You may be familiar with Gary Chapman’s bestselling book The Five Love Languages, which has helped millions of people (including me!) improve the relationships we have with our significant others, friends, family members and even co-workers. The underlying premise of Chapman’s book is that only the person receiving an “act of love” can determine whether that act actually feels loving to him/her. In other words, the intention behind an act of love (i.e. how the giver intends for it to be received) is of little consequence compared to how the act actually makes the recipient feel.
This premise holds true in regard to our relationships with our horses as well. And today I’m excited to unveil what I’ve determined to be the four primary love languages of horses!
The “love languages of horses” are based on the innate behaviors and communication methods observed in feral horse herds (as documented by equine ethologist Lucy Rees in her book Horses in Company), as well as my personal observations working with hundreds of horses in a wide variety of domestic settings and situations. In my current role as a horse-human relationship coach, I consistently find that the “equine behavioral issues” I commonly get called to help horse owners with come down to a mis-match between human love languages and equine love languages.
In his book, Chapman explains that human beings have five general love languages (i.e. ways we express our love for others), and that every person has one primary love language (meaning that this is the particular expression of love that feels the most satisfying). Chapman identifies the five love languages of humans as:
- Words of Affirmation – compliments and other verbal expressions of love
- Acts of Service – doing something helpful for someone else
- Receiving Gifts – giving or receiving physical tokens of affection
- Quality Time – spending meaningful time together
- Physical Touch – hugging, holding hands, kissing, cuddling, etc.
Relationships get complicated when one person’s primary love language is not the same as the other’s. In this type of relationship (which is very common), it’s important that both individuals make an effort to learn one another’s primary love language and adjust how they express their love accordingly. The same is true in our relationships with our horses – except it’s even more complicated because equine love languages are not the same as human love languages!
Through my many years of observing and working with horses, I have determined that horses have four general love languages:
- Respect for Personal Space – seeking permission before approaching or touching
- Consistent Boundaries – dependable “rules of engagement” in the relationship
- Affirmations – giving or receiving encouraging or comforting feedback (verbal and non-verbal)
- Synchrony – being in mental, emotional and physical harmony
With both humans and horses, one’s primary love language develops (and can evolve over time) based on a combination of innate preferences and past experiences. We can learn to identify our horse’s primary love language by paying attention to behavior patterns and, particularly, by observing direct responses to various interactions. Most importantly, we have the power to completely transform our relationship with our horse simply by acknowledging that equine love languages are different than human love languages, and then making efforts to communicate more often with our horse in his/her primary love language!
If you are interested in learning more about the four love languages of horses, or if you’d like help accurately identifying and learning to speak your horse’s primary love language, and especially if you want to completely transform your relationship with your horse… you can contact me at email@example.com today with the subject line: Love Languages!