The Eyes of the horse, create the bond between horses and riders
Eye contact is a great carrier of understanding between humans and animals because the eyes are anatomically part of the brain itself. When your eyes are covered, as with sunglasses, messages lose their meaning and are just words. Covering the eyes hides meaning, disrupts contact with the brain, and ultimately with the soul.
Watch how a horse makes contact with you when you approach from a distance. The contact starts with an overall view. At some point, the horse will stop the overall view and begin eye contact as you get closer. You are now in a zone where meaning can be transferred through vision. Now remove those glasses and get started communicating. Remove the glasses? You bet. Just turn those glasses around and hold them up to a print page. note the distortion. This is what your horse receives – a distorted image when you try to communicate visually with your glasses on. it’s even worse with sunglasses! It’s OK to wear them the rest of the time for UV protection as well as safety. When the message is on, the glasses should come off. (My horses are so used to seeing this that they start paying attention when the glasses come down, even before the full eye contact.) A few treats at the start of this training will diminish the learning curve.
Once eye contact is established it needs to be soft and steady. Contact here is reinforced and facilitated by talking to the horse in a low, steady non-threatening tone, and by softly stroking the side of the neck. Touch and sound combine to heighten the message neurologically. You can almost hypnotize some horses by doing this. I have seen them stand transfixed in an ‘eye lock’ until my moment stopped the interchange. The thing to remember is that this is a two-way event, and you are receiving as well as sending. No doubt this is why I like Morgan horses so much. They have been bred for a large eye, and their eye size is second only to the whale in the animal kingdom. The Morgan and their descendants are some of the easiest horses to appraise because they so eloquently tell you who they are with their eyes.
Try thinking of eye contact as a special addition to the bonding that you do with your horse. It says different, and enjoyable. The result is another way to achieve the close bond we all wish to achieve with our horses. Start off by giving a small reward with each session, decreasing these as you progress, and you will notice better communication. When the eyes speak, the brain speaks. Keep riding ~ JSW
Blog Post by Dr. Jim Warson, author of The Rider’s Pain Free Back
Dr. Jim Warson, endorses ThinLine in his book the Rider’s Pain Free Back.