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Posts Tagged ‘Sharon Wilsie’

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How do you greet someone for the first time? Depending on which part of the world you are from, perhaps it is no more than a nod and a smile of acknowledgment, a small bow, or it could be a kiss on one cheek or two. Of course, the greeting many of us are most familiar with is the handshake.

The handshake dates back to Ancient Greece. It is believed that by shaking hands, rather than bowing or curtseying, two individuals proved they were equals. It also demonstrated that they felt comfortable enough together to be unarmed.

Have you ever thought about the fact that horses have a similar system in place? A way to show when they are on equal footing and not a threat to one another? Of course we’ve all seen the horse-to-horse sniff, stomp, and squeal, but have we ever really considered what it all means…and what it means when it comes to the way we greet our horses?

“The Greeting Ritual is the basic platform I have created to teach humans how Conversations with horses can exist,” says Sharon Wilsie of Wilsie Way Horsemanship in HORSE SPEAK, the book she wrote with fellow horsewoman Gretchen Vogel. “The Greeting Ritual consists of three separate moments in which horses that are meeting touch noses on the Greeting Button (located on the front of the muzzle). The speed at which they may perform these three touches varies from lightning-fast to very slow. The reason for three official touches is simple: there is much to say in a first, formal greeting, and it takes two subsequent touches to sort it all out.”

 

HORSE SPEAK author Sharon Wilsie greets her Morgan mare.

HORSE SPEAK author Sharon Wilsie greets her Morgan mare.

 

Here’s a very simple way to start a real Conversation with your horse, the way he’d like you to, beginning with “Hello”:

1 Use a Knuckle Touch (your hand in a soft fist, knuckles up) to the horse’s Greeting Button to say, “Hello,” followed by an obvious turn to one side. Do this to see if the horse will copy your movement (an offer to follow you).

2 Add a second Knuckle Touch to say, “Getting to know you!” and once more turn to the side to confirm the horse will offer to follow you.

3 End with a third Knuckle Touch to say, “What’s next?” as you breathe in and out softly. This could lead to you going somewhere together, grooming (some form of touch), or separating peacefully. The third touch is where the next level of Conversation begins.

 

“Horses must be bilingual,” says Wilsie. “They must speak ‘horse language’ to horses (although if they have been isolated, they may not be effective communicators with other horses). In addition, horses need to speak ‘human.’ We use words and inflections to indicate our many levels of feelings, needs, and replies to each other. Humans don’t need to rely on subtle visual messages. We express less with our bodies than we do with words. We make so many random movements around our horses that they can be at a loss trying to understand us.

HORSE SPEAK is meant to help both sides of the coin: humans and horses. Just like learning a foreign language, you will first learn distinct movements that are the horse’s individual words. You’ll learn how to mirror his words visually, in a way he will understand. Eventually, you will be able to combine these gestures in sequences and pose questions to horses. When a horse replies with his own movements, you will understand what he is saying and be able to respond logically. Fluency comes with the flexibility to have a conversation automatically, calibrated with appropriate intensity. And giving you the means to become fluent is my goal.”

Watch the book trailer here:

 

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

HORSE SPEAK: THE EQUINE-HUMAN TRANSLATION GUIDE is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

 

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

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The Trafalgar Square Books offices are located on a Vermont farm. We recognize ourselves as pretty lucky, seeing as in between meetings and calls with authors we can look out the windows and see both horses and Highland Cattle grazing in the green fields that slope up from the barn where our books and DVDs are warehoused toward the treeline in the distance. There is something about seeing, hearing, and breathing horses throughout each work day that is integral to our mission of publishing books “for the good of the horse.”

A few equine members of the “TSB herd” are boarders, a few are training projects and in active work, and then there are a number of “retirees” that are allowed the freedom to roam, pretty much as they wish, in quiet companionship. The horses begin and end their days close to the barn, with paddocks and run-ins directly below our office windows, so we all form relationships of proximity with them—and we know their habits and rituals. We watch them eat breakfast and wander down to the stream for a drink. We see them play in the snow and nap in the sun. We notice how they relate to their pasturemates, the naughty pony, the cranky geese. We think of them all with affection, even though they are not ours to ride, train, or care for.

This past spring, we experienced a farm event that was profoundly moving; one that brought us all together, inspiring discussion and bringing questions to the fore that we had not yet dealt with directly as a collective group.

One morning, the barn manager arrived early in the morning to do chores and found one of the “old fellas,” a Quarter Horse gelding thought to be near 30 years old, in his pasture, unable to move and clearly in severe pain. The veterinarian was immediately called, and upon her arrival she determined the horse had broken his shoulder somehow during the night—a catastrophic accident without obvious cause. The decision was made to euthanize him without delay.

The gelding had long been turned out with two other pensioners, as had been arranged by a charitable owner. All three retirees had lived together contentedly as a small herd with little human interference for a number of years. As the veterinarian attended to the stricken gelding, one of his pasturemates startled her by coming over and lying down beside them, facing the injured horse, and remaining there as the old Quarter Horse took his last breaths. It was uncharacteristic of the companion to approach his pasturemate in such a fashion, and it was especially unusual, seeing as three people were present during the procedure.

The gelding’s owner wished to come say goodbye before his burial, so his body was not moved right away. Remarkably, the companion by his side remained, and when he did rise, it was only to change position before lying down beside his fallen comrade once again. The third horse in their little herd had also joined them, standing nearby, quietly, for quite some time.

The barn manager took a photograph of the scene, not to be macabre but to share what appears to us, at least by our human interpretation, to be the dead horse’s herd holding vigil over a friend’s body.

 

horse group

 

We are all horse people at Trafalgar Square Books, and as we are learning more about horses as sentient beings and the necessity of ensuring that compassion underlies all that we do with them, this incident moved us all distinctly. We discussed it with each other, and in relation to our own horses, and how the event might affect decisions we make on and around horses in the future. We also shared it with a number of our authors, asking for their thoughts and insight.

“Personally, I feel that we have gone to an extreme with our fear of ‘anthropomorphizing’ human behaviors onto animals,” said Dr. Allen Schoen, who recently co-authored THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN with Susan Gordon. “The more we understand the commonality of neuroscience between species, especially mammalian species, the more we can appreciate that animals do grieve in their own way. I have seen this many times personally and have discussed this in my other books Love, Miracles and Animal Healing and Kindred Spirits. We see evidence of this in elephants and many other species. I have seen it in geese, sitting by the side of the road next to their mates who had been killed by a car. I feel it is time that we honor the sentience, the awareness, the consciousness of horses, and their awareness and sensitivity to the death of their companions, as well.”

“Horses use their entire bodies to communicate with each other,” explained Sharon Wilsie, co-author of HORSE SPEAK with Gretchen Vogel. “During the course of a day there are several primary conversations that they may have with each other when out in a herd. One of their favorite conversations is simply called, ‘sharing space.’ To our eyes horses who are sharing space together may seem to be doing nothing more than dozing in the sun or standing around doing nothing. However, once you understand the significance of sharing space you will begin to see the inherent bonding and peacefulness that they are participating in at that moment. When a herd member passes away, sharing space with the departed is the most affectionate and connecting conversation that the living can have, not only with the one who has passed away, but also with each other and inside themselves.

“Although we can only guess at what grief may feel like for a horse it is easy to feel the power of their hearts as they stand guard over the grave of a loved one. Those of us who have been around animals long enough will probably have experienced a horse lingering near the burial site of one who has crossed over that rainbow bridge. Unlike humans who can easily find distraction from our emotional pain, horses live in the present moment and experience the fullness of all of life, including the passing of another that might have been special to them.

“Living in the moment is not always easy for us,” says Sharon. “Perhaps that is why being with horses can feel so healing to our minds, hearts, and souls. Taking a page from their book of life may do us some good in facing what can be a very sad time for us. We, too, can mourn with the dignity, grace, and fullness that horses demonstrate so flawlessly.”

–Rebecca Didier, Senior Editor

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