An animal communicator came to my barn this week, and while they were setting up appointments (well in advance) trainer told me that several people were willing to pitch in to hear my horse’s feels, needs, and communications if I’d be willing to cover the rest of the appointment cost. I somewhat reluctantly acquiesced — who I am I to keep the people from what they want? The experience was interesting. I’ll split it up into a few major sections: the set up, the mildly interesting, the hokum, and the inconsistencies.
Let me preface this by telling you that I’m not religious, or even really spiritual. I don’t rule out that there is life on other plants, but I certainly don’t buy any cryptozoology here on earth (no Nessie, yeti, etc.). “Spooky” occurrences never strike me as anything more than the least interesting of coincidences, I understand well-explained engineering explanations for the pyramids and Easter Island Moai, and I don’t believe that people can read minds — animal or human. Certainly some humans are better at understanding human body language, intonation, verbal language, psychology, and micro-cues better than others that might lead them to a greater insight about that person. These are all well-described aspects of how psychics “work”. And I don’t doubt at all that some humans are better at doing that with some animals than others. But for not one second have I ever believed that a person can read an animal’s mind (in the classic sense that we think of it).
Now? I still do not believe.
(Oh, and there’s no media associated with this experience because pictures of my horse standing around tied to a post while someone talks at me are simply not good media.)
The Set Up
I learned very early on in the appointment-making process that people wanted Murray read. So he was on the list pretty early. But at Camelot a few weekends ago, some teenagers (and even a few adults) who had recently had their horses “read” by this particular communicator were singing her praises. The word of mouth from the teenagers was nigh unbelievable. And, quite frankly, coming from teenagers, it was sure to be unreliable. If you’re a teenager reading this, please know that I mean you no personal offense. It’s not your fault, it’s just biology: your forebrain is literally not developed yet. In fact, it won’t be until you’re around 26. Teenagers are all, categorically, missing an important part of their brain. Don’t worry — you’ll grow out of it.
I was told that this communicator knew and said things — without prompting — that no living human except the owner could know. For example, communicator told an owner that her new horse loved his new, monogrammed clothes that she had gotten him — and that girl had literally just received a monogrammed cooler the day before and immediately put them in her tack locker without showing any other humans, but she did stop off at her stall and show her horse his new cooler. She told another girl that her horse didn’t like his neighbor, and if the neighbor didn’t start behaving soon, he would kick that neighbor in the head to teach him a lesson — just as he had been kicked in the head when he was an annoying youngster. One horse told his owner that she’d better make sure his insurance was current, as he was feeling a little colicky. He needed colic surgery two weeks later.
The adults were more circumspect. One trainer just told me “I’m pretty sure she reads humans, and projects that on to the horse. Because she told me my own goals as if my horse were telling me she wanted to do those things — but I don’t talk to the mare about my goals.”
It’s easy for stories like this to get amplified and exaggerated. Communicator guesses that a new horse might get a little colicky on new feed and new schedule, horse colics within some “reasonable” time frame, and boom — communicator was right. Let’s ignore the fact that probably a third of all horses colic to some degree or another every year. All it takes is one person putting their own experience and knowledge on top of what the communicator says for a) the communicator to take that info and run with it, and b) the stories people tell one another to become full on lies about what did and didn’t happen.
Skepticorn wasn’t buying it.
The Mildly Interesting
I was slightly anxious on my way to the barn for my appointment. I didn’t know why. I think it was because I was about to confront someone in a position of “authority”, and that always makes me a little gkrhfk. Yeah, that’s a feeling. I resolved not to tell any lies, but not to offer up any more information than I was directly asked for. I was obviously going to be polite — just because I don’t believe in something doesn’t mean I have the right to be rude — but I didn’t know what kind of ridiculousness I might be up against. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see any other appointments, as I had to work (and the part of one I did see was incredible uninteresting), so I didn’t know what I was in for.
The communicator walked up to Murray, introduced herself to him, let him sniff a few essential oils she offered him, then mumbled to him and made signs with her hands over his body. She started talking standing next to him, but he wasn’t the hugest fan of her casual touching, so she moved a safe distance away and sat down.
The first interesting thing she said was that Murray has a lot of opinions and likes to complain. That elicited a laugh from me and the eight (yes, eight) spectators watching. Later she said he had a really big ego (then complimented me for managing it). I mean, eight people were watching his appointment, sooo….
The second interesting thing was that Murray stood really, really quietly during the appointment. Like, his head was down, he was halfway napping, and he even gently rested his face on me a few times. The communicator said he was trying to hide from her, he didn’t want to talk to her, and he felt like he was being “busted”, because he kept putting his head behind the post he was tied at, and positioning himself away from her. I think that was just closer to where I and barn manager were standing. I don’t really ever hang out with him tied without fussing over him to some degree or another, and I was very clearly not in riding clothes (another context in which I don’t normally just “hang out” at the barn with Murray), so perhaps that contributed. I’ll do an experiment to that end soon.
I’m not going to be able to list all of Murray’s complaints and comments, since I don’t remember them all, but there were some notable ones. There were also plenty of moments where the psychic-playing-off-human-reactions stuff was incredibly evident.
For one, Murray reported that his GI tract was feeling great (stomach, lower intestine, upper intestine, and cecum all good!) and his lungs (left and right) are solid. Um, great. But his bladder is apparently bothering him. When discussing his behavior a bit later in the appointment, she asked if he bucked or played under saddle (or something to that effect). I responded that yes, he can buck under saddle, and we had a brief discussion about when the last time that was. Communicator came back to the bladder, saying that she had a horse who was a big bucker who stopped immediately after his bladder health was addressed. I was also assured that Murray is pretty sure the hind end pain isn’t in his hocks (ok thx dude, still going to get them checked out). She circled back to the bucking later too, and told me that he doesn’t want to be bad, he’s not trying to be malicious (incredibly obvious if you’ve ever seen him going, but will admit that she hasn’t), he sometimes just can’t help himself.
She kept coming back to his mouth as a source of some concern, but couldn’t seem to get any more details about it. She asked me what my bit is (loose ring French link) and said that was a fine baby bit. I didn’t tell her that Murray sometimes gets foxtails under his lips in the Spring and I’ve had to pull them out (I’ve checked a few times this year and no problems). She did wonder if he gets food under his tongue while the bit is in, and I do give him treats while we’re working under saddle sometimes, so that I guess could go in the “mildly interesting” category.
The communicator also asked me if Murray had ever disappointed me. “Of course he has!” I responded. I included that I haven’t really been disappointed in him for two years or so, and that a lot of my disappointment was unrealistic expectations. She said that he felt bad for breaking my heart, and disappointing me “often”. Often was his word. Can you say generic? What horse and rider haven’t been disappointed by one another and lived to regret it at some point in a multi-year career? Only robots, that’s who.
Murray also wanted me to know that he likes me. He was worried that I thought he didn’t like me. I was like “okay”. I did not tell her that, while I do sometimes wish my horse were cuddlier by nature, I do not give any shits that he may or may not “like me”. I’m not here to make friends, dude.
Communicator also asked if we show, at what level, and how often. I said we would be moving up to Novice in August. She was like “great, he thinks you’ve been at the lower level long enough!” She got a fair bit of detail from me about it, and we discussed his showing “anxiety” and how Murray thinks he will soon — by the end of the year — be able to meet my expectations and “mental image” of him.
Lest you think these are all the trappings of a “bad” communicator, let me assure you that some people at my barn (and the aforementioned teenagers) think that this woman is very, very, very good. I’m just explaining in an absurd amount of detail the way that any psychic or communicator works to draw the information out of you. I felt so comfortable with this woman, and it would be really easy to tell her anything and everything. And if she’s good at reading people and horses, I’m sure she could, and did, take absolutely every cue that I was offering her — whether it was my crossed arms, or “secret” eye rolls, or the eagerness in my voice when I asked if Murray liked to jump (see below for more detail) — and run with it to get me more info.
Also, he doesn’t like his show name. Uncertainty Principle, even though he’s earned it, is too much like a black mark — a little too honest, eh kiddo? Suck it the fuck up, it’s staying. Murray wouldn’t tell the communicator his true name though. To which I say, good fucking call dude. Telling someone your real name isn’t safe.
There were several things that came up during the appointment that were downright false, or changed through our discussion.
She said his saddle fit is great. That can’t be true. I have two wildly differently fitting saddles — they can’t both fit him great. And she didn’t mention a single thing about tacking up as a problem or complaint. I’ve only been trying to teach this horse that tacking up isn’t the equivalent of being skinned alive for four years, and he doesn’t have any complaints or suggestions? Yeah. Fucking. Right. (She did say he was thin skinned but fucking DUH, thoroughbred.)
I asked her if Murray likes jumping. Her immediate response was “Not as much as you do.” I was pretty eager when I asked this question, trying not to be too ridiculous, so it was easy to tell that I like jumping. It wasn’t like I gloomily asked “does he like to jump” and hoped she would say no. As we discussed, the communicator said “he feels like he looks really pretty when he jumps, his front end is like this (indicated tight front end with her hands) but his hind end doesn’t follow yet”. Well that’s not true. If you’ve seen my horse jump, you’ll know he’s the king of the loose front end but can have a pretty snappy hind end.
She also suggested that one lead change was harder than the other for him. Congratulations, you’ve just told me something that is true for 100% of the horses on planet Earth. She said “the left lead, right to left is harder?” and I responded “no, that’s his better change, he struggles left to right”. “Oh right,” she responded, “he must mean from the left lead.” Sure, that’s cool, go right ahead and change your answer.
As we chatted through the jumping thing, Murray’s opinion of jumping slowly morphed from “I don’t love it as much as Nicole does” to “I think we’ll be doing so great at jumping by the end of the year!!” The communicator didn’t make a big deal about it, and she worked through it fairly seamlessly. This was the only corner I really saw her get herself in to, and it wasn’t even that hard really — to say that Murray doesn’t like something as much as I do leaves plenty of room for interpretation.
In the end, the communicator apologized to me for having such an awful reading. Murray was, apparently, very quiet and not giving her much (despite being the type that could complain all day?), so she was really grasping at straws and struggling to hear him. I get it. I was skeptical, and wasn’t giving her much to go on, so she could hardly tell me everything my horse was “saying”.
All in all, it probably wasn’t worth the money spent on it, but was an interesting thing to witness once. And at least it will keep me in good spirits making fun of all the teenagers at my barn who are eating all this shit up.