Video Review: “Horse Speak: The Equine-Human Translation Guide” by Sharon Wilsie

If you are looking to expand your communication with your horse in order to help him attain relaxation, this video offers methods to do just that.

Horse Speak: The Equine-Human Translation Guide, First Conversations. Image provided by Sharon Wilsie.

If you’re Sharon Wilsie, forget horse “whispering.” In her video “Horse Speak: The Equine-Human Translation Guide, First Conversations,” Wilsie stomps, snorts and huffles in an effort to imitate a horse’s communication style within her human frame. Wilsie’s premise is clear and straightforward: if you want a horse to understand you, you must speak its language.

Far more in-depth than merely interpreting the traditional notion of “split ears” (one ear forward, one ear backward) as “listening to the rider,” Wilsie identifies over a dozen “buttons” on the horse’s body. These “buttons” are points where horses innately understand another horse’s meaning. One example: the cheekbone. When a dominant horse (“D”) approaches a less-dominant horse (“LD”) and D wants LD to move its head, D will reach forward with its muzzle towards LD’s cheekbone, or the “get away button.” The LD horse will turn its head away from the pressure (whether physical or merely energy pressure) put on its cheek by the D horse.

Wilsie utilizes these buttons to encourage each horse to achieve what she terms “zero.” Zero is defined as the horse being in a completely relaxed state, both physically and mentally. Wilsie notes that often, despite a horse seeming relaxed on the outside (physical relaxation), they can still be anxious on the inside (mentally anxious).

In the video, Wilsie demonstrates the basics of each of the thirteen main buttons and six main qualities horses value. These six qualities include leadership, clear communication, attaining a zero (inner calm) state, soft invitations, feet and connection. Wilsie avers that horses follow the lead horse’s feet. Thus, when she is speaking to a horse, she is very clear about her own footfalls, including making distinct sound with each strike of the ground, so the student horse can follow her more easily.

On the ground, Wilsie’s goal is to “make the lead rope superfluous” by creating a solid connection, via communication, between horse and human.

After introducing the viewer to her methodology and the thirteen buttons, Wilsie then demonstrates her method on three very different horses. The first is a laid-back, very affectionate stock horse who needs to understand boundaries better. By the end of their session, Wilsie has taught the horse that affection is fine, so long as her personal space is respected and she is identified as the “lead” horse in this herd of two.

The second horse is an aloof horse who is being used in a therapeutic riding program. Like often happens with horses who experience numerous riders, this horse appears to be detached and uncommunicative at the start of their session. Wilsie carefully opens this horse’s mind up to the idea that genuine communication can be a positive experience.

The third horse illustrates the very active mind one typically sees in an “alpha mare.” This horse, half-Arabian and half-Saddlebred, is keenly aware of her surroundings and mentally “on guard” against imagined threats from every portal. Wilsie invests the time required to approach this mare on her level and with very good results.

On Wilsie’s webpage, she offers the following insight into what horses really want from their humans. In a word – authenticity.

“Live from your heart. Horses don’t mind if you cry, or are afraid, or even if you feel frustrated. But they abhor incongruity. If your insides are churning, and your outsides are trying to act like a rigid authority, this inner vs. outer conflict makes horses confused and anxious. If nothing else, learning to think and act like a horse will give any human access to a level of inner awareness and outer presence that trumps any other mechanical, rule-based roboticism that steers us to see horses as more of a biological motorcycle than the elegant gatekeepers to a richer existence in which being ‘one with nature’ is more than a quaint expression: it is reality.”

Horse Speak, First Conversations runs 115 minutes and retails for $29.95.  It is available through Horse and Rider Books.

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