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. 

 

 

Breaking vs Training vs Relationship

bronc We’ve all seen the rodeo bronc rider-and we may have ridden a few bucks in our days of riding. I know I have-none as seriously into as a rodeo horse, but definitely intended to deposit my fanny somewhere other than where it was at the time. Only one consistently successful was a Shetland pony mare who, as it happened, foaled the next day. No one had a clue. But she could buck!

Most of us are pretty much of the persuasion (or at least I hope we are) that the old grab a wild one out of the corral, rope him, throw a saddle on him, and climb up with the objective of riding the bucks out of the horse ‘eventually’ is at best ineffective, hard on both man and horse, and makes for a horse that is never totally reliable. Any time you train with force and fear you can never truly trust that the training will hold when you need it the most.

But it was fast-or so they thought at the time. We now know that if you take enough time to start with that it will take less time in the long run. I know for a fact it sure does save a lot of wear and tear on both human and horse.

lunging But if you don’t do it that way, do you do it this way? Do you use all the straps, bits, lines, and gimmicks? Don’t get me wrong-I’ve got a few in my barn. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. What I can tell you now-after 50 years of study, experimentation, and a lot of thought-is this-most of this stuff is pretty damn near useless and is humans trying to find a way to shortcut their way into doing things correctly. Bottom line-if you aren’t getting the result that you want, you aren’t asking the horse the correct question. It is not the horse that is wrong-it’s you. And it nearly knocked me on my fat fanny when I realized that.

dressagesans Which brings me to this-why are we still requiring dressage competitors to use double bridles, spurs, and a dressage whip, when you can get the exact same frame as Xenophon’s horse without a bridle or a saddle? Dressage should be about the communication between horse and rider, shouldn’t it? In its purest form, you should not need anything. What do you see with this horse? Face is vertical, fully collected, round and beautiful sitting trot. Isn’t this what we are really after?

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For the record–

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this is in response to the fact that I seem to be getting an inordinate number of single male requests to ‘friend’ me on Facebook. Listen up, guys-I’m MARRIED-to a great man. And from what I can tell from your pages-your jokes, posts, photos, and what have you-well, let’s just say I’m less than impressed. Got what I wanted and not looking to change.

Y’all have a nice day-but do it somewhere else.

Becky

My grandpa drove a black pickup-step side with the old style pins and chains on the tail gate to lock it closed, hold it flat, or allow it to drop all the way down. As far as I was concerned, it was a Rolls Royce Silver Phantom.

From the time I walked well, I was trying to get out the screen door to go next door to be with my ‘Paw Paw’. Of course, my mother had her hands full with my younger sister who was a fretful, demanding, high maintenance baby. We lived on a dirt road on the opposite side of a field planted with corn. My mom’s parents lived in an old house (the front rooms had beams that were hand hewn and held together with wooden pegs). It had been added onto over the years-nothing fancy, but comfortable.

My Paw Paw, daddy, and some other man built our house. The land was a gift from my grandparents. The oaks must have seen Gen. Sherman’s armies go through. They towered over us and produced huge piles of leaves and amazing amounts of acorns. The shade was so dense we rarely got wet during a shower and the temperature would drop at least 5-8 degrees from the road to under the trees.

I do not know how old I was, but one day a pickup pulled up at my Paw Paw’s with a stake bed on the back and a white mule looking over the top. (Perfectly acceptable practice in the country back then-and still is in some places.) That was Becky-she had been purchased to plow the garden but also because it was said she would ride. I must have been asking about doing that-I know I pestered anyone and everyone about riding the mechanical horse at the convenience store.

From somewhere came a small saddle covered in red and green vinyl. I know he made stirrups for it out of a block of wood and some belting. I don’t believe the thing ever fit either Becky or us girls because I don’t remember using it. I do remember riding Becky in from the field after he finished plowing-he’d reach down after unhooking the traces and throw me up behind the hames to sit on the back band. I thought I was riding a unicorn or a winged steed.

Somewhere there’s a photo of me and my sister on Becky being led by Paw Paw. I knew she was a big girl. Didn’t realize how big until I saw the photo. Paw Paw was about 6’2″ and Becky’s withers  are somewhere around his ears. That would have put that mule in the neighborhood of 16-3 to 17 hands. Big girl.

Paw Paw promised me that Becky would be mine one day. Then he died when I was eight and she was sold. I stayed mad for the next four years.

 

Understanding-Kindness-Compassion

This seems to be out of fashion these days-which is why I seem to be totally out of sync with the rest of the world-or at least at good bit of what I see on the news and internet. It’s very much the sentiment that you see expressed on the T-shirts saying “The more I see of people, the more I love my_____”. Fill in the blank with the animal of your choice.

The rationale is actually pretty simple-people tend to have agendas and act pretty crappy towards each other. One of the leading political candidates has a book out that tells people to ‘f__’ over the other guy before he gets the chance to ‘f___’ over you-and he is lauded for that view point. I can’t stand it-and won’t stand for it. It is diametrically opposed to what I was raised to believe that the Bible said-“Do to others what you want them to do to you”.  It doesn’t say be nice only if you like them, only if they are the same political party, only if they come from the same geographical piece of land mass, only if they speak the same language, only if their skin looks similar to mine, or even if they happen to worship the same way I choose to. It does not have any options. It says “Do to others as you want others to do to you. “.  That’s pretty simple, really, and damn clear.

So why do so many people want to put their own exceptions on it? Hell if I know.

jesus_childrenYeshua only had two commandments for us to follow-not ten. #1 You will love the Lord God with all your heart and soul. #2 You will love you neighbor as much or more than you do yourself.

So how in the name of all that is holy can people do what they do to other people, women, children, animals-and still say that they are believers? You do not treat other people as garbage, you respect their dignity, you treat their wounds, feed their bodies, and shelter them  when necessary. If you do not understand their culture-then you make the effort to learn about it. You extend kindness. You show compassion.

Because to do anything otherwise-is less than being human.

That Feeling…

You know that special feeling that I guess all little girls-and quite a few big ones-dream about having when they walk out in the pasture to see their horses and it seems like the horses can’t seem to get enough of them? Yeah-that one. The one where they actually run to meet you instead of the catching game?

Well, after 50 something years of having horses, I have that. All seven of them will come-the more agile ones galloping and the more reserved more slowly. But they come-and I have to give individual attention to each or feelings are hurt. The sisters are always first-insistent on being first and there is no such thing as enough. Then the warmblood-proud, imperious, and yet oddly juvenile in his begging for attention. The older mares will stand back and wait their turns for scratching. Then comes the pony-who knows he is lowest on the pecking order for all his vain attempts to prove himself.

It’s been a long, long road to get to this-so I savor every moment I spend with them. So very few people get to experience this magical experience-and here I have it each time I go out there. How wonderful and how blessed I am. If only relationships with humans could be so incredible!

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.