Body Language & Life
Ever have those things that seem like a good idea at the time? The day’s going pretty well. A little ripple – ah, no problem I got this. But after a while, in training any kind of animal, there comes the point of recognizing body language. Trust the communication coming forth.
After all how many people say “I trust my dog/horse/cattle more than I trust people”? Anyone? Yep. Then there are some that we don’t trust. They’ve stretched the trust, broken it beyond recognition. Sometimes it’s with reason, sometimes not.
Thinking back today on two ponies from the past. Both with lessons to teach, both leaving memorable ones. There’s Peanut – a little Pony of Americas (appaloosa pony) who had been starved, and was determined it wouldn’t happen again. I fed him his hay, started back to the barn and heard hoof beats. I turned to see him bearing down, ears flat, mouth open with a chunk of hay in it. He got, in turn, a lesson in respect with a whip to his chest then hind end that was much nicer than an old mare would have been. She’d have just run him through the fence. Lesson note – don’t turn back on Peanut at feeding time. Don’t let the situation be there, and the action won’t happen. Learn, adjust.
Then there’s Taffy. Taffy was purchased as a project to resell – patient on the ground, great for the most beginning of people. Saddle up, started warming her up in the arena. I had a student there with me in the arena. I was jogging Taffy along the rail and the next thing I remember was laying on the ground. Ten minutes had passed, Taffy was back in her stall and the student was standing over me saying “I thought you were DEAD!”
Nope. I hurt, so was very much alive. Sometimes life is like Taffy – it gives a buck and twist and you wake up wondering how you got there, things are a little fuzzy and it’s not all what it seems. Sometimes, metaphorically, it’s a month, sometimes a year, sometimes several years before there’s someone pulling us back to reality.
Refocus, saddle up again, keep going. Body language – watching with an awareness what animals do – is communication. It’s not that different from people, only people use words that can be less than honest. Sometimes what seems like a good idea wasn’t so hot – like buying Taffy as a kid’s horse. (She never did get over her random temper tantrum quirks.) Then we have a choice, find a small adult that can handle her, sell her at the sale barn to the next sucker with a good idea, make the best of it or use her as a pasture ornament. I wasn’t paying to board pasture ornaments.
Not all horses are like Taffy and not all experiences will be bad. Sometimes it comes from a bad situation, like Sierra who was a skeleton with a hide draped over her, but ended up one of the best lesson horses I’ve ever had. Or Lacy, who was attached to me long before I owned her.
The lessons can come from cows, chickens, dogs, rabbits or – life. Recognize them, evaluate, move on. Don’t let words alone dictate. Words meant nothing in either situation. If the horse’s behavior doesn’t change, it may be your approach. It may be faulty communication. It may be a personality conflict. But sooner or later, one must decide whether to try again or find a different horse.
Life’s too short to not enjoy the ride!