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March 29, 2014: Men and Horses

A great deal has been written about women and horses and the connections/bonds that develop between them. I have yet to have seen anything written about the bonds that form between men and horses. Why is this? Is it because horses are primarily considered to be “a woman thing?”

Men and horses – I have read books by most of the natural horsemanship trainers, Buck Branahan, Chris Irwin, and Monty Roberts included. All (and others) allude to the fact that their fathers abused them when they were children, which leads me to believe that they didn’t have good role models.

Pete with the Stoffel's horses

All the above advocate treating horses in a kinder, gentler fashion than did their male predecessors. However (and this is the catch) because they see horse behavior as being hierarchically-driven, they rely on training methods that are dominance driven.

This includes pressure/release methods, the most popular of which is round penning. The trainer enters the pen, and the horse moves when this person enters the animal’s flight zone. In other words, the prey is attempting to get away from the predator. As I now know, dominance related training techniques don’t work with Icelandic horses, who because of their genetic make-up, have less flight distance. This is because there have traditionally been very few predators in their native country.

So Icelandic horses don’t move as readily when in the round pen. I have seen this happen. The last time Raudi was in one, she pooped, peed, and ignored the person who was attempting to bond with her. Again, she was said to be “stubborn” and “willful.”

It’s been gratifying to see Pete (in the more traditional female sense) with both Siggi and Signy. Both horses formed a partnership with him – and it was never, ever dominance related. Once in a great while young Siggi would test Pete’s patience – he never consciously decided to do so. Rather, he just determined that there were certain things that he did not wish to do – like cross creeks. Early on, Pete was frustrated by Siggi’s supposedly odd behavior. However, over time he became increasingly more patient. It was a joy to watch the two learn to trust one another and to engage in the give and take that are indicative of a good working relationship. Signy at first lacked confidence, but she gained this over time. She was always up for doing just about anything, and never, ever did anything wrong. In the end, Pete and Signy were as were Pete and Siggy, a very happy pair.

All this came back to mind yesterday. In the late afternoon we went over to Dick and Mariann Stoffel’s place so that Pete might give them an assist. Mariann’s new saddle and saddle pad had arrived, and they wanted to make sure that both fit.

Mariann and I hung back as Pete and Dick put the pad in place, then checked the saddle for rocker, bridging, and fit. The two then determined that the saddle fit Kohlfaxi just fine. Mariann then got on Kohlfaxi, and went for a short ride. Afterwards, Dick said that the saddle was “a keeper.”

Pete and Dick then tried the saddle out on five-year old Jokla, then on Carmen, Jokla’s dam. The pair both agreed that the saddle might fit, Jokla once she builds up more muscle.

As I watched the proceedings, I asked myself, how did it come to be that Pete, who at one time seemingly had no interest in horses, now has considerable interest in them? The above is a good example. He also hangs out and talks with Dr. Wellington and with Josh Morris, our farrier, when they come over. And he’s usually up for a ride, even on days when I’m not.

Why is it that other men subscribe to the dominance theory? And why is it that Pete does not. I haven’t a clue. If I really wanted an answer to this question, I’d have to go back and reconstruct his horse history, starting with his involvement with his grandfather’s two retired horses. Maybe I’ll someday do this. But in the meantime my having a partnership with someone who has a similar interest in horses and as well, a similar outlook, suffices.

Next: 89. 3/30/14: Dog Training: Team Work and Sniffing Butts