HomePony Know HowRiding TipsFlatworkThe importance of body language

The importance of body language

Posted in Flatwork Health

Check out how your body language can affect how your pony learns

Did you know that ponies are so well adapted to respond to even really subtle body language that they can pick up on the slightest of things we do? This is because in the wild, ponies needed to be able to read the body language of their herd and other animals in order to stay out of danger. This smart skill means that there isn’t anything you can do in front of your pony without him noticing!

An example of just how beady-eyed ponies are is the story of Clever Hans, who was a horse owned by a man named Willhelm von Osten in the early 1900s. Willhelm thought he’d taught Clever Hans how to correctly answer maths questions. Willhelm would write a sum on a chalk board – for example, 6 + 2 =, and Clever Hans would tap out the answer with his hoof. So to answer this sum, he’d tap the ground eight times.

Everyone was amazed by Clever Hans’ talent, so scientists decided to study him to see if they could work out how Hans was answering the sums. They found that Hans could only answer the sums if Willhelm already knew the answer and he could only answer them if Willhelm was present. This made the scientists study Willhelm more closely. They found that he would unintentionally raise his eyebrows every so slightly when Hans reached the correct answer.
It turns out that Clever Hans was simply reacting to body language that Willhelm was unintentionally showing – he hadn’t actually learnt maths!

This shows that you should think carefully about why your pony is showing a behaviour, as things might not always be as they seem. For example, your body language could be causing your pony to show a certain behaviour without you even realising you’re doing it.

Did you know?

Being able to spot exactly what’s causing your pony to show a behaviour can be really tricky, and the reasons for it will change from pony-to-pony. That’s why it’s best to avoid going on social media and asking others for advice on correcting behavioural issues, because something that’s worked for their pony could have a negative effect on yours.

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