Horse whispering helps Navy people understand communication

Published on SMN Elise Aveline (author), Unknown (photographer)

Topic(s): Fleet Base East

Participants from Fleet Base East PSU with the horse trainers and a new equine friend. (photo: Unknown)
Participants from Fleet Base East PSU with the horse trainers and a new equine friend.

Improving the resilience of Navy members has been a key outcome of a Fleet Base East Personnel Support Unit (PSU) initiative. In April a group of 11 individuals from PSU had the opportunity to trial a 3-day course on equine handling. The course was designed to assist their understanding of how positive relations, verbal and non-verbal, can help people communicate more effectively.

The first day consisted of learning through observation. The participants were shown how horses communicate through changes in the smallest of details, such as ear movements and mouth tension, as well as how the slightest change in a person’s body language or movements can have a large impact on horses’ behaviour.

Although these relate specifically relate to horses, this can be related back to human behaviour and how the slightest difference in one person’s behaviour can affect another person’s reaction. For example, body language and tone are as much forms of communications as words themselves.

The next day started with a quick refresher on what the group had been shown the previous day. With guidance from a horse trainer, the group began putting into practise what they had been taught, beginning with gaining the animals trust. Once the horse trusts an individual the training can begin.

Individuals were taught in practice how different energy levels affect the horses’ reactions and speed. Each person was able to direct a horse to place their nose on a designated target.

On the final day the group were able to use their newly acquired equestrian skills to undertake more challenging tasks such as lunging. By the end of the day the group were able to observe a trainer teaching a horse to get into a horse float. The trainer explained every detail behind what he was doing and why.

For some it was a new experience being up close and personal with animals of this size. This was a rewarding and positive experience for all the personnel involved and contributed greatly to enhancing the team's resilience levels.