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What is it about human (and horse) nature that keeps us from doing the things that are good for us?
We procrastinate, avoid, rationalize, and deny.
“I’ll get to the gym tomorrow,” we promise.
“I don’t really need that much sleep,” we say as we stay up much later than our body wants/needs.
“I’ll start eating better right after my vacation, or right after the holidays, or right after our guests leave, or ?? You can fill in the blank on this lovely excuse.
I could go on, but I’m certain you get the idea.
In Miss Pepper’s case, she isn’t making up excuses or telling herself little white fibs.
At least I don’t think she is.
But playing games is her speciality.
And she has nailed it.
Because of her achy, arthritic legs she gets a daily anti-inflammatory pill. It really helps.
That must be why she doesn’t want to take it. 🙂
Every day we place the pale pink half-moon-shaped pill into her grain pan. Sometimes right on top. Other times we cover it with a bit of grain.
It doesn’t matter. She always finds it.
And without fail, she proceeds to push it around the pan.
We spend our time peering into her grain, searching for the pill. “Has she gotten it yet?” We sift through her food examining each little morsel of grain, as intently as if searching for weapons of mass destruction.
Sometimes we look at each other and laugh at our total folly.
We figure Pepper must enjoy our attention, because she pushes that pill here and there, avoiding it until she’s down to the last few bites. Sometimes she even spits it out, which sends us scouring the ground, looking for a pink pill in the dirt or snow, depending on the season.
Pepper keeps one eye on us as we go through our silly pill search.
And she usually has a mischievous glint in that same eye. I think we really entertain our persnickety old mare.
As for that promise to get to the gym. Went this morning.
Our Miss Pepper is a character in horse clothing.
She definitely has her likes and dislikes, and lets us know exactly what she wants. In other words, she has trained us well. I don’t think that’s necessarily how it’s supposed to go in the “horse world,” but in our little slice of the pasture, that’s how it is.
Lately Pepper has decided she likes to mix her grain with nibbles of snow. Sort of like a grain snow cone or slushie. She’ll dump the pan by flipping it with her nose, so she can mix grain with snow.
I’ve wondered if she’s thirsty.
Or if she likes the taste of cold grain.
Or if she’s simply bored and ready to mix things up.
Who knows for sure?
Chickadee powers through her grain like an out-of-control freight train racing downhill. That girl gets right to business and doesn’t raise her head until she’s finished.
Pepper, on the other hand, dawdles.
She’s the stereotypical Sunday driver as she takes tiny little mouthfuls and carefully chews them. Then she looks around, enjoying the scenery and behavior of the other horses, before slurping up another tiny bite. On these frigid days, we’d like nothing more than for her to hurry a little.
But hurrying is not in her plan.
Pepper is practicing mindful eating-something most of us could probably do more of.
As usual, she challenges me take stock of my own life. What a sneaky little teacher she is!
If a grain-infused snow cone sounds good to you, you’ll find us around noon in the pasture. I think Pepper will share.
Some things just plain make me happy.
You may remember this sweet old mare named Forty. We call her that because the number 40 is branded on her neck. Not the most original of names on our part, but hey…
Forty is a gentle old girl. We always hoped she’d join the Golden Girls, but she hasn’t. She follows them from a distance and has usually been alone. Two winters ago she hooked up with a mare named Sunny, but Sunny has left the pasture and Forty has been on her own.
She has the most amazing manners. She never pushes. She is considerate of everyone else. If we don’t pay attention to her, she walks away.
I find that bittersweet.
It seems she doesn’t want to be a bother for anyone -a trap so many of us females find ourselves in at times.
The past few days Forty has found a friend. It’s a young little paint mare – new to the pasture. We don’t know her name. Yet. These two are joined at the hip. And that is what makes me happy.
Forty has a friend.
I feel like a hovering, helicopter mother. So be it! In the pasture it isn’t good to be alone. Having an ally really helps.
We’ll see how long this little Paint sticks around, but for now we are all happy.
As a parent, I was never big on using threats to coerce my son to behave. I wasn’t one of those mothers who gave away her authority with comments like, “You just wait until your father gets home. He’ll deal with you.”
Just typing the words gives me a rather creepy feeling.
But in the spirit of honest and transparent communication, I must fess up to something.
It’s about Miss Pepper.
In her old age she has apparently decided that she doesn’t really have to do what I ask of her. At least not all the time.
For example, when I ask her to walk back through the gate into the pasture when she’s finished eating, she will sometimes balk. She’ll stand stock still and look at me with an expression that says, “Nope, I’m not going back. And you can’t make me.”
Then she plants herself and waits for my next move.
And yes, I’ve done the recommended horse behavior things.
“I know what you’re doing,” she screams with her eyes. “And it won’t work.” She’s well-versed in horse whisperer techniques.
I stand in front of her applying pressure to the lead rope, not yielding until she steps forward. She takes one TINY step and stops.
We do this frustrating little two-step for awhile, until, and this is important and maddening, Rick walks toward her. He doesn’t even have to do anything.
His presence alone prompts her to move. She hustles herself through the gate easy as pie, leaving me dumbfounded.
“Really? Girlfriend we need to talk.”
She ignores me.
I try again.
“Seriously Pepper this is 2014, the twenty-first century. Remember women’s lib? Feminism?”
That logic is lost on our Miss P.
I don’t know if it is that Rick is bigger and stronger than I am—definitely the alpha of our little herd of two, or that she is just messing with me.
Or maybe a little of both.
I suspect any serious horse people reading this are shaking their heads in disgust. They’d be justified.
With horses, and life, it is always something!
It seems Pepper has made her decision about her summer company.
She’s chosen to stay with Mr. Black, no matter what we have to say about it. Chickadee goes along for the ride, but it’s clear this isn’t her first choice.
And Mr. Black–well he’s all puffery and posturing when it comes to Pepper. He puts up a BIG fuss when we take her out of the pasture, and then makes an even bigger deal when she returns.
I think part of our problem is that this represents change.
And we humans seem to have such trouble accepting change. Mr. Black is not our dear old friend Jack, and we don’t like that. We wanted him to be the one tending to the Golden Girls.
As if we honestly had any say in the matter.
And perhaps more to the point, Mr. Black is not Bud. His presence makes it so very clear that Bud is gone, never again to be part of the Herd of Oldsters. It prickles at the edge of our consciousness and revives old hurts and sadness.
The lesson that seems to keep offering itself to me is learning to surrender to what is happening, rather than wishing or expecting something to be different. It sounds so easy when I read it, but in action it is far from easy.
And yet I’ve learned that when I do accept things in present time, just as they are unfolding, I feel better.
More at peace in my heart.
Which is exactly the feeling I want more of in my day-to-day life.
More peace, less angst.
The funny thing is that I actually thought I had a say in what goes on in the pasture.
Surrender. Yield. Accept.
In the horse world you can pretty much tell a horse’s mood by the slant of her ears. Upright and perky usually means life is good. It means “I’m curious, interested, attentive.”
Some horses can actually tilt their ears toward you, which means they are super engaged, or amused as heck. I often get the latter when I am with the horses.
They find me funny, though for the life of me I don’t know why!
The opposite of all this happy, happy is ears flattened close to the head. When a horse lays her ears back it almost always means, “Back off Buddy.” It’s a warning to others to stay away. It can be the prelude to a nip or a kick.
It’s serious business.
Our sweet Miss P. is an expert at flattening her ears.
These days, she doesn’t hesitate for a moment about letting the other horses know when she’s not a happy camper. There is a whole crew of horses from the larger herd for whom she has no time. And when they come near, she unleashes the old flattened ears.
Sometimes she snorts for extra emphasis. She especially does NOT like any of these bad actors around when she’s eating.
Or when she’s going through the gate. That’s when we see something we’ve playfully dubbed, F**K eyes. And boy oh boy is she good at that. It’s “Back off Buddy” in spades.
Pepper has always been a no-nonsense kind of girl, but her lack of tolerance for her herd mates has escalated as she’s aged.
I can relate.
My husband tells me I have a human version of Pepper’s flattened ears.
When he sees it, his typical first response is “Uh oh.”
Which, come to think of it, is probably prudent!
How about you? Do you have your version of “the Look?”
Wish you could flatten your ears like Pepper?
There are certainly days I wish I could.
On Christmas Day when we drove up to the gate to feed the Golden Girls, we found them snoozing in the sun.
They were stretched out in the dry grass, grooving on the sun warming their sweet old bones.
The rest of the herd was at the other end of the pasture, so I guess it felt safe for the girls to kick their feet up and relax.
Could be they stayed up a little too late on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa, or had one too many toddies at the Christmas party.
More likely they were simply taking advantage of all that glorious sun.
Here’s hoping you had an equally restful holiday.
And if not, there’s still time for that nap.
There’s been a lot of action at the Horse Hotel, which has kept the Golden Girls thoroughly entertained. It does prompt the following question, especially at this time of year:
Is someone going to end up on Santa’s naughty list?
Here’s what happened.
Mr. Big–the white horse on the left seems to be a bit of a troublemaker. You’ll remember he’s the one flirting with Miss P. (or vice versa.) Well, he gets bored. It’s an occupational hazard at “horse hotels.” Nothing to do but stand around and eat, flirt with the cute mares next door,
Antagonize your other next-door neighbor.
The last few times I’ve been out feeding Pepper and Chickadee, Mr. Big has opted for choice number three.
These two geldings have been playing “Gotcha” with great skill.
Mr. Big starts it all with a little nip across the fence, a kick between the bars, a challenge to “get me if you think you can.”
And the neighbor?
Well he gets sucked in every time, and returns Mr. Big’s taunts in kind. Ears back, eyes flashing, hooves pawing the ground making mincemeat of the muddy dirt.
They’ll go at it full force for ten or fifteen minutes, then take a break. Each will get a drink of water, maybe munch on a bite or two of hay if any is left, and catch their breath.
Then it starts all over again.
If horses could talk, they’d be saying something like, “Nanner, nanner, nanner. Can’t get me. Just try.”
I’m told this is a lot like parenting brothers.
I grew up in a family of three girls, so we never played these games. Other games, of course, but not the nanner, nanner, nanner type.
So apparently the old saying is true: Boys will be boys!
Just remember this boys, Santa is watching.
Give a girl a beautiful new red outfit, set her up in comfortable digs out of the cold wind and freezing temps, with all the food and attention she wants, and what does she do?
Well if she’s Miss Pepper, she flirts.
Our sweet old girl became quite enamored with the next-door neighbor—a big white gelding that was making eyes at her.
On the day I took this picture, Pepper actually walked away from her grain to go rub noses with Mr. Big. She was feeling pretty frisky.
Pepper, Pepper, Pepper…
What are we going to do with you?
My husband says, “Once a flirt, always a flirt.”
And between you and me, I get that.
What happens on the outside of our body has little to do with how we feel and think on the inside.
I can so totally relate to Miss P.
A new outfit can raise my spirits too; make me feel attractive—even sexy.
And red, well that just enhances all the feelings.
So to Pepper and all of us women of a certain age, I leave you with this downhome thought, borrowed from some wise philosopher I expect: “Just because there is snow on the roof, doesn’t mean the fire below isn’t burning.”
Maybe I’ll go shop for something red to wear.
How about you?
And this photo of Chickadee?
She was a little disgusted with the whole flirtation.
I’ve been on that side of things too.
There have been some shenanigans in the pasture lately.
It seems for some horses boundaries are meant to be pushed. Fences are nothing more than suggestions. And if you’re big enough to do it, why not go ahead and step across?
And that’s exactly what’s been going on.
We have a rather new horse in the pasture – a young black horse that is way too big for his own good. This big boy doesn’t seem to be the brightest bulb in the box. Except when it comes to breaking down fence. He’s a master at that.
So he has been giving the pasture caretakers fits.
He’s learned that he can just step across the taped off fences they’ve erected to rotate the pastures, and munch away on the grass on the other side. Something about the grass always being greener on the other side of the fence!
Once he took the first step into the dark side, many others followed.
Remember that golden oldie nugget of parenting where your mother (or father) encouraged you to make decisions for yourself instead of following the pack?
She’d look you square in the eye and ask, “If your friend jumped off a cliff, would you follow?” And you would reply with some smark aleck comment.
At least horses don’t talk back, though they have their own versions of smart aleck remarks.
This has made me think about how often I follow the herd, without so much as a thought about what I really want, or what behaviors align with my own moral compass.
I’m not jumping off cliffs or trying drugs, or robbing banks, so you can breathe a sigh of relief if you were worried.
I am confident that on the “big decisions” I can navigate my own path.
But I have to admit that on some of the smaller ones, I do sometimes take a lead from the group I’m with. I’ve ordered that second glass of wine, or chocolate cake because others in my group suggested it, even though I really didn’t want it.
This business of walking one’s own path seems to be an everyday opportunity/challenge.
P.S. As far as I know, the two Golden Girls (Pepper and Chickadee) had nothing to do with the jail break. If they did, they aren’t talking! That little nugget of wisdom also comes with age and experience.