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September 14, 2012: Complex Relationships

An odd this happened this morning, something that’s now making me reconsider the nature of the equine mind. To me, horses and how they think has always been a near complete mystery. And the more I’ve thought about it, the more of a mystery this has become.

Are horses capable of caring for any creature other than themselves? Certainly not in the human sense. All I’ve ever expected from any horse is a cooperative attitude. I assumed this because I never wanted to have unrealistic expectations.

I now realize that I grossly underestimated the horse mind. This is what’s brought about a sudden change in self-perception. I was cleaning the pen, and Raudi clearly wanted out. She let me know this by pestering me, nosing the buckets, cart, my physical self. This failed to get her what she wanted, which was why she sidled up to the gate when I went to get the cart out.

I figured that what we had here was one of those clichéd “teachable moments.” I went and got the clicker and treat. I was going to get her to stay out of my space by using positive reinforcement.

Raudi, who only wanted out, never mind the treats, barged past me, nearly knocking me into the cart. Tinni and Siggi followed. I chased after her, crop and lead rope in hand. I was seeing red, and it wasn’t just my little mare’s pretty coloring. I quickly realized that I would not be able to catch Raudi, and went and got a halter. It took me all of fifteen seconds to cool down.

Raudi saw me with halter in hand, and came over to my side. I put the halter on her, and led her back into the pen. Then I again had her back and stand. I of course rewarded her, by clicking and giving her a treat. After, I let her join the other horses.

After, it occurred to me that Raudi does feel something for me. I do not know what the word for it might be – maybe there isn’t a word for it. Otherwise, she would not have let me catch her, and most definitely, would not have stayed put in the pen. The previous scenario would have taken place again. This realization has alerted me to the fact that a relationship with a horse – and this is what we have here – isn’t to be taken lightly.

This is where the matter of heart comes in. Heart is, as I define it, recognizing that animals have feelings, and in our thoughts and actions, acknowledging this. I haven’t seen “heart” in the methods of many nationally-known horse clinicians, many of whom just subscribe to the concept of pressure/release.

I had, in the past, just thrown the phrase “He or she has or lacks heart,” but I hadn’t, until now, defined it as such. A scratch, a pet, a kind word – setting the foot down gently after cleaning a hoof – these things are the outward manifestation of our having heart.

This is a new insight, so I have to give it more thought. It’s definitely going to make me a better horseperson, because from this point on, I am going to be cognizant of their, dare I say it? feelings and concerns.

Next: 279. 09/15/12: Riding with the Posse