Hi! It’s me Lady again! I don’t know why all the other horses picked me to be spokesperson as I’m “lowest on the totem pole” in our herd, but here I am!
They all wanted me to add a little explanation of what our Grandpa Chuck calls “Friendship Training,” and why we think it is a really nice way for us to get to know humans and easily learn what they want us to do.
First of all, you’ve got to understand that everything humans do is completely backwards to our way of thinking. Our whole life centers around surviving and our being able to run away from danger at a moments notice. We think that any type of restriction or being closed in, in a small area is going to get us killed by a predator that might come along and see us trapped.
Grandpa Chuck calls it our fear/flight response to our strongest instinct, which is survival. Because our need to survive is SO strong, we have to be very skeptical of anything and everything in the world until we know for SURE that it won’t hurt us. We never know if it might be something that could hurt us or not so the motto is “Rather be safe, then sorry.” Or in our case, “Rather be safe, then DEAD!”
For that reason, first impressions are VERY important to us. Our vision is pretty good and rather unique because of our Binocular and Monocular vision and our ability to detect tiny movements that humans can’t detect (plus we cab see better at night then humans can.) And our hearing is pretty good too. But our best sense is our sense of smell and detecting different scents. We even know your emotions and what you are feeling at any given time by how you smell. That is also how we “remember” everything. Something may LOOK like something we already know that is a safe thing. And it may SOUND like something we know that is a safe thing. But we are not convinced that it is the safe thing we know until we catch its scent. That is why and how we “remember” everything. Everything has a different scent and has to fall into one category or another. It is either (1.) Something that is BAD. (2.) Something that MIGHT be bad. (3.) Something that is neutral that we “have to check out” later. (4.) Something that might be good. (5.) Something that is GOOD.
When someone that has a scent of apprehension, aggressiveness or anger first approaches us and puts us in a place like a round pen and forces us to run around “obeying them,” THAT is how we will always “remember” them. Being unable to “run away” if we need to and smelling those scents makes us put them in one of the “BAD” categories. Doing that also makes it very difficult for us get along and work together as friends later on. All it really proves to us is that you can force us to do whatever you want when you have us caught in a small area or tied on a lunge line.
But if we get to know a human in an open area where we don’t feel intimidated or threatened and their scent is one of gentle assertiveness and kindness, we will “enter” their imprint as “something that MIGHT be good. This certainly helps us to become really good friends much faster. As you know, “friendship” in our world is a very special thing and most humans DO smell of meat and look and act like predators. That’s why it’s so important for the first impression you make on us to be registered a “GOOD” one. It really helps us to overcome our fear of humans and gives us a much better opportunity to “work with you, instead of “against you.”
Another thing that using FT helps us SO much is learning all the cues that we will need when our human actually gets on us and we ride together on the ground BEFORE we ride out together. This gives a better idea of what you want us to do and prevents a LOT of confusion and frustration when we are riding together.
But what I think really helps the most is the type and level of relationship you humans build with us BEFORE we ride out together. It is SO important to us to feel that the person on our back is a friend that we are working with rather then just someone who can whack us into doing what they want us to. We place so much trust and confidence in the others in our herd to warn us of possible danger. If we are carrying a trusted friend on our back, it is like having a mini-herd of just the two of us against the world together.
Well, I guess that’s about it. WHAT? Oh, OK. (Uncle Boss wants me to mention again about our sense and “spooking” at stuff that frightens us.)
He says you are supposed to remember that when we are out riding, we see and smell things that you can’t. Sometimes smells can trigger a fear imprint that we may have encountered when we were just babies or real young and we get VERY worried when we smell it again. Also, if something is uncomfortable or hurting us when carrying someone (and they aren’t our friend and we can’t “talk” to them) the only way we can let them know is by dancing around or bucking them off. Coupled with our need to run from danger at a moments notice, these things can really make things frustrating for both the horse and his rider.
Oh! One more thing! My Dad, Able, says, “If humans are REALLY smarter then us, they would present things to us so that we learned to enjoy working instead of hating it and disliking the humans that MADE us do it, we would ALL be better off.” That sounds kind of snotty (but that’s the way my Dad is sometimes) but I guess it is oh so true.
Ugh! Grrr. Sorry, I’ve GOT to go now. It seems my baby BIG brother Sundance STILL hasn’t learned that little mares can pack a BIG wallop!
I hope you will think about all this and try to work with us on some of these things. It would really make things so much easier for all of us (horses AND humans.)
With love, (if you’ll let us.) Lady
(signed for Able, Sundance, Boss, Rebel and Combustion)