Why is he staring at me but avoiding me

THIS is how “horse” works: Bernd Hackl explains why you shouldn't be like a “horse”

Learning to be a horse is important. So that you understand your horse and so that your horse understands you. This is horse whisper. Communication. Listen and talk to each other. To do this, however, you have to master the other's language. Why you shouldn't try to be like a horse anyway and how exactly that works with language and communication is explained by horse professional Bernd Hackl in the second part of the interview with the horse whisper.

Bernd Hackl is the author of the book Basic training for horses: train them properly | Prevent problems * and horse expert at the VOX horse professionals *.

You can find a review here: “Riding in the sense of the horse” by Bernd Hackl

Interview: THIS is how “horse” works: Bernd Hackl explains why you shouldn't be like a “horse”

Pferdeflüsterei.de: We all want to look into the horses' heads and know what makes them tick. You deal intensively with the animals. How do you think horses think of each other and about us humans?

Bernd Hackl: I don't know how horses really think - I haven't been a horse yet (have to laugh). There are also a lot of different theories about how horses really think. Every scientist has his own theory, then proves it and is then refuted by another researcher.

I don't think we'll ever really look into their heads. But I know that the characters are very different. And I know that it is not true when they say that a horse will never do something against humans of its own accord. I think it's a character thing.

When human children are born, you have 10 different children with 10 different characters. And no matter where they grow up, one has a more criminal streak, the other is more of a wimp. If the wimp gets to a boxer and the boxer raises him, then maybe he becomes a bully for being raised that way.

If the criminal comes to a family that steals cars, he is likely to follow in his father's footsteps and steal cars. But if he comes somewhere where they teach him values ​​and say: watch out! Will not be stolen! Then it might be a harder path in bringing up, but if the parents and those around him make sure that he becomes a responsible person, then he will certainly become a completely normal adult.

Pferdeflüsterei.de: Sure, you're right. We cannot lump them all together. But we still want to try to look into her head a little to understand her better. Do you have a tip for us?

Bernd Hackl: To do this, we should just look at their behavior. This is something that a lot of people ignore. For example the topic: hand feeding! How do I get the idea, if I am interested in how a horse thinks that I am giving something out of his hand.


I don't know a horse mother who runs to her foals, pukes up a tuft of grass and says: Look, because you were so good. That does not exist! This is purely man-made. Man thinks he knows how horses think, so he feeds them, subordinates himself to it, and makes the problem worse than it was.

Pferdeflüsterei.de: Good, I see that differently. We also sell oats and hay. I think treats are a great thing. But that's my opinion and this is about your training ideas. Besides hand-feeding, what are other points when it comes to horses?

Bernd Hackl: Should I just look at how my horse reacts to me? Does my horse turn its head when I come? Does he prick up his ears? Is he looking at me?

What I like to do, for example, when I get a horse out of the box or from the paddock. If he turns his head to me, I turn and leave. I don't go far, but I turn my body and invite it to come to me. My concern is that he does not stop and realizes that I am disregarding his signals.

He looks at me and says: I noticed you, I see you, what do you want from me. If I just ignore that and say: I'll just put a halter on you and pull you from the paddock. Then the horse is likely to be disappointed. But when he sees: Aha, the man reacts to me and in terms of body language I turn away from him a little and say: Come with me, I know something. Then he'll get involved and join me and say: Hey, the buddy comes back, it's great.

Man, he saw me there, now I'll go to him and see what we do. This is a very different way of observing a horse. Does he turn his head and look around because he's ignoring me. Then I take my lead rope, knock it on the floor and shoo him away and say to him: Dicker, when I come, you have to see me coming, then you have to pay attention to me, not to ignore. For me, that's part of the respect!

Pferdeflüsterei.de: For example, how do I ideally say “Hello” to a horse when I am standing in front of him. There are people who say it should be easy to blow horses in the nostrils because horses do that to each other - what do you think about that?

Bernd Hackl: Horses approach each other and then they put tension in their throats, but then they don't blow each other's nostrils. Man does * Pfffffff * and blows a little.

The horses pull their nostrils together, smell their smell. One comes to the other and smells him. The more dominant of the two then does not begin to blow, but makes loud hissing noises.

That is a dominance behavior. So now I come to my horse, say “hello” in equine and the horse becomes dominant. Then what do I do with a three-year-old stallion? He becomes dominant because I greeted him like a horse. He expects a horse-like answer. The horse's answer from an inferior would be to run away. That would also be advisable when such a dominant young stallion is standing in front of you.

Why should I greet my horse like a horse? I greet him in a human way. I say: Hey fat guy, I'm here! He comes and says: Oh, there comes the old man with two legs, I'll run up there, he's always really funny. I have a completely different approach, I am not saying - I go into the world of horses, I expect my horse to accept me as a person and to submit to me.

As a horse I have bad cards. I lose a race, I lose a bite, I lose a hearing, I even lose a contest. I'm not a horse and I don't want to be one either.

Pferdeflüsterei.de: I think the most difficult thing for many is communication. Horses have their language among each other, we have our language. But we have to get together somehow. If you say that I don't go out on the horse because I don't want to be a horse - how do I communicate with them so that they understand me?

Bernd Hackl: Quite simply, when I turn up somewhere, I tell my horse: Back off if I want to go there. Go away if I want to go there. Or turn away on a certain signal, for example: Follow me. By inviting my horse. I get my head, turn away, and take it with me.

Horses are herd animals, they are always looking for a connection. He will not join the one who is the most dominant, but the one who takes the best care of him, who gives the most custody. And then this theory of “remaining human” proves to be true again. In my world, where there are tractors or lawnmowers, where there is road traffic, he doesn't need a second horse, because in my world he has no idea.

He needs me as a person who moves around there, who can drive such a car, who knows how it all works. How can I turn a tractor away? I can wave my hands, I can do something, he can't. All he can do is pinch his tail and run away. So he relies more on people and says: Hey cool, this guy has a clue. I also make it clear to the horse: watch out, I'm here! By using my arms, sometimes making a noise, simply stepping towards him, sometimes waving my arms and sending him away. Then invite again, just move it away from me and pull it towards me.

I work with two types of pressure. Once the direct pressure. For example, direct pressure is when my lead knocks on the rear and the horse is supposed to move forward. The indirect pressure is just a feeling. When I have the feeling that my horse is looking at me, I turn away and take that look with me. That means the gaze and the whole body turn to me and it follows me.

In training, at the beginning I exert 80 percent direct and only 20 percent indirect pressure, over time you look for 50/50 and then the jump should come that you say, okay - now I work with indirect pressure and only still 20 percent with direct pressure

Pferdeflüsterei.de: We saw that with the Vox horse professionals. There was one episode with a white Andalusian gelding. You were in the round pen, driving it and then there was a moment when you turned away. You could see from the outside: Okay, the horse started thinking the moment you turned away. You caught this very moment. How do I recognize this moment. After all, horses “talk” with their ears, eyes, nose, body - from head to tail - what emotions can I read there?

Bernd Hackl: That was Carlos. He is a very dominant horse, a late neutered gelding. His owner bought him as a problem horse. Such a horse has its very own way of expression. Carlos is running in the round pen and I'm waiting for simple signals.

The simplest signal is, firstly, when the ears no longer tilt outwards, but the inner ear turns slightly towards me with the auricle so that he can hear me first. He doesn't have to see me, he just has to turn his ear.

A second very sure sign that he is listening is when his head is lowered. Carlos first walks with his neck down, his back is also down and the tail is tight. With that he says: You can't do anything to me! If he didn't have to walk, he would prefer it. But I pushed him and then he graciously leaves. But at some point he realized: The guy doesn't stop. What do I have to change so that the guy in the middle changes?

Then he started looking at me with his ear, then I waited until the neck came down and it lost tension. Then I turned away and said: Look, if that's the way you are, if you relax and say I'm not threatening you anymore, then I turn away and take the pressure off.

Then he turned inward gratefully and said: Ouch, cool! I am happy when I can take a break. If he becomes dominant again, he gets tension again and presses against me. I'll send him out again and say: You don't need to talk to me in here like that. The old saying: As long as you stretch your legs under my table…. But it is like that! If you want to stand here in the middle with me and chill, then according to my rules. Without body tension, without being brawny against me, without marking the stallion. Horses are energy savers, they don't want to work, so at some point he'll do what I want.

Pferdeflüsterei.de: If you walk away from Carlos and take a "normal" horse. From head to tail - there are body signals, ear to the back for example means…. To make it big means…. When the tail strikes is called….

Bernd Hackl: Hitting a tail is usually a sign of malaise, shaking the head is a sign of reluctance. Tension in the horse's body means that it is waiting for something. He's on tension. An ear that turns to me, he slowly pays attention to me, he slowly looks at me. And very important: lick your lips. When horses lick their lips.

You have one hemisphere of the brain that is responsible for escape. This means that the horse presses its jaws together as a flight animal, grits its teeth, its ass cheeks too, and away. Because: now I have to flee. The moment the escape stops, that's what research with zebras found out - all escape animals, deer and rabbits do that too - it basically switches the halves of the brain and goes from the escape half, which tenses the muscles, to the eating half, which relaxes the muscles. As a result, the lower jaw becomes soft and loose and begins to chew off. The tongue licks the lips, the teeth grind briefly.

It has also been found that the horses get their pulse racing incredibly quickly. But as soon as they chew off, they are immediately back down just as quickly. He can get upset incredibly quickly, but he can also shut down very quickly and be completely chilled. This is also something that people often misunderstand because they say: Oh my horse is upset. Allegedly the horse gets upset for an hour. But that's nonsense because within seconds he can be excited and relaxed, excited and relaxed. What keeps him excited is the person.

Pferdeflüsterei.de: Because people are still excited and thus the horse is excited again

Bernd Hackl:Exactly! If you think about it, our corrections for horses. A horse does something and gets upset. What does the horse owner do? He wants to correct. He says jaggedly: No! Höööööör on! It's all with too much pressure. But I'm pushing him more and more to the top. I can already say: no stop. Then I don't say it with pressure, instead I say in a friendly way: No, listen to me, we'll just keep going. It's a completely different timbre.

I differentiate in tone colors, some speak in the red area with a lot of pressure, the others speak in the green and blue areas. You take a lot of pressure off. We often work exactly the wrong way round for horses *

In his book you will find even more tips and information about what horses really need.

Pferdeflüsterei.de: Little dangling, what do you understand by horsemanship, i.e. the good handling of horses?

Bernd Hackl: Natural Horsemanhsip could be translated as “fair dealings”. Someone who is really a horseman observes his horse and knows: how much pressure he can withstand, how much can I ask him and where do I have to start in training so that I can further develop him and bring him further in performance. This is horsemanship. It's not magic.

It's a hackneyed term these days, it's all horsemanship. I now have people who call and say: I've been training horsemanship for three years now. What exactly do they train? I don't know of any horsemanship training system. I only know the inner attitude “Horsemanship”, namely fairness towards the horse. Then they move onwith curbs and impossible bridles, then the horses are lungeed, tied down and tied, but they all train horsemanship. That is absolutely incomprehensible to me.