Sunday 29 June 2014

Some special mutual grooming

Yet more horse watching today. 2 mares, lets call them Bree and Sapphire (not shown in the photo below, as they weren't my horses). Sapphire has a sore back, although I don't know the details about this.

 Bree and Sapphire are mutual grooming. Bree digs her teeth vigorously into Sapphires mane and works along her neck, Sapphire responding with equal enthusiasm. 

When they move on past the withers though, it changes. Sapphire continues to groom 'normally' with her teeth, but Bree shuts her mouth and makes a gentle circular motion with her nose until she is almost level with Sapphire's hip. She then resumes vigorous grooming with the teeth. Wish I could have shared it on video here, quite special. 

Saturday 28 June 2014

Trust between horses

These horses and ponies have been together for about 5 weeks now, and are obviously pretty relaxed in each others company!

Some of their play could look fairly aggressive to the human eye, but it is wonderful (and educational) to see how they chase, rear, nip and push each other, then settle down for a nap with no fear of or distrust towards each other. Sound asleep right behind 2 horses, where humans are advised to not even walk let alone lie down and sleep! A worthwhile goal - to spend time being active with our horses and come away with this level of comfort around each other?

In case it isn't clear, I am no more suggesting we should copy natural horse behaviour here than engage in a bout of play fighting with a horse! Leave that for the horses. But the relationship part is worth aiming for.

Saturday 14 June 2014

What's in a name?

Currently reading an interesting article by Dr. Karen Overall about the need for precision in terminology relating to behavioural problems in animals. A couple of good quotes:

"The vast majority of clients and veterinarians, wittingly or not, engage in a terminology and thought process rooted in an adversarial relationship with the animals who share their lives. Physical pain is deemed as 'real', afflicting innocent patients; behavioural pain is often thought to be someone's fault or the result of a deeply flawed character"

"If what we call something affects the way we think about it, then what we call it is essential; yet we in behaviour have been incredibly careless and in so being, have done harm"

In the horse world, there are the obvious labels that are very unhelpful - the term 'stable vice' is still used and places the blame squarely on the horse. Describing a horse as 'dominant' likewise implies to most of us that the horse is at fault.

Even the common use of 'evasion' in riding. One dictionary definition of evasion reads 'trickery, cunning, or deception used to dodge a question, duty, etc' - no doubt where the blame lies when your horse 'evades'then!

Even the more subtle language like 'my horse is making me do all the work' - a comment made by a very tired rider who was working very hard while her horse trotted very, very slowly. Understandable, but is the situation really all the fault and responsibility of the horse? Did he phone her first thing and beg to be taken out and trotted round in circles for an hour? Is he actively encouraging her to keep kicking him at every stride, thereby wickedly tiring her out? Hmm...

Is there any practical use to these ramblings? Maybe... notice the way you think and talk about your horse, especially when things aren't going quite as you would wish. You may spot one or two wee words or phrases that place blame or imply a deeply flawed character! I still catch myself doing it at times. Then change the words, and it may well change your attitude, which might just change your relationship with your horse, and can certainly make you better at resolving problems. 

Tigger meeting the resident stallion at his new home. Inconvenient behaviour when you want to ride him, but no point in blaming anyone - he's just being a horse :-)