It’s said that eyes are the windows to the soul. Eyes don’t lie. Look into them, observe closely – the pupils, the changing shape at the corners, the eyebrows – and you know what the person is truly thinking.
Eyes aren’t the only window. At least not with horses.
The lower lip is also a window to a horse’s soul.
Is your horse content? Does he feel safe?
In this photo, Tonka’s lower lip is drooping. I could look at his relaxed posture and his soft eye, but that lip! When I approach, it stays loose. That’s all I need to see to know what Tonka is thinking. I imagine he’s saying, Come and stand companionably in the sun with me. And that’s what I do.
If you want a trusting and calm horse when you are riding, then you have to pay attention to – and respect – these moments on the ground. That relaxed lip is as important for me to respond to as pinned ears. So often we ignore the good moments and rush about on our schedule and agenda. Relaxing in the sun with my horse when he tells me that this is a good time to do so, gives Tonka confidence that I’ll listen to him when he tells me when something scares him, or he’s over-faced with ring work, or he’s physically hurting. The bonus is that I get to spend peaceful time in the sun. It’s good for both of us. A couple of minutes of that, and we’re both ready to do something more energetic.