Chazot Thoughts 47

The smells of humans

According to recent research studies, the statement might not just be figurative.

Since angry, frustrated, and emotionally upset humans release products in their sweat, it may be possible that unintentional olfactory messages can upset or anger the animal as well.” (C. A.Sarlow, 2002)  I often heard him saying, “If you are angry or frustrated with your horse, or if you are afraid of him, he will feel it. You can eventually lie to yourself but not to your horse.” He should have said that we can smell it.

Human umwelt has been largely developed based on your excellent vision. Our Umwelt instead has developed influenced by much greater olfactory capabilities. We have a prominent vemeronasal organ. Our vemeronasal organ is an accessory olfactory structure that is basically a vestige for you humans. In fact considering the size of your nose compared to ours, we can also objectively refer to your nose as a vestigial structure. We often wonder how you can breathe with such a minuscule trombone in the middle of your face. I don’t know if you know Bretelle. He is our family boxer and the first time I saw them together I wondered which one was breathing so loudly. Considering the size of their respective nose, my initial though was that he was the one making the noise. Soon, I learned that while humans can sweat, dogs cool their body through fast ventilation. Bretelle was the one breathing loudly.

Of course you sweat and this is how we know so much about you. I will come back on that later, but let me further explain our chemosensory capacities. Our long nose moves large volume of air with each breath and consequently, traps large number of small volatile molecules that the epithelium of our olfactory bulbs identifies. Our vomeronasal organ is more sensitive to large specific-species molecules such as the ones found in body secretion. We can pick up pheromones, which are chemicals released by one member of a species and produce hormone-like reaction in another.  However, while simplistic horsemanship theories relies our olfactory capacities to mating, it is for us a much larger source of information.

You release pheromones when you sweat and believe me; you sweat even when you think that you don’t. We can smell anger, frustration. We can also smell fear and all these hypocritical techniques trying to cover fear or anger or frustration or many other emotions, simply don’t fool us. I remember a student that was doing breathing exercise before riding to “control he fear.” He told her, “You are fooling yourself. If you are afraid face it responsibly. First, get rid of the guilt. Fear is a normal reaction; horses are big, powerful and have to be approached with caution. Anyone who pretends to having no fear at all is either a liar or really stupid.”

Second, rationalize your fear. Look inside your mind questioning objectively what trigger such fear. You will realize that in most instances it is not an event that effectively happened but the anticipation of such event, the horse might take off or buck or spook, or other. Even more often you have been warned about such possibility more than effectively experience or even witnessed it. Fear is for a very large part a bad teaching byproduct. The culprit is the psychology of most teaching, training and riding techniques. You have to be the leader, for your safety. The horse has to be dominated, for your safety. The horse has to be submitted, for your safety. The horse has to obey, for your safety and when the horse takes initiatives, does not surrender, or submit or obey, you feel unsafe as you imagine that he will take off or buck or other dangerous reaction.”  And you release pheromones, and we smell it, and we worry, and we react.       


Erin Eppstein

He added then, “We are going to work in hand the heavier, taller and more powerful horse of the barn. You know Manchester. He is 18,2 hands and weight 1,800 pounds. You are going to place your right hand holding the reins above his wither. You will do errors and he will let you know, but he will still be next to you ready to work with you. He could go back home anytime and it is nothing that you could do to stop him. Instead, he will wait for you, he will try to understand you and even if he becames frustrated or annoyed, he will stay by your side waiting for you to realize that it is not about domination, obedience, submission. In term of muscular power, he largely dominates you but he is a horse and like every horse, if you liberate yourself from these empirical and egotistical concepts of domination and submission, you will realize that he naturally seeks partnership. He has to protect himself from domination as they all do, but he enjoys mental respect and invitation of working with you, as they all do.”

As they left the barn walking toward the ring, I gave a look to Manchester suggesting, “be easy.” Manchester is really a good teacher. He responded immediately, “I am not going to babysit here.  If she wants to resolve her fear issue, she does not need more hypocrisy where peoples indulge her fear and in fact cultivate her fear pretending helping her. She needs to realize who we really are. She needs to make a decisive step up in the real world and therefore move away from these leadership, behavior, domination and submission theories. She needs to realize I am willing to be a partner but I would have to protect myself from domination. She needs to realize that I can feel nuances in muscle tone of her body even when she is walking by my side and when she will experience our very high and very subtle faculty of perception, she will realize that or these driving aids, half halt and other control theories are treating us like we are stupid when it is in fact the ones promoting these control theories are the ones lacking mental capacities.”

I know how great is Manchester and when she came back, she was breathing fast sweating a lot as Manchester made her work. She was also silent. Caesar lifted his head moved his nostrils in her direction commenting before I can scent them, “She lost her fear.”

She looked at Manchester with new respect and asked if she could give him a shower. He smiled telling her, “We will do the same tomorrow and when you will feel ready to ride him, you will let me know.” She asked then, “Can I ride him tomorrow?”