Communicating with Animals through Music

Me, Lucy and Shiloh

Me, Lucy and Shiloh

I love telling people I have the best job: I horse around and fiddle around! When I’m not working with animals and/or their people partners, I perform with my violin Lucy at elder care facilities in the new and growing field of Music Wellness.

Sometimes I combine my two passions and end up doing Music Wellness for animals.

Last summer I had an interesting experience at the barn where my horse Shiloh is boarded. One of the women has a racehorse off the track, and even though she’s worked with him a couple of years, he can still be a handful. She had turned him out in a paddock to enjoy the beautiful MN evening.

I happened to have my violin at the barn that evening. Shiloh was out grazing with his buddies, so I pulled up a chair, made myself comfortable, and started to play my violin.

The ex-racehorse was probably 50 yards away from me. As soon as he heard the music, he became agitated, pawing the ground and wildly throwing his head looking for that mysterious noise.

I noticed his reaction – it would have been hard to miss – and stopped playing. This puzzled him, and he stopped his wild contortions.

As soon as he calmed down, I began playing a different, calming song. This time he started to charge the fence.

I stopped, gave him a chance to calm down, and when he did, I started playing yet a different soothing song. He was becoming calmer in his movements and more relaxed in his demeanor.

We continued playing our game. While playing for him, I gradually moved closer and closer. He began to sway and ‘dance’ to the music. When the music stopped, he would look at me, saying, ‘Come on, I’m having a good time here. Keep making that sound!’ After approximately 40 minutes, our game was finished and I was standing close enough to him that he could touch my violin with his nose.

Thanks to the calming effects of music, the wild ex-racehorse was as docile as a baby lamb as he was led back to the barn that evening! Click here to watch a video of a gentleman serenading a herd of horses with his violin.


Janet Roper

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