Can losing your voice make you a better Horse Whisperer?

Feeling worn out? Remember this.

Feeling worn out? Remember this quote.

This quote keeps running through my mind as I have completely lost my voice. In one small way I have totally and thoroughly used up my body.

It began three weekends ago when I spoke at the Midwest Horse Fair in Wisconsin, followed by speaking two weekends ago at the Equine Career Conference in Pennsylvania, and I completely used up what I had left at the Cowgirl Spring Round Up in Montana this last weekend. And I don’t regret a moment of it.

Sure, I do wish that I had been able to speak loud enough to be heard (I can manage a low whisper) but I was able to enjoy the flip side of not being able to speak; the ability to listen.

It was very appropriate that I taught about reading your horses body language at all of my events. The lessons I taught have been interesting to observe from my new ‘speechless’ vantage point. Let me explain.

I taught about watching the horses body language because they speak more in body cues then they do in spoken word, which tends to be our human default. They also are experts in reading body language…as it is their primary language.

As soon as I lost my voice I noticed a shift in the people around me. First, some of them were more uncomfortable. I was unable to joke and talk in the way that was most comfortable for them and we could all feel the shift.

Second, I noticed if I whispered…they whispered. This has been ongoing and pretty funny. Those who commit to communicating with me have to focus on my body language, lip reading and sign language which means they have to meet me half way. This is the same thing we need to do when we are working with our horses. We need to focus, read the body language and realize they are trying to communicate with us even if they are not speaking.

Third, I have noticed that in some ways my communication has become more simplified and therefore more clear. I don’t bother with the small talk…because I can’t speak. But I am also more clear about the point I need to make. The rules seem to change when you change languages. For example last night I was ‘speaking’ with my three teenagers…which is basically like playing charades. I would start by miming something like eating. Then using sign language I would start to spell D-I-N-N…then one of them announced, “Dinner!”

Then I started to spell S-O…..but the story gets better. I forgot the sign language sign for the letter ‘U’. I left them hanging with, ‘so’ and then started signing the alphabet in order, a-b-c-d-e-f-g, as a refresher. Without speaking the boys picked up on the pattern of a-b-c and when I would get to a letter I didn’t know they would show me (they took a sign language class a few years ago). All of this took place without being rushed or frustrated…we were even laughing!

My boys:)

My boys:)

This communication breaks all the rules of spoken language. If I had my voice do you think I could just announce the word “Dinner” and receive as much engagement, help and encouragement?

Can you imagine if we were all this forgiving and thorough with our horses? Listening intently to what they are trying to communicate, going back to the basics when our language gets broken, remaining calm and even laughing at the mistakes?

Eventually my voice should return but I do hope to hold on to these lessons I have learned. I have even considered having one night a week where the whole family speaks only in signs. Maybe offer rewards for those who remain ‘speechless’ instead of punishments for those who don’t? I have to think about it though. Last night, I pointed at one of them and then pointed toward the kitchen, he looked at me funny. Another teen said, “she wants you to do your dishes” to which the first replied, “oh…I didn’t hear her” and laughed. Tricky teens.

While I have to admit I have not generally been a fan of the phrase ‘Horse Whisperer’ I may have to rethink my stance. Maybe I should schedule some ‘whispering clinics’ where the participants expect to learn about whispering to their horses…but are also required to whisper themselves the entire weekend!

10 Comments

  1. […] I had the opportunity to attend an intimate horsemanship clinic with Stacy at The Resort at Paws Up near Missoula, Montana. I’m pleased to say that she is as friendly and authentic in real life as she appears to be during her performances. Stacy, along with several Cowgirl Hall of Fame honorees, was at the ranch as an inductee into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. Stacy’s voice had all but disappeared after back to back speaking engagements at the Midwest Horse Fair in Wisconsin, the Equine Career Conference in Pennsylvania and the Cowgirl Spring Roundup in Montana. For all intensive purposes we really were listening to a horse whisperer. […]

  2. Nancy burroughs on June 21, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    Just always continue to amaze me how sensitive the horse really is. He can feel a fly on him so why not be that light to our first request and increase pressure as needed. As horsemen we are working on ourselves and the body language is among the top. Also amazing the response when you think of what you want the horse to do. Takes vision and thats what I love about Stacy’s DVD the vision the knowledge she passes on to us and her confident body language. God bless you and you’re family

  3. Sarah on May 16, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    Thank you Stacy!I’m training my four year old gelding and I sometimes get frustrated but I do realize it is almost always just a lack of understanding going each way. Luckily, he corrects me right away with reacting like a donkey to pressure. So I become better and quicker figuring out what the real problem is and it is almost never a lack of willingness.

  4. Valerie on May 6, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Thank you for your story it has really made me think more about reading the horse and our body language together. Your boys are adorable 🙂 I hope you have some time to rest and recover. Best wishes to you and yours!

  5. Cathy Woods Yoga on May 4, 2016 at 6:44 am

    Great write up/awareness. Thanks for sharing. There can be much gained gained from non speaking and silence. This is why many yoga centers and teacher offer “silent” retreats. Often when we need to be silent, we “watch” our thoughts, (much like in meditation) and realize much of what we were going to say is not necessary (small talk) and unnecessary use of energy. Silence can be “energy conservation”. We can then more easily turn our awareness inward. So glad you turned it into a powerful, learning experience. I love the idea of a silent evening a week with family.

  6. Connie on May 3, 2016 at 10:31 pm

    Several years ago we raised a deaf colt from birth. His lack of ability to hear did not hinder his training or responsiveness in any way. Unfortunately, he got cast in his stall as a coming-two-year-old and we lost him. Sad that we never got to see how he turned out as a fully trained riding horse.

    • Stacy Westfall on May 5, 2016 at 7:56 pm

      🙁 sad story. There are quite a few deaf reining horses right now. There is a very nice stallion who happens to also produce this trait. Many have done very well and his stud fee is high. Sorry for your loss, thats tough.

  7. Tim Gordon on May 3, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    Please give more details on specific cues horses give. More than just ears up, back, etc. Thank you. I am a great fan of yours.

  8. Jeff Stephens on May 3, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    Nice thoughts. I too want to really pay attention more to my horses. I owe them that. Maybe I’ll try not speaking too.

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