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HorseSpeakSharonFB

In November of 2016 the book HORSE SPEAK: THE EQUINE-HUMAN TRANSLATION GUIDE was released, becoming an instant bestseller and propelling a little-known trainer and riding teacher from Westminster, Vermont, into a whirlwind of book signings, speaking engagements, and clinics throughout North America. Now with the book soon to be released in Dutch and in German, and a follow-up DVD and book in the works, Sharon Wilsie is looking to help more people, from all equestrian backgrounds and disciplines, all over the world, learn to truly communicate with their horses—but not using our language of words and ropes. Wilsie has decoded Horse Speak for the rest of us.

TSB: How did you conceive of the different aspects of Horse Speak?

SW: As a long-time animal trainer, I am intrinsically aware of the difference between a “trained skill” and an “authentic response” from the animal’s own nature. I can train a horse, for instance, to come to the mounting block while at liberty and stand perfectly still without a halter or bridle, and I can then proceed to ride that horse without tack. Eventually, though, this was no longer satisfying, as it occurred to me that just because a horse could do this with apparent ease and obedience did not necessarily mean that he was choosing to do it of his own volition. A well trained and loved servant is still a servant.

I truly wanted to know if a horse, given freedom of choice, would choose to offer me his back. In order to answer this question, I needed to go beyond training. I had to be able to ask a question, “Would you be interested in having me on your back?” Moreover, I would have to understand his answer.

Ultimately, I had to learn to speak “Horse.” Language flows, bends, twists, and turns. It is not the straight-line reasoning of training, which pares down to a set of responses the animal learns to give to the same cues over and over again. The language of the horse belies his innate world view, which can be similar to ours, and in other cases can be almost in opposition to us.

In this work, I start teaching people with the most basic platform: I call it “Going to Zero.” This simply means you adopt the inner state of calm that horses seek to maintain at all times. If you can steady yourself by learning to be at “Zero intensity,” both outside and in, you are on your way to learning the visual language of the horse.

TSB: How does Horse Speak differ from other forms of human-animal communication?

SW: Horse Speak demystifies the subtleties of not only horses, but of the best of the best trainers that people may wish to emulate. When we see a truly stunning performance—whether dressage, circus tricks, Roman riding, or some other amazing horse-and-rider combination—we all wish to experience that level of connection and inspired horsemanship. What few people understand is that body language is a natural part of all of us. It is the level of innate brain connectivity around the interpretation of body language that varies among us. Some people can be naturally fluent in this skill, while others may struggle to interpret even basic facial cues (as is the case in autism).

Horse Speak assists people on any level of awareness to either take what is already working and make it better, or even start from scratch and learn body language basics from the ground up.

HorseSpeakSharon3

TSB: Why do you feel others can benefit from and should learn Horse Speak?

SW: Whether a person has professional goals (showing, teaching, training) or simply enjoys a backyard horse or two, everyone generally wants to have a happy, healthy, and wholesome relationship with horses. Taking the time to really learn their language is just plain common sense.

TSB: How has Horse Speak changed your life with horses? Your career as a horse trainer and riding coach?

SW: To speak the language of the horse is to dive into a world of potential that only exists when two beings can really communicate with each other. And on a completely practical level, I know no better way to help a horse “buy in” to our ideas—whether we want to jump a bigger fence or just get through a veterinary visit without incident.

TSB: How do you see Horse Speak growing and changing other people’s lives with horses? Other people’s equine careers?

SW: In any theater of horsemanship, it is essential to have the utmost safety possible. Far too many people live with a level of mistrust, getting stepped on, run over, bucked off, and so on, while assuming this is just the way things are with horses. This is most definitely NOT the way things should be, and it is NOT ultimately the way horses wish things to be. Especially in the arena of therapeutic horsemanship (physical or emotional/psychological) the need for trust, rapport, and co-facilitation from the horse himself is paramount. One cannot simply layer on more and more obedience-based training, hoping to reach the horse’s authentic core and gain access to the depth of heart that these animals are capable of offering. This can only be reached through communication.

TSB: If there is one common message that most horses are trying to tell us that we don’t understand, what is it?

Horse Speak Final CoverSW: 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.

To find out more about HORSE SPEAK and to download a free chapter, CLICK HERE.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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We are so excited to have just released THE MESSAGE FROM THE HORSE, an autobiographical narrative by Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling, author of the international bestsellers DANCING WITH HORSES and WHAT HORSES REVEAL. In this compelling read—what I like to call “Siddhartha for horse lovers”—we travel alongside a young Hempfling as he seeks out life’s deeper mysteries and meaning. We experience his failings, just as we strive for the same understanding he ultimately achieves.

THE MESSAGE FROM THE HORSE is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE—get yours before everyone else! (Plus, order two or more copies and get 20% off!)

 

 

Here is a free “sneak peek” from THE MESSAGE FROM THE HORSE:

 

“Come quickly! You must come now! The little stallion—they’ve driven him into the steel cage—he’s bleeding all over and now he can’t get out. You must come quickly!”

Fernando, our neighbor’s chubby son, has climbed the steep hill below us as fast as he can manage and only just has enough wind to shout out his message toward the rear wall of the house. He can’t see me but must have guessed that at this time of day I would be working with one of my stallions behind the half tumbled-down wall.

Finally his little round, red face appears in a large hole in the wall, and he repeats his message before I can say anything to calm him. I have never seen this boy so animated before and decide to forego any questions: it is clearly an emergency. I lead my horse into his stall while I shout to Fernando to go straight to the jeep.

A minute later we are bouncing down the precipitous stony track; the sun is already low on the horizon and even though here in the mountains we are over 100 kilometers from the sea I have, as I often do on evenings like this, the sensation of being able to smell fish in the air. As soon as the sun sets, the smell disappears and is replaced by the strong odor of the pine trees that clothe the slopes.

In front of us, the old house looks across a wide dusty plateau; to the left of us the road, shored up by the ubiquitous, half-crumbled walls that cover the landscape, plunges down to the valley.

Fernando points in an agitated manner with his little arms toward a group of men in front of us. “There they are, the idiots, and now they don’t know what to do!”

“Calm down, Fernando! Let’s first see what’s happened.”

We pull up in front of the group, which stands aside. The boy leaps out and starts to run toward the cage before Antonio stops him.

“You stay put, Fernando, do you hear?”

Only now can I see the tragedy: they’ve driven Pinto, a fiery young stallion, into the narrow steel cage, which is big enough to contain a bullock or a small horse but without leaving the creature the smallest room for movement. Whole herds are trapped by using this dreadful contraption. When the front and back gates of the cage are closed, no resistance is possible. In this case the stallion is thrashing about in such a panic that in addition they have used a serreta, a veritable instrument of torture. Sharp spikes are digging into the tenderest part of the horse’s nostrils and the rope attached to the serreta is now tangled around one of his forelegs. Any attempt to move him or indeed free him from the cage only increases his panic and tears his nostrils even more severely.

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Antonio, the manager, comes toward me, saying, “Este caballo es malo, malo, malo!” “He’s a bad, bad, bad horse!”

Through gritted teeth, I take a deep breath before greeting him as civilly as I can.

“You’ve a problem here,” I say. “What happened?”

He replies but I am not really listening. I slowly approach the cage. I see the serreta, which by now has reduced the nostrils to a bleeding lump of flesh, and my blood boils. I pause a moment as Antonio looks questioningly at me. I go toward Jose.

“Give me your knife,” I say, “and now beat on the back of the cage with your stick!”

He looks over momentarily at his father, but Antonio is impassive and nods without saying a word. The youth does what I ask, and the little stallion jerks his head upward in fright and to one side. Now I can get hold of the rope to sever it. At this point his front foreleg is so bent that he is almost lying on his side; the right hind leg has slipped through the bars of the cage and every convulsion only aggravates his situation. I ask the group of men to back away from the cage and give me space.

I gaze into the evening sky at the setting sun. I feel the calm. I feel the tension draining away. I feel the chaos of the situation like a knot—one that can gradually be undone.

“Be still, little horse! Be still!”

I can see that Antonio and the others trust me enough to leave me alone. Suddenly I feel as if I am observing the scene from a
distance. I am aware of a change of scents in the air: The wind has veered to the southwest, and it is pleasantly warm as it blows softly up from the valley below, carrying the heavy scent of the herbs that carpet the hillside. I breathe deeply and slowly, relishing the beautiful, mild evening; I feel the warmth of the sun on my left cheek and the breeze ruffling my hair. Once again I take a deep breath and enjoy the soft, balmy air. My fingertips begin to stroke the sweat-drenched neck of the little stallion. His eyes are now half closed and he has become completely calm. Only the horse can hear my voice as I describe the beauty of the evening to him.

 

Be among the first to read the rest of THE MESSAGE OF THE HORSE by Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling, available for the first time in English in a beautiful translation by David Walser.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW

Buy one for a friend, too, and get 20% off your order!

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