Frisky was usually running the show. When it came to food Hidalgo was the one be more assertive. Man's gotta eat!

The last part is of a female horse who is tied and a young male horse who is free. Probably because he was not yet weaned and was free to roam which is common. I believe these horses had the same owner? You see they don't actually touch each other though it looks pretty intense. You can hear Sahara neigh as she is watching this whole thing with me and was very curious.

1 Comment

Angele Gougeon
Angele Gougeon
May 04, 2022

We say so much through body language (something I love learning about) - I have no doubt that horses can understand what we're saying, even through facial expressions alone. Really neat. You definitely got some hands on learning. Ha ha! Love the videos as well, especially the first part where they're greeting one another.

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