Animal communication

Les Rees

Animal communication isn't some magical power only available to the gifted few; it's available to us all providing we're prepared to open our mind to an awareness of the animals around us. If we gain knowledge of their individual needs we have a better chance of understanding what they are trying to tell us, especially since their form of communication is mostly non-verbal, being based mostly on gestures. Time spent watching them interact with others of their own species is time well spent as we begin to make sense of it all; if we're prepared to put in the effort it can free us from the constraints determined by our own selfish needs and desires and open up a new world as we learn to use their language and begin to communicate. Once the communication begins you'll find that it builds a mutual respect and most of all, your efforts will be rewarded with trust.

Many years ago, I spent some time watching horses and other animals in the wild and began to appreciate the complexity of their language. I also discovered that it was possible to communicate with them by learning to use their gestures. The interesting thing is that there was plenty of intercommunication between different species, the most obvious seen during dangerous situations. There were also a lot of shared gestures between the grazing animals which poses the question that they may be learning from each other. Considering their shared interdependence, this would hardly be surprising.

Relationships with our animals are defined by the way in which we interact with them. Many people mistreat their animals through lack of understanding via acts of aggression as a means of control. This behaviour can send very mixed signals to an animal that cannot communicate with you!

Some people are just plain lacking in empathy while others are governed by their own inadequate nature, re-directing feelings of frustration towards their animals. Many humans fail to recognise themselves as being part of the animal kingdom which may go some way to explain some of the atrocities propagated on social media. We live in a verbal world of advanced communication because it suits the way we live. However, it's important to remember that other forms of communication are an adaptation to the circumstances surrounding the environment in which each animal lives. Having a gesture-based communication is extremely smart if you don't want to attract interest from predators!

I've worked primarily with horses and have been particularly involved with trauma victims, most of whom have had a background of fear from people who want to control them. Being stoic animals by nature, it's easy for them to become victims of learned helplessness and they go into a shutdown mode becoming intensely unhappy and miserable, subsequently manifesting into a variety of more severe issues including both physical and psychological problems.

Unfortunately a huge number of people inflict all manner of gadgets designed to control by fear of pain but there's a massive difference between a horse that is governed by inflicted pain and one that is working with you by choice. In my experience, most horses attempt to communicate with humans in many subtle ways and my horses constantly amaze me at how ingenious they can be to get their message across. This also extends to the other animals in our family and several wild ones who live on our property.

The take home message is to think before you act, take a breath and allow yourself time to examine what your animal is trying to communicate to you. Imagine what it's like to be that animal and use kindness to reinforce your relationships with them.

Les Rees << previous | >> next