Review: The Secret Language of Horses

The Secret Language of Horses

This new book is one of a new “breed” of equine guides which stray away from the fusty, prim and proper “how to” volumes toward a more holistic approach toward horse ownership.

Beautifully illustrated throughout, and with lots of little factoids and interesting commentary on various equine areas, this is the perfect book for those looking to get their first horse, or someone new to owning a horse.

The Secret Language of Horses: The Body Language of Equine Bodies
by Heather Dunphy
Softcover, 192pp, RRP $NZ24.99
ISBN 978-1-74237-904-3; Crows Nest/Allen & Unwin
Available from Amazon or Allen & Unwin

Saying that, it would not hurt those who think they already know it all to read and either reinforce what they already know (or think they know!) or perhaps learn something new.

Starting out with a brief introduction to the horse and its origins, The Secret Language of Horses then moves into herd dynamics and how horses interact with their environment. The mains breeds and types are explored, followed by terminology used by horse folks. A good thing to learn so you don’t sound like too much of a greenhorn!

Then the fun stuff – what all those sounds mean, body language – ears, tails, and eyes included; take note: “Body language in humans may be less sophisticated than our equine friends, given that we rely much more on vocal communication.”

Then the two main riding styles – english and western – are explored, and the various disciplines or sports within each are outlined. Questions to ask when choosing an instructor, how to tack up properly, and other basics are considered.

Then, it’s onto the riding part, with pointers on the various cues and aids used, followed by hints on buying a horse, and some conformation basics.

Chapters on stabling, husbandry and care follow – all in easy-to-digest sections and well illustrated. Some of the more common ailments and stereotypic behaviours are outlined, followed by an informative FAQ section. Questions such as “Why do we mount horses from the left?” and “Why do horses sleep standing up?” are answered.

The book closes with a glossary on equine terms and a look at the ages and stages of the horse.

In all, a useful handbook for the novice equestrian who wants to know more about what makes their horse tick.


Heather Dunphy is a writer and journalist specialising in pets, health, cooking, travel and lifestyle. A former magazine editor and trained chef, she studied literature and linguistics at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, and graduated from the prestigious Chefs School in Stratford, Ontario.
Heather has authored over 300 articles on all aspects of pet care. She has written for publications such as Puppy ScoopsDog KnowsHealthy MaturityThe AKC (American kennel Club) Gazette, and Canadian Dog Digest, and is the author of The Secret Language of Dogs and The Secret Language of Cats.

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