I'm particularly careful when picking her feet since getting kicked. She's always been a bit "snatchy" with her right hind - she tends to want to pull it away. This was the foot I was kicked by. She's getting regular chiropractic, so that shouldn't be an issue, and we believe she has no other pain issues - I think it's just a habit. Tonight when I was picking her feet, she tried to pull the foot away (I'm not a big fan of getting into a wrestling match by holding on for dear life) and made a kicking motion at me - somewhat half-hearted - if she'd really wanted to kick she could have - most horses move too fast for most people to be able to react in time. But since it was an aggressive, possibly unsafe gesture, I instantly gave her a quick, hard punch in the hindquarters. I wasn't trying to hurt her - just make it very clear that the behavior was completely unacceptable. She didn't seem concerned, and we went on to do more handling of the foot without incident.
I'm not a big believer in physical discipline for horses - I think in most cases it isn't very effective and often causes more problems than it solves - but in cases of personal safety where I can react instantly, and not excessively, I do tell the horse in no uncertain terms, but without emotion, that the behavior is not OK. One thing I have never done, and don't believe I will ever do, is hit a horse in the face or the head, or with an object, and I never punish a horse with the bit - there are other ways to deal with biting and other aggressive behaviors such as moving the horse away that are effective without doing potential harm to the horse and its training. I do not punish horses for behavioral problems such as bucking, rearing, bolting or failure to understand or follow my directions - there are often either underlying physical or pain problems involved or the horse needs to work through something or figure out what is being asked and certainly does not deserve punishment.
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Now on to something completely different.
I've been doing this blogging thing now for about 7 months. There are some aspects of it that trouble me. One of the most important things to me in my horsemanship is the personal learning and experience I have had the privilege to have through working with and directly observing excellent horsemen and women. My most significant learning experiences have been with Mark Rashid, and I hope to have the opportunity to work with him, and other superb horsepeople in the future. But it's true as well that I've also had the chance to ride with and observe other good horsepeople, and to read and learn from many excellent books and articles - and blogs and blog comments - as well, and to learn some things from my own experiences and from watching the experiences of others. I hope to have the chance to learn many more things from horsepeople in all disciplines who work effectively with the inside of horses - not just applying techniques to the outside of the horse - using non-coercive methods.
But sometimes I am troubled when I write about what I have learned, or am trying to learn, or what I am working on with my horses. I worry that I cannot convey my experience in a way that can be fully understood by others - this is both a question of the quality of what I write, and also in how one's words can just not communicate what we really mean - it's the imperfection of the written word. I try really hard to write in a way that says what I mean in the clearest way possible, but I often feel as if what I write falls short of what I want. There's a second question of legitimacy as well. I cannot by any stretch of the imagination call myself a horse trainer and wouldn't think of doing so - I do try to work conscientiously with my own horses and to honestly describe what I do, and to comment on others' blogs in the best and most helpful way I can, but I often worry that what I write is a pale shadow of the real thing and puts me in the position of offering advice or examples that may be inappropriate or even unwanted. I also do not want to misrepresent what I have learned from the outstanding horsepeople I have seen and worked with - I can't purport to say in a particular case that I am accurately relating what I have heard or seen, or that they would do what I do or agree with the way I think about things.
In summary, I'm not really sure about all of this - there is a strong tradition in horsemanship of the personal, direct transmission of the "learning" from teacher to student down the generations - that's how Mark Rashid learned from the Old Man - and I think that's the real way to learn in the most rich and effective manner - it's in the personal relationship and give and take between teacher and student that the true learning is passed down. It's interesting that Harry Whitney has to date refused to write any books or do any videos - but that of course means that those of us who haven't had the chance to work directly with him would have no access to his teachings except for the fact that his students have written about their experiences with him. I hope to ride in, or at least audit, a Harry Whitney clinic some day to have the direct experience.
There are traditions in both some martial arts disciplines and schools of religion, including Buddhism, that true learning can only happen through direct interaction between teacher and student, and that attempts to formalize/write down the teachings lead us inexorably into the error of "systemizing" and ultimately possibly making dogma what really shouldn't be formulaic.
But that's an ideal I don't think most of us can adhere to, and I expect to keep trying to write, as well as I can, what I'm doing and experiencing with my horses, and hopefully not descend into formula or dogma. But I also think I'll always be aware that there may be something missing . . .