To talk or not to talk - do voice cues make sense?

Buck Brannaman Clinics are fun. Especially, when he states his opinion in a very direct and pointed way - like in Cologne over a year ago. A participant of the clinic had asked what he thinks of voice cues. Not a lot. He doesn‘t use them because he doesn‘t want other people to be able to communicate with his horse. And because they annoy the horse. 

What he basically said was: Go to a show ring, ride around saying "cluck, cluck, cluck" and then see how many horses you can get swishing their tails and pinning their ears. For him, this habit is like tourette

What I find difficult about voice cues: There are often used without teaching the horse what they mean in the first place. So the human simply orders „stay still“ or „pick up that foot“ assuming the horse knows what he wants. Of course, the human's body language underlines the voice cue and thanks to that the horse usually figures out what the human wants. But if I need body language to help with the voice cue, I can skip the voice cue as well. Even worse: It doesn‘t cross some people‘s mind that the horse could not be able to understand new voice cues. They apply them and expect the horse to obey naturally. Well, that's not going to work!

voice cues, being with horses blog
Serenity. Silence. Photo: Nadja

I made that mistake myself. I wanted to drive my horse from the ground with two long reins. As I am directly behind him where he cannot see me and my body language, I tried to establish the voice cue „move out“ to signal him to start moving. I started standing next to him to help him link the cue and my body language. He managed that quite well. So I tried from behind him and failed. The cue hadn‘t been established yet. I set the horse up for failure. 

Then, there is people who talk to their horse in whole sentences and incessantly believing the horse understands every word they utter. „Can‘t you just stand still for one moment?“ „Can‘t you just get yourself together now?“ I am sure the horse senses the emotions that come with these words - in these cases anger and impatience. But just because he knows that the human is in a bad mood, does not mean he can read the human‘s thoughts and therefore comply to his wishes. 

Sometimes I talk to my project horse and other horses in whole sentences too. If I do because I am not happy with a horse‘s behavior („can you for once stop pulling on that rope?“) I correct the horse at the same time. I don't rely on the voice cue
I also talk to the horse before or during a certrain maneover but not to tell him what (exept from driving from the ground) to do or expecting him to understand what I am saying. Talking just helps me to stay focused and position my body in a way that underlines what I am asking from the horse. So I basically talk to myself not to the horse. Honestly, I don‘t like that habit too much and am trying to reduce my comments as much as possible.  


In general, I prefer the moments when horse and human become quiet (usually the horse already is). Those are the most harmonious ones to me. When communication is non-verbal. You share time, space and focus with the horse in mutal agreement. Unison without words. I find that if we humans become as still as the horse, it brings us closer together. 

PS: In this video Warwick Schiller explains the difference between horses and pigs (and yes it is related to language). 




1 comment:

  1. I think it depends on the amount of the words spoken - people who keep talking and talking will bore people and horses likewise to death - but a nice word here and there and some cues for certain things (lunging, trick training whatever...) do help for sure!

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