JD the horse is having a birthday. His trainers are very happy for him so they provide him with a cake with lit candles. JD promptly blows out the candles then “smiles” and shows how proud he is of himself. Of course this is very funny, but there is more to it. Horses are animals that imitate human behavior. Horse trainers have known this for decades. A trainer will mimic the actions and behaviors of a dominant horse to get him to submit. If we look closely we will see that the horse also mimics his human trainer.
To understand this, you first must understand how in tuned a horse is to his humans. For example, if a horse is upset, a pat on the neck and a soothing voice tells the horse that everything is alright. The opposite is also true. If a horse is being handled by an inexperienced and nervous trainer, the horse will become nervous and unsure. He reads the actions of his handler and he mimics them.
When an experienced trainer is teaching a horse to be ridden, he will mount the horse then “walk” while riding, by shifting his weight left to right as the horse walks. This is the action the rider will be doing on a normal ride and he is communicating with the horse the way he wants to ride. The horse easily picks up that feeling and mimics it when he feels a rider on his back.
The horse is so in tuned to his trainer that even the smallest movement will be copied and will pose a problem when teaching a horse. For example, if a trainer is riding a horse and he looks to the side of the trail for too long, the horse will walk toward where he is looking. For that reason, riders must remember to look where they “want” to go. But they copy physical actions too. One trainer was using an upside-down shovel to pound at some dirt to break up. The horse came and used his hoof to do the same pounding motion directly next to the place the man was working.
A trainer can use the basic behavior of a horse to actually “talk” to the horse. When a dominant horse is being friendly, he will drop his right shoulder and move in a small circular motion away from another horse. If a trainer senses his horse thinks him to aggressive, he can use that same maneuver to insure to the horse that he is being friendly. Of course the horse may misunderstand and repeat the action back to the human. In any event the horse and the human are actually communicating.