Animal Communication. The Regular Kind…


Tuesday, September 14th, 2010 | Filed under Musings




ANIMAL COMMUNICATION

You know, I kinda get my feathers ruffled when people think animal communication is only available through special people who possess that gift.   Now don’t get me wrong… I stand behind those who can chat with pets who have passed or help solve problems between pets and owners.  I am speaking about the regular kind of animal communication.  The everyday kind.

Perhaps if we considered communicating with our horses to be on par with speaking to any being who doesn’t know our language, culture or customs, we’d be heading in the right direction.

Think about it.  When you meet someone who is foreign and doesn’t speak your language, you always excuse the misinterpretations and misunderstandings as “cultural” or a “language barrier”.  You don’t assume they are of a lower intelligence (or maybe you do a little bit…) and you don’t assume you will never figure it out.  You assume there is a gap that needs to be bridged and you set a plan.

I KNOW WHAT IT FEELS LIKE…

As an aside, I’m going to relate a story to you of when I was totally the foreigner.  I was the one with absolutely no communications skills.

When I was 12, my father thought it would be great to give me a trip to Hawaii.  But, instead of a vacation (having been brought up during the Depression), he wanted me to learn something about other cultural work ethics so he placed me with his Hawaiian friend who owned a huge macadamia nut farm on the big island.

Talk about a round peg in a square hole. OMG.  I was bigger than all the other kids, I didn’t know to take off my shoes when entering a house, I was the wrong color, I couldn’t stomach the food, I didn’t know what was going on at any given time and the bugs scared me to death!  I cried every night.  And even though I knew a form of their language (they were very good at pidgin english and spoke it behind my back…) and I certainly knew I was still in the US… I had NO IDEA how to communicate.  The culture and customs were so foreign that I begged my father to let me come home.  He did.  And, I never forgot that, obviously.  The tables were turned and I was the one everyone thought was ignorant.

I know how it feels to have someone say the same thing louder or get angry when I don’t understand.

WHAT IS COMMUNICATION?

Basically, what I’m getting at here is that there isn’t only one way to communicate and even if there was, you have to listen before you can hear.  Even within our own species we all communicate differently and what seems normal to one person can definitely be worlds apart from someone else.  Communication skills have to be learned.

HOW DO WE CROSS THE BRIDGE?

What do we do when we cannot communicate with a human of another culture or language?  We study.  We immerse ourselves in the culture, learn the language and try to assimilate in order to understand the nuances.  This is reasonable and accepted as what we do to understand those who are totally foreign.

Why don’t we do this with our animals?

My point is that if we really want to communicate with our animals, we need to study them.  (After all, they spend all day studying us…)  We need to immerse ourselves in their particular culture, learn the language and assimilate (if we want to go that far).  Considering that animals are different than humans, we might have to put a little more elbow grease into the effort, but who gave us the idiotic notion that animal communication is some psychic mumbojumbo?    Just study them, learn the culture and you’re in!

Of course, most of us don’t have the time to devote to animal communication like a Jane Goodall or Dian Fossey.  Truly, in our society, many of us don’t have Jaques Cousteau research time, but we probably have more than we are willing to devote to our animals.  I’m certainly guilty of slacking in this area.

And, many of us humans feel that it is the animal’s job to understand its master.

Hmmmmm, how advanced.

ANIMALS COMMUNICATE WITH EACH OTHER

What kills me is that animals are pretty efficient communicators.  You don’t ever see an animal cocking its head in confusion (unless they are looking at their human) or boring each other with dinner party, supercilious blah blah.  They not only get their point across efficiently to each other, we humans don’t even understand how they do it half the time. For example, how do dolphins pods and horse herds communicate movements instantaneously… .  We don’t understand it and we cannot do it.

Yet, we think they cannot communicate.  But the truth is, they try.  They try in the way that they know.  And, sometimes they shout the same thing at us because they think we might understand if they add a bite to it – just like us.

What we have to do is take the time to listen.  Take the time to observe.  Take the time to immerse ourselves into their worlds for a while to understand their language.  Even a little bit would get you by… after all, High School Spanish works better than no Spanish, eh?

APPLES AND ORANGES

Now I’m not saying that horses are just as good at poetry as we are… I’m merely suggesting that they communicate in their own way, very well.  And, just because we don’t know “what they are thinking”, doesn’t mean we cannot understand them.  I mean, I don’t know what you are thinking unless you tell me and I still don’t know for sure.  But, my gut and my intuition tell me what I think you are thinking.  And, that is the key here.  I have years of experience understanding peoples body language and facial expressions.  I know I haven’t spent that kind of time considering my horses in the same way.

HORSE WHISPERERS & HORSE COMMUNICATORS

Horse Whisperer status is probably what you might be able to achieve if you had the time and the inclination to immerse yourself into the equine world like a Jane Goodall and were able to develop a “way” with them physically.  The term Horse Communicator connotes those who have a “gift” that is beyond everyday communication and is more cerebral.  But, I guess I am saying that there is a simpler version of animal communication than that.  I think we can all learn to be better at horse whispering and better at animal communication.  Maybe not on an expert level or a “gifted” level, but we all have the ability to understand and communicate with animals.  For example…

The Dorrance brothers were probably animal communicators and horse whisperers in their own way.  They didn’t feel that they had a special gift; they said that they worked really hard at understanding the horse.  They took the time and had the devotion.  They learned the culture, language and customs of the horse.

So to me, learning animal communication, the regular kind, is the same as being dropped into a macadamia nut farm in rural Hawaii in 19somethingsomething.  You sink or swim.  And, the only reason we don’t put the effort into learning the language of our animals is because Dad comes and rescues us… Or, to put it plainly, we don’t have to.

That’s all I’m saying…  If you really want to communicate better with your horse on a day to day basis, you already have the tools.  You need you, your horse, unscheduled time and concentrated effort…   And, I’m pretty sure the Dorrance Brothers would say that it didn’t happen overnight.

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2 comments have been posted...

  1. Martha

    Your blog is a very important one that benefits horses in more than one way. Your ideas about animal communication and communicating with horses in particular is a great interest of mine. Probably because horses in history have been beasts of burden in their relationships to man they have been mistreated by training methods that rely on fear factors. Right up to the present day when horses no longer have to be thought of as beasts in societies where they have become recreational partners and companion animals, traditional training methods are still used to achieve fast results without regard to how fearful they are for the horses. Even “natural horsemen” still use fear factors like sticks, ropes, round pens, lunge lines, bits and spurs.

    When I was fortunate enough to learn a gentler and more practical way to teach a horse from a person with 30 years of experience I wrote Basic Training for a Safe Trail Horse with subtitle of Eliminating the Fear Factors. In it, just as you suggest, I describe how with a lot of patience to be insistent, persistent, and consistent a person willing to spend time with a horse can successfully teach one by relating to it as the alpha mare member of its herd. By learning how to do this and by using sounds (words) and teaching a horse the meaning of the sounds the result is clear communication that a horse can easily understand. The book is a small paperback available on Amazon for less than $10.

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