Home > Trip > Dispatches > Daily Dispatches 2013 > Daily Dispatch #96

April 6, 2013: Horses and Owners as Co-Learners

Language and thought are interconnected. An example – my coming to the realization that co-learner is an apt term that best describes the sort of relationship that I’m working on having with all my animals. In less than twenty four hours, it’s brought about a shift in consciousness, as this relates to animal/human cognition. I’m specifically talking here, today, about horses, although I could be talking about dogs, goats, or chickens.

The word co-learner implies that we’re in this together. It implies that we have intelligence and can figure things out. It also implies that horses have intelligence

and can figure things out. There are innumerable differences between humans and equines, perhaps the most significant being that we perceive things differently, both literally and figuratively.

For example, a horse’s vision differs from that of humans – we have eyes on the front of our heads, and they have eyes on the sides of their heads. They use one eye at a time to view what’s on their left or right side, while we turn our heads to look at what’s on our left or right sides. A horse’s vision complements the premise that they are prey while ours complements the premise that we’re predators. They generally (but not always) flee from danger. We generally (but not always) take on danger.

I have even (already) put yesterday’s horse-related events in the context of co-learning. Yesterday, early evening, Tinni’s former owner Kaitlyn came over for a visit. It was brief, but extremely insightful. I’d saddled up Tinni in advance of her visit, so that she might give Trillium, age 10, some pointers. For some odd reason, Tinni was extremely pacey. No matter, both Trillium and I were into it. I was instructing Trillium when Kaitlyn arrived. Her boyfriend Roman was with her. I suggested to Kaitlyn that she take on the job as teacher.

Kaitlyn responded by saying to Trillium “Just hit him and go!” This seemed a bit odd to me, and I stepped forward to give Trillium additional feedback. Kaitlyn then came around, and said to Trillium to hold the reins up and to give Tinni more rein. Trillium readily did as told, and Tinni then began to tolt.

I immediately knew that though Kaitlyn had attempted to deny it, that there was still a connection between the horse and his former owner. Tinni, I knew, remembered his former days as an instructor horse, and he was wanting to do right by her.

I then removed Tinni’s saddle and got on him. I was of course showing off a bit. I wanted Kaitlyn to see that I’d made considerable progress in the time between her giving me lessons and now. I don’t know if this at all registered with her. What registered with me was that Tinni tolted. Yes, he and I have a connection.

Kaitlyn then ran her hands down his legs and said that he was in good shape, and that I have taken good care of him.

After, we continued on into the horse pen. I inwardly likened it to entering an unsupervised daycare center – all the children being on recess. The horses were milling about, waiting to entertain and be entertained. Kaitlyn saw things differently. With near military bearing, she raised her hands, and swooshed Hrimmi away from her. Hrimmi, surprised, raised her head high and jumped backwards. Roman interrupted her whooshing, and said that Siggi was chewing on his shoelaces. “Make yourself big!” Kaitlyn said.

Kaitlyn did have good things to say about Signy, who knew not to get near her. Signy, I am sure, has seen this kind of behavior (on the part of humans) before –
it’s why (I suspect) that she’s even sometimes hard to catch.

Kiatlyn and Roman had stuff to do, so they soon left. Trillium, her sister Leila, and her father Steve remained. We hung out and hugged and scratched the horses. I told the kids that each horse has a spot where they most like to be scratched – and demonstrated, saying that right now on Raudi, it’s on her back. (My theory is that feeling is returning in that area; previously, it was numbed by ill-fitting saddle related problems.)

Hindsight is good if you use it to your advantage. This is an instance of this. Kaitlyn is right – horses should keep their distance from humans. If they don’t, they might be subject to our odd and not-so-nice behaviors. And it’s not fun to deal with – it’s like someone who has had too many drinks getting in your face and talking at you.

I can assist my horses in dealing with this by teaching them to stay out of my space, using the clicker and treats, pressure on the side, combined with the words like “over” and “back.” Otherwise, they will become more fearful and less trusting.

So here is an instance of co-learning. They reminded me of something important – that is that I need to be pro-active. And I will teach them something important, that is to stay out of people’s space.

Yep, this is a whole different way of thinking about things. I do wish that I’d been able to talk with Kaitlyn about this, but the opportunity did not present itself. And it might not ever come to be. She’s wanting out of dealing with horses, says that right now she has no interest in them. I suspect that her tune will change in another twenty-or-so years. And I’ll bet that then, she’ll be more receptive to the idea of horse-human co-learning.

I am rather blown away by this. This is actually the direction my trekking proposal was going in. More writing as problem solving.

Next: 97. 4/7/13: Hrimmi, Eleven Month