Freedom for Expression
How much do rugs, hoods and tail bags interfere with communications? Are they major barriers to dialogue and sensory pleasures?
There are many good reasons that horses wear hoods and rugs – protection from severe weather or biting insects for example. There are many horses however who are routinely rugged throughout their lives just to keep them clean, to prevent their coat from fading or to preserve their mane and tail.
Just like us horses relish the feeling of the wind through their hair or the sun on their back. And while we might raise a smile or an eyebrow and wink at a loved one, horses take pleasure in communicating with a softening of the eye, flick of the ear and quiver of the muzzle.
Communication is also a serious business. A horse's survival is based on the ability to communicate effortlessly and effectively right across multiple members of the herd. Horses have fine-tuned these communications skills into a broad and effective language of subtle body movements and postures. We risk frustrating these remarkable communications skills when we routinely rug.
As enlightened horse owners we regard animal communications as the foundation of our holistic approach to training. Positive feedback loops are therapeutic, they allow our horses to bond with us, they allow us to read their body language and to ‘talk back’ using our own visual cues.
Elderly horses or those with poor body condition or allergies that make rugging a requirement benefit from a few minutes respite every day. It can make a world of difference to mind and body balance - a special time to relax and speak softly to you and to each other.
So next time you reach for a rug, do it mindfully considering when you might be able to remove it again.