I often get emails asking if a horse would do this or that specific thing and most of the time my answer is "it depends". Horses are as individual as people. They can be bold or shy or have unusual likes, dislikes or habits.

I would buy a horse doing almost anything in a book if the author had developed it's character to foreshadow the possibility. One nosey young mare I raised had a long list 'did you see?'s, including changing the station on the radio and pulling the spark plug wires out of my truck. Another one loved to 'help out' with the welding by dragging the cables around and changing the settings. I heard last weekend that one of my grown up fillies has been rearranging the tool shed - the people had been blaming the grandkids, but the truth is out!

Right now, in my herd, I have a high percent of young horses. One thing I have noticed is that from about the age of about 1-2 years up through their 3 and 4 year old years, they are very anxious to have people-interaction and to please. These are the ages when they'll push their way between you and the riding-horse you're trying to halter and crowd the gate or when they'll do things like bite the saddle or pull the bridles off the hangers.

This age tends to be an in-between age as far as training because they already know the basics of how to lead and tie, let people handle their ears and hoofs and accept a light saddle pad and girth, but their baby bones and muscles aren't ready for a rider yet. They can feel neglected with the lack of training and that's where you can get into trouble with an intelligent horse because they start looking for ways, by their baby horsey logic, not only to help you out but ways get your attention. It can be good or bad, depending on how dedicated they are and what they come up with.

A couple of weeks ago, I was swapping horses between pastures and my trio of young fillies all got in the act.

One of the other young ladies got away from me before I unbuckled her halter and so we were doing the dosey-dance around the cedars in the front pasture. After watching for a few minutes, LUINIL apparently decided that ASILA couldn't figure out which way to go, so she trots out alongside her and starts leading her out to the pasture. (grrrrrr!) I cut loose with a bit of harsh language - shocking poor LUINIL - and when she turned and looked at me, I called her to come. She had the funniest look on her face, and looked at ASILA like "what the heck", and came right to me. ASILA kept running around, being silly and after a few minutes, here comes TELPE, nosing up and standing quiet with me and LUINIL.

What they were doing is showing ASILA that 'by me' is where she should be. Horses have an interesting concept, it's a little hard to explain. They don't really understand "come to me". They can learn the human version easily enough, but as a directive, it's not a natural phrase to them because "close-together'=safe is so deeply instinctively ingrained that it's never needed. "Go away" is, basically, a punishment with the reward being the removal of the "go away" allows them to return. Consider that a horse herd like a little pack of magnets. It takes an effort to pull one away, but for it to return you simply release it.

I'm not ASILA's 'mom', so it isn't natural for her to come to me. She doesn't like wearing the halter and rope and she had no way to know that I was trying to take it off of her. By LUINIL and TELPE coming to stand beside me, they created a .... go back to our magnet example .... 'pull' to bring her in to me. And it worked. After a couple of minutes, she slipped right up between the other two and I was able to take her halter off.

The other 'escapee' was our young gelding LANDROVAL. He had found a good patch of grass outside the gate and would dance around and circle without letting me catch his halter. TELPE came up, as close to us as she could, but it wasn't a strong enough pull for him. He would go to her then dart away again and snatch another mouthful of grass.

The third helpful young lady in this little saga is Miree (MIREYENION) who is practicing to one day be Boss Mare and so she's very much clued in to who is being good and who is being bad. She gets pretty upset when someone is bad - she'll be extra good, I guess to try to offset the badness(?). And she needs a lot of reassurance as to her goodness and the rightness of the universe.

So she was pacing at the gate, getting increasingly agitated with LANDROVAL's badness and when I finally caught his rope and walked him through the gate, as soon as I slipped his halter off and stepped away she lunged and took a huge bite out of his shoulder!!

I usually don't tolerate aggression like that, but I also have a policy not to interfere in 'horse business' as long as they don't kick or bite when a person is close. But in this case - she was right, he had been bad - and she was soooooo proud of herself, I just couldn't help but give her just a tiny bit of praise. She's not normally a biter or an aggressive mare - and I can't help but think there may come a day when I need her to watch my back.


Leah Braemel said...

Thanks Miree! She got Landroval back for his misbehaviour when I was there a few months back ! He got a taste of his own medicine. Good girl!

And LOL about the changing the radio station and rearranging the tool shed - I had no idea horses could be so clever or capable - I'd love to have a video spy camera and catch them in action. (Would the radio be covered in horse slobber I wonder, or does it depend upon the deftness of the particular horse?)

Anne P said...

I love herd interaction/dynamics. How wonderful you have some responsible older adults to help offset the dorkiness of the less-than-4 crowd.

My youngster's favorite thing when he was a 3 and 4-y/o was to stack rocks in little cairns. Sometimes they would be out in the pasture. Other times, he would carefully put a beautifully constructed sculpture inside his stall right at the door, so I'd be sure to see it (?). I always praised him lavishly - I thought they were beautiful. Alas, he has given up that in the last few years since he's "grown up".