Friday, March 26, 2010

On Courtesy

This morning the sunrise was amazing - but I didn't have my camera so words will have to do. There were broken lines of clouds to the east, and as the sun started to come up, the horizon was a shining amber, the bottoms of the clouds were hot pink and the upper parts of the clouds were a beautiful dark blue and grey. Truly outstanding!

It's a bit warmer today, with sun and a little less wind, so with luck some riding will happen this afternoon. The mud is starting to dry out a little bit, although both Fred and Fritz lost a shoe yesterday - I noticed when I was leading out that they sounded funny on the concrete aisle, and sure enough.

The boarders are collectively going to do a fence survey, taking spray paint with them and marking posts and boards to be replaced, and then marking the spots on a diagram of the pastures we have. We have a lot of board fencing - all of the exterior fencing is board and some of the interior is as well. Most of our interior fencing is electric, as we do rotational grazing with two herds and move the horses about once a week during pasture season.

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I've been thinking about courtesy. I think it's true that we're more likely to be courteous to people who are courteous to us, and vice versa. I think this also applies to people and horses. If I expect my horse to be courteous to me - respecting my space and also listening to what I say and trying to do what I ask - it only makes sense that I should be courteous to my horse. I think if I can do this consistently, my horse will be much more likely to listen to me and be courteous in return. In my mind, this isn't at all inconsistent with providing my horse with consistent leadership and direction, and it also doesn't mean that I don't get big if I have to on the rare occasions when that's necessary. But if my approach is based on asking with the level of cue/ask/pressure that I want to end up with, and approaching the work with an objective of achieving softness, both in my asks and in the horse's response, then courtesy should be a given.

I've been trying to see how many different ways I can apply this - almost every circumstance seems to lend itself to this. This morning, when I went to halter Maisie to take her out, she had a few mouthfuls of hay in her stall that she wanted to finish - the hay inside is better than the hay in the turnout. I waited for a moment to allow her to finish - what do I need to be rushing for? When I went to halter Sugar, she had just taken a large mouthful of hay that was sticking out of her mouth to either side. Instead of jamming on her halter over the hay, I waited for a moment for her to chew enough that it disappeared inside her mouth, then I put on her halter.

I can think of even more examples - moving quietly instead of abruptly; not slamming stall doors shut loudly and abruptly but softly and quietly; being careful to hold gates so the horse never feels like they're going to swing shut on the horse's hindquarters; stroking and patting the horse without making noise - if a pat is making noise it probably doesn't feel all that good to the horse. Holding the bridle up when I take it off so that it comes gently out of the horse's mouth and doesn't hit the teeth. Asking a horse to move over with a soft touch instead of a shove. When picking feet, gently putting the foot down instead of dropping it so it hits the ground. Giving the horse time to figure out what it is that I want - not being impatient. Basically it's about treating the horse like I'd want to be treated if I were the horse. Sort of the horse version of the golden rule!

19 comments:

  1. I agree, they do seem much more helpful if we consider how we act with them and around them. Can't say there haven't been occassions when my horse needs a shove to move when a tickle has been ignored ;) but 99 times out of 100 life is so much easier when we're polite to one another.

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  2. That's a great list in the last paragraph! I agree. I think it's part of good horsemanship.

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  3. completely agree, well stated - manners are sooo important human to horse,horse to human, human to human, human to nature...I've watched so many generally good natured folks, get ruff with their horses, exclaiming "don't be rude" and then watch that same individual treat the same horse as a machine.

    I want my horses to WANT to *be* and *do* WITH me - so while I don't allow "mugging" for a treat, I listen if they ask politely :)

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  4. Good post, Kate! As a rule I try to be courteous to Gilly and Pokey. I expect them to be the same. Sometimes when they act like unruly children I have to use a firmer hand.

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  5. I think that sometimes when people are nervous or scared, they are much less courteous! Probably the same is true of horses. Along with courteous, I really like it when my horse is snuggly and affectionate! That is always a special treat!

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  6. I have another example: Giving your horse's eyes time to adjust when you bring them from a bright area to a dark area, such as into the barn or a trailer. I read recently in a Cherry Hill book that their eyes take longer to adjust to the dark than ours do, and suddenly it made sense why sometimes Panama is more likely to balk going into the indoor. Take a moment and let them get used to it before insisting they move forward!

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  7. Katharine - good suggestion - sadly, I don't have an indoor!

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  8. You are always so thoughtful! I agree that being courteous of horses is important. I try to be aware of where horses like their rubs (some hate to have their faces rubbed and other adore it). I let Bodhi sniff manure (to a point) when we go new places. It is not fair to yank on his face when he is only exhibiting a natural behavior! It is also why I like positive training. Cues become more like questions or green lights instead of commands.

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  9. beautiful.

    the last lesson i observed here in germany, whenever the lady was pleased with her horse, she slapped him on the neck in these "WHACK WHACK WHACKS" that echoed across the arena. i thought - as i always do - that horses trained with this sort of praise have only learned to accept it, by association that the work has stopped, and they are able to interpret that as "good." but it took an interpretation, and why should it.

    then again, i find myself often doing this tap on baasha's neck, when he's good, i place my left palm on his withers and gently tap with my fingers on that hand slowly. like you would do to a child. i realize that is not stroking a horse, it is lazier, but it is certainly not slapping/whacking.

    ~lytha

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  10. Excellent suggestions! I'm not always sure my horses recognize "courteous," but each example does have its own benefits, even if the "she's nice to me" point doesn't get across. I also liked the addition in the comments about adjusting going in and out. I try to remember it, but it doesn't always happen.

    Another one I'd add is not turning yourself on autopilot, maybe similar to your experience with watching they hay they have left. For example, I often rush going in the trailer. Maybe they saw something and need to make sure it's not the bogey man before they get in, maybe it's adjusting their eyes, maybe they just weren't sure if they were supposed to be following me. Just pay attention so that you can "answer" their "questions," not just "forward march" into battle!

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  11. My horse told the animal communicator that kicking him when he didn't want to go was "rude," so I am utterly conscious of my "manners" when I ride. *S*

    Acutally, I often find myself saying, "Excuse me," if I have to pass by one of the Boys or have them move a bit for some reason or other.

    Usually, they tend to respond with equal courtesy.

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  12. Good post, Kate, and I totally agree!

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  13. Well said. I try to treat them gently and lovingly. I will only respond with equal brusqueness if they are being rude or impatient.

    I even going so far as to wet the bit in Gatorade for them. Poco especially needs all the sweetness he can get LOL!

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  14. Ahh, the joys of maintaining wood fencing! Overall excellent post, but that's to be expected from you. :)

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  15. You always make great sense to me!

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  16. Excellent thinking Kate!
    I also try to make myself try to be understanding of the equine experience...I think many times that people forget that the lovely horse has needs too..and we force ourselves on them and expect them to be all about our human desires..uh-no!
    I love taking the time, more and more with my mare...She tends to be so much more relaxed and sincere with me.

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  17. It's funny that you mention waiting for the horses to finish what they are eating before you halter them. I do that with my girls too. You have such great awareness and understanding and your horses obviously know it. Look at how Maisie is reacting to you. Every day, she gets better and calmer. Very insightful post.

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  18. Good post. I still get annoyed, and I appreciate hearing how you stay courteous - it reminds me to try, again. :)

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  19. Great reminder. You have much wisdom in regard for the horse.
    And it's so very true, too.

    Sounds like you'll all be working hard getting those fences repaired or replaced soon. It will be wonderful when they are all done, though.


    ~Lisa

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