Spring is in the air, and in the trees, and in our systems. We're shedding our winter coats! Hurrah!! It's itchy, I want it gone now! I roll, but that doesn't quite do it. I sure appreciate it when Pam comes out to give me a good curry. Unfortunately I intimidate the volunteers, so they won't come in to groom me very often. I really don't mean to be overbearing, but then again, maybe I do. I love to push them to the limit to see how much I can.
You know, horses do love to test people. You folks really have to EARN our respect. I know there are a lot of you people out there who want to be friends with us and want us to love you and you'll do anything to get that love. But you want to know the truth? If we don't respect you, we can't love you. They go hand in hand. You can love us and spoil us and give us treats, but if you don't also discipline us and earn our respect, we'll walk all over you. That's a FACT!! I hate to say it, but that is also an invitation for us to injure you because we're so big and strong and if you can't control us, that's what happens. In French they'd say "c'est la vie". So it's an internationally known fact. You really have to earn our respect.
Getting back to the grooming, and shedding and spring in the air, etc., let's get down to basics. I'm "The Barking Shark" and don't ever doubt it!! I'm big, I'm powerful, I'm handsome and I use all of these attributes to my advantage, except when it comes to other horses bullying me. (I hate to admit it, but then I'm a woos. HOWEVER, now that Pam has me in with my two gorgeous fillies, I'm a happy woos. They still pick on me, but I love it, and love them. Life is good.)
Let me talk about respect and caring. If somebody comes into my paddock, my space, I instinctively challenge their presence (unless it's Pam, and I even challenge her at times). So, how do they respond? If they challenge me, I may back off. If they're friendly, but defensive, I may analyze this. If they're timid, I'll probably walk all over them. If they don't establish their "space", I'll enter it. So, there are boundaries and understandings that need to be established for a good and healthy and safe working relationship. There are horses out there that I watch and they enter a person's space just to get treats or attention or get petted. They wouldn't dream of doing anything to hurt anybody. However, if that same gentle horse is challenged by another horse in the same pasture or paddock, and that horse is higher in the pecking order and also wants treats or attention, that gentle horse is going to get away from the other horse faster than you can blink, and very well may knock the person down in the process, not intentionally, but you have to remember that we're creatures of flight. That's our first instinct if we're scared or feel threatened. So, I'd advise you folks to create your "safe space" and only let us in if you invite us. As for me, I just can't be trusted not to do something either mischievous or challenging. It's just my nature, even though I know better. If I'm not reminded to behave, depending upon my mood, I just may not behave. There are lots of others like me, so if you don't establish your space, and make us respect it, we'll enter it putting you at possible risk. Take heed!
Communication with us is really relatively easy. We want to make life simple between us equines and you people. We want to trust you and merely need the direction to do so, for the most part. There are others like me, like Governor Elect, who will always challenge a newcomer to see how far we can get, but that's just kind of our nature and a game we play. Most of us want to understand what you're trying to teach us, and merely need your understanding to know how to communicate this to us and the patience to do so. Key word here is "trust". If we learn to trust you, we'll be more willing to do what you want knowing that you won't hurt us and lead us into any threatening situation. That may take some time and repetition and various experiences to gain complete trust, but patience and kindness with reasonable discipline and demand for respect will accomplish the goal. You won't succeed by using brute force, but having the knowledge to know what you're trying to convey to us, repetition, patience, and knowing what our limits are will help us to learn what you want us to accomplish. We really don’t have a very long attention span, so it may take several short "sessions" to get the message across. Don't get me wrong, by any means. I'm "The Barking Shark" and I'm not stupid, nor are my brethren, but sometimes we lose interest in what you're trying to convey, or we get bored or tired or cranky or whatever, so we don't pay attention anymore. Case closed, shutters down, out to lunch, gone fishing. Come back tomorrow. Why do you people think more is better?!? You want to drill us to death, repeat, repeat, and if we don't respond or understand what you want you mistreat us to try to get us to understand what we can't understand the way you're trying to teach it. Hello! Maybe you should re-evaluate your teaching methods so we can understand them. We really do want to have a peaceful and happy co-existence and we'd really like to make it as easy as possible if you'd just let us understand what you want us to do, or not do. BUT, please be consistent also. Don't try to teach us one thing one day and then change it to another thing another day. If we don't get your drift, and it's reasonable, just keep trying patiently with us and we'll eventually communicate. We really want to please, if we know what's expected of us.
So, here we are, back to the basics. I'm "The Barking Shark", and I'm as strong and willful and (woosy) and pushy as I was ten years ago. I'm a stakes horse and willing to show my class. I really need someone to keep me in line. I don't want to hurt somebody intentionally and I LOVE attention, but I'd best respect you if you enter my space, and you'd best establish your space with me or any other horse, if you don't want us to walk all over you or put you at risk. Be safe and create your space with us. We'll respect it and you … and there's still room for lots of love.
I know Pam is doing some camps and clinics on safety and horse handling and I really hope some of you will take advantage of this. Like I've said, I don't mean to hurt anyone, but I'm big and strong and have my own mind, so you'd best know how to control me, or another like me.
My back still needs to be scratched. Any volunteers????
(I’m really quite loveable – ask my filly room-mates or Pam!)