The Language of Horse

I was watching the January Seminar presented by Dennis in the clubhouse. The clubhouse is an appropriate setting for cowboy stuff. It is a relatively old barn built sparingly and without most creature comforts that we are used to today. There is electricity, but there is no heat. Insulation was not even a forethought in the construction. The inside is rough lumber and beams and no real inside finishes to speak of. However, what should a real cowboy expect?

I felt quite at home since I was raised in a very old farmhouse on a ranch in the Salinas Valley. It had a board and batten style similar to the clubhouse. I have photos of the old house from a time before I was even born when my father and mother first arrived at the old house. It was rough and unfinished, but over time my father slowly added drywall, new flooring, and even rooms to accommodate a growing family of seven. It eventually was filled with wall coverings, furniture, and knick knacks that make a house a home.

The house was old, but memories and objects that represented moments of life covered walls and furniture. I do not recall my mom ever remodeling and the house remained consistent for as long as my parents lived there. It reminds me of a song sung by Alan Jackson, Small Town Southern Man. In it he sings a line about the family and the father “seven people living in a house built with his own hands” The clubhouse is filled with pictures and memorabilia. John Wayne figures prominently among the photos hanging on the wall. I know it is Hollywood, but Wayne would rank as the number one cowboy or at least his image. He would likely feel at home in the clubhouse even though it does not have heat.

In the January Seminar Dennis shared an old pair of spurs and a story of a local rancher. The rancher, a she, had grown up around horses and worked a ranch, but lost her nerve to be around and work with horses. Dennis helped her get over that and she gave Dennis a pair of hundred year old spurs. Wow, a hundred years of memories and history; a small slice of the relationship between horse and rider that now reside in the red and white clubhouse.

So if a longtime rider and horseman can have difficulty with the horse/human relationship it gives beginners like myself hope. I am bilingual, but one of the languages is not horse. It is far easier to speak Spanish than to speak horse. However there is no politics or gossip in horse. It is clear and unambiguous, except to the beginner and I am sure that is true for a human as well as a young horse. I have watched a number videos and seen Dennis, live, with horses. When we discuss human language we talk about someone being fluent, that is a level of complexity someone is able to use the language in conversation and print.

Watching Dennis in the round pen demonstrates the connection between human and horse at high level of fluency communicated by action. The communication is through verbal cues, body positioning, and transferring energy. One day I watched a horse change direction, turn inside and outside, speed up and slowdown as he ran along the rail. All of that occurred with small subtle moves from the center of the ring by Dennis. When the horse did not respond appropriately, as horses will sometimes do as they are like preschoolers, additional turns and work were prescribed. It was a fluent conversation between human and horse.

By Mike B.