What Horses Can Teach Human About Life-Intro

Humans have, over the centuries, learned to become worshippers of the warriors and predator mindset. In doing that, we’ve lost a great deal in being able to know ourselves and those who love us, live with us, and work with us. I find that incredibly sad.cave painting

But-and this is important-horses can bring this back to us. They have always held this wisdom. They use it every day in their interactions with each other, with humans, and with other species. All we have to do-incredibly enough-is open our eyes, ears, and minds to learn.

How is this possible?

Watch how a mare teaches her foal. She’ll nudge the baby towards her udder. But in a couple of weeks, after the baby has learned to nurse and found out that bumping her hard and pulling hard will make the milk come down faster, she’ll object if the baby bites and hurts her. She’ll nip it in the rear quickly-but if the baby does it again, she may deliver a fast cow kick AND a nip to the butt plus a total refusal to allow junior access to the diary bar. There’s no loud “boo-yah”, fist pump, or anything else. It’s quick, quiet, and Junior is just left standing some distance away from mom wondering what the heck just happened. The lesson?  Treat me right or you don’t get what you want-and you get left socially isolated. Not fun-but it is surely effective.

Likewise, as young horses mature, they interact with each other and adult horses learning to find their own place within a herd’s hierarchy. A ear position, the gesture of the head and neck, the whipping of the tail or a tail held high or in a clamped position, rearing, striking, a single or a double hind leg kick-all of these translate to messages that horses use to convey emotions, warnings, and information. They are masters of reading body language. Not just equine body language-but that of their entire environment-which includes that of other animals, both prey and predators (including humans). In fact-they are ‘hard-wired’ for the job then trained by their dams and herd mates into black belt masters. Even the dullest is good at it. We are the dullards. 

 

 

“I’m going to spook….”

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I have had some characters as horses. The Jackass was only the first. His idea of a ‘spook’ was a big swooping sideways thing. It was obviously designed to dislodge a less careful rider. As time went by, I learned that he telegraphed when he was going to do one of those things. It became a contest of sorts.

SJ: “I’m going to shy up ahead-are you paying attention?”

Me: “Don’t even think about it.”

SJ: “Too late!” Jumps sideways

The foxtrotter, Hickory, had two versions. He’d either drop and freeze in place (just suddenly lose about a foot in height-very disconcerting at first) OR , I swear his head would disappear from in front of me (don’t know where it went) and he’d do a 180 spin and scram. That horse was cutting horse quality on those spins. If I hadn’t had one of those old-fashioned bear trap saddles, I’d have eaten more dirt with him. Never knew what was going to set him off. I learned to sit deep and stick with him. Horse had more moves than a pound of Exlax.

Zhivago-the 13 hand Tarpan stallion-rarely shied. His attitude was always-“Is it edible or breedable?” If it wasn’t one or the other, he wasn’t interested. Except for one notable exception. Next door to where we rented was a 3D archery range. They’d gotten in some new targets for a meet-so we rode over to have a look. Usually they’d be elk, antelope, white tail deer, and such, but they’d gotten a new one. We came up through the woods and Zhivago came out from behind a tree to see a wild boar looking at him. He didn’t hesitate-he did a ‘bat-turn’ and was out of there. Horses and pigs do not mix and that primal instinct is still intact.

I’m careful about the de-spooking process with my horses. I want to manage the spook-not dampen it out entirely. It’s a protective mechanism for them-and for me. If it is a dog jumping at them or an attacker-I want them to respond. I just don’t want the big ‘fireworks’ that will land me on the ground hurt. Let’s be reasonable about it. Tell me the rattlesnake is there, but don’t dump me on top of it-that’s definitely rude to me and the snake.

Honestly-I know the “spooky” arab thing and it’s a truck load of manure. There are “spooky” individuals in all breeds and some of them are made that way by their rock-headed humans. It amazes me how many times the spookiness is the owner’s fault. But that’s a whole other issue, isn’t it?

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Character Judgment

I have a theory-one of these days, I fully expect some major scientific funding back me up on it. My theory is-if you are really good with animals, any kind of animals, then the reactions of the animals in your life to the people you bring around them will tell you all you need to know about the people.

The Sports Model Jackass taught me a great deal about this-of course, he was something of a special kind of guy, too. He loved to play pranks. I’m serious. He didn’t like my sister-but then she didn’t care for him much either. He ran away with her at least twice. He bit her arm so hard she passed out (not nipped-BIT). We were riding side by side one day and she changed the words of The Old Grey Mare to The Old Brown Pinto-he nailed her foot for that (don’t tell me they don’t understand our speech!).

He also had opinions about farriers-loved to drive them crazy. Until a funny little old guy showed up who would work on both fronts then the hinds instead of going around the horse. Whatever worked.

Boyfriends were an issue with him-he never gave even a lukewarm response to one. None got bit, stepped on, or kicked, but he made it very clear-‘if you’re going with THAT-you’ve got a problem picking out boyfriends, toots.’  Sour ears, ugly looks, and The Butt. If it was really awful, he’d walk off.

Subsequent equines did the same-Zhivago, the Tarpan stallion, was particularly expressive in his opinions. ‘Dad’ adored me-and would actually walk between me and someone he did not care for. I sometimes wondered what would happen if somebody did try something with him around. He was a feisty little s*** on his best days.

Madam, my crabby long-haired tortoiseshell cat, was the one who gave the seal of approval to the guy I eventually married. She spent most of an evening upside down purring in his arm while we played a board game-something she never did. Then the horses ratified it. (I met him in ’89-seven years after I lost the Jackass.)

These are but a few of the examples. If you wish to post yours in the comments, please feel free to do so in WordPress. I would enjoy reading them. Animals enrich our lives in many ways-I believe they can make it easier and more worthwhile as well if we will but pay attention to what they try to tell us.