Saturday, July 30, 2011

Pondering the Past....

   Boarders I have known have been sometimes wonderful, kind people, and then some ?  Amazingly odd- and their horses were almost as odd.  I find that horses tend to pattern themselves after whomever they see as "boss"- and so often it's a human. In this day of highly domesticated equines- they turn to us as an example of what is 'normal' in their lives. Sometimes they are absolutely nutty- like their owners are.

  Being high 'flight or fight' instinct ruled, horses will look to someone else to 'see' a monster coming.Or they'll rely on themselves to see 'danger' coming. Be it a wild goose, or Heron flying over, a baby bunny or a piece of paper fluttering across a trail... the horse is ever on the alert. 40 million years of being 'meals' for predators have created a very watchful animal.

   Thus horses, when being ridden or handled by us, look to us for guidance. If a human is lacking confidence, the horse will be too. If their human is confident and knowledgeable, then the horse attempts that too. Ever see a horse who's scared of his own shadow when being led by one person- yet, relaxed and easy going when led by another ? 

 A prime example...was one person who boarded at my barn one year. She was scared of the horse she owned.As a result, her horse, when being handled by it's owner, looked for things to be scared of. What the owner Didn't realize was that her horse was feeding off her emotions. He didn't know it was He that she was frightened of, only that she was frightened, so he was being ever watchful . And oh boy, did he ever find some scary things around the farm !

I have seen scared, spooky horses handled by confident trainers eventually behave as their humans do. It takes time to build that inner confidence in a horse, and you have to know HOW to correctly- but I have seen it happen over and over again. I have one mare living here now who came here scared of anything she didn't understand. She would run/ kick/ bite and ask questions later. Just last night, I was letting her pasturemate go into her stall, and this mare stopped to visit with one of my Percheron mares while waiting to enter her stall. Well, this big mare was eating her dinner, and we All know how important FOOD is. The Percheron mare squealed, stomped her foot- ears back,etc.... General  negative posturing : " Get outta here ! THIS is MY dinner !!"   The little bay mare squealed right back in surprise and fear-- and threw a Big kick out behind her.  I had to yell at her for reacting as she did and that next time, NONE of that behavior. 
Will it happen again ? Sure will because this bay mare was used to being low horse on the pecking order of her former herd. She had to fight to protect her hay, and was so thin when she moved here. She's getting better with each mishap, and she's learning that I (being the Boss Mare here) won't tolerate that kind of thing.

  So we have to try to have confident animals who are learning to not rely so much on those 40 million years of ingrained instinct, but to stop and consider if that bunny really IS going to attack them......

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