Body Language Series: Flight Zone

 Going off of my last post, I figured I would explain body language a little more. Because I originally understood body language through horses, I naturally want to start there.

The first thing I ever learned (mainly through trial and error) is that horses are prey animals. Which means their natural instinct is to flee from danger. This is very crucial to understand and why many people can get hurt from horses or other animals. Not to say that they can get angry and try to buck you off or kick you to get you away from them, but usually they just want to run very fast away from whatever is frightening them. We refer to their flight zone whenever something triggers them to run away.

from Google Images

You can see in this diagram the flight zone that is applied to basically all animals. Many prey animals have eyes on the sides of there heads to allow them to use what’s called monocular vision, or the ability for an animal to use each eye separately to give them a wider range of view. Prey animals have this vision so to better able detect predators. The only negative part of their vision are their blind spots. Both the front and rear of an animal are not easily seen for them, meaning that you probably shouldn’t stand there for long periods of time!

Why am I telling you all of this? Because the flight zone is probably the most important piece of information when approaching an animal. As you can see, the point of balance is at their shoulder. Here, a horse (or any animal) can see you best and will feel less threatened than if you approached them at their face. This can be easily transferable with humans, too. For instance, we have eyes in the front of our head and therefore our peripheral visions isn’t as good as these animals. If someone approached us at our shoulder or our back and starting petting us, we wouldn’t be too happy! It would freak us out and make us evade the situation. It’s the same for prey animals!So now that we know the point of balance is the shoulder and we should approach at the shoulder whenever we’re dealing with an animal, it’s time to discuss the actual zone of flight. Basically, these animals have a “personal bubble.” Horses, for instance, will easily show you their flight zone when you approach them. If you have a new horse, and once you get close to them, chances are they will probably try to move away from you. If they move away from you at a certain distance, you just detected their flight zone! It can be anywhere from a couple feet to a couple yards. You can use the flight zone to your advantage for training, but it comes to your disadvantage if you’re try to catch them! All you have to remember about their flight zone is that once you approach them, they’re going to try to evade the situation. A good way to prevent this from happening is to approach them slowly, especially at the shoulder! Once they are more comfortable with you, their flight zone will slowly start to diminish. After 7 years of owning my horse, she basically has no flight zone when I approach her!

Now that you know what to do when you approach an animal, your chances of getting hurt decrease dramatically. One of the main reasons people get bitten or scratched or kicked is because they approach the animal incorrectly. Just remember to go slow and aim for the shoulder. If all else fails, let the animal come to you! Just take everything a stride at a time and it’ll work out 🙂


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