Saturday, January 10, 2009

A loaded question

Today I witnessed how training your human poorly can really affect the enjoyment of your life. We went to a “Fur and Feathers” clinic (Not really sure where the feathers come in since there were no ducks or chickens present) to help our humans get over the mid-winter doldrums.

The clinic was fun. All the humans were dressed up in puffy bulky things and thick foot coverings. We taught them to visually measure their circles and how to judge distances from the rail. Trooper’s human was doing very well and he’s in a much better frame of mind now that he’s back on full feed. He was really grouchy for about a week while on short rations. My human and Lucky’s human also did very well. Even with regular training being curtailed by the weather they are still light and responsive.

Once the riding clinic was over we participated in a dismounted clinic where the instructor went over all our tack and told the humans how to improve it. I was very impressed because the instructor, who was owned by a very nice bay Morab, was not one of those humans that thinks a more severe bit will solve a problem that actually starts in the saddle. She was a very nice human and had praise for the horses and riders that participated. I do so appreciate this kind of instruction better than center ring shriekers.

After the clinic we were untacked and had our sheets put on, but instead of loading up right away we were walked a bit, so we wouldn’t chill in the wheeled cave on the way home. Before we were through we got to witness an outstanding example of how a poorly trained human can mess up a horse’s day.

One of the clinic participants was a big chestnut Quarter Horse, Marvel. He had a nice way of moving and his rider was adequate, if a bit timid. She was one of those “good boy” riders, where she patted him every few seconds to tell him he was good for not letting her fall off. I’ve never had one, but I know from talking with other horses that they can get really annoying, and are just begging to get taken advantage of.

While we were walking we noticed that Marvel’s human was trying to convince him to walk into the two-stall wheeled cave. He wasn’t having any of it because she was standing in the trailer, facing him, and trying to drag him forward. Horses know you do not step toward a person facing you, and certainly not into an enclosed space where you will very quickly lose sight of the human, since directly in front of you is the “blind” spot.

Marvel was trying to explain to her that he wasn’t afraid of the trailer, he was simply unwilling to risk stepping up and mashing her. He planted his front feet and stepped side to side with his rear, his body language telling her to get out of his way so he could enter. He was willing to move, just not forward since she was blocking him.

We halted near our wheeled cave and watched for a few moments. Since Marvel’s human was slow on the uptake, this back and forth begging scene went on for a good while. He got “good-boyed” and patted enough to make any self-respecting horse fall over in shame. He wasn’t being a good boy, and he knew it. He was trying not to be a bad boy and step up into her, but she wasn’t getting it.

Finally this big blustery male human stepped up and drawled that he’d load the “stubborn horse”. Trooper and I wondered what this was about, and Lucky gave a horrified shudder, he’d evidently been through this treatment before. The human said he’d get a “but rope”. This mystified me until I saw it in action. The human tied one end of the rope to the wheeled cave and then ran the other end around the horse’s rear end and back through the opening in the side of the wheeled cave. He then proceeded to pull on the rope. That’s when I figured out why it was called a “but rope”. It means, “If I had any sense I could load this horse BUT since I’m a moron I’m gonna try to use this rope instead”

After he’d had enough of having his rear end pinched Marvel sat back, pulled the “but rope” tight and smashed the blustery human’s head against the side of the trailer. This caused him to release the rope and stagger around grasping the sides of his head and saying really nasty things about Marvel, his ancestors and horses in general. Trooper and I were affronted, Lucky just hung his head in shame that some humans were allowed out in public. It was obvious that some horse, somewhere, had failed in his duty to teach this loud-mouthed oaf some manners.

My human and Lucky’s human both decided they’d seen enough and walked over to help. Trooper’s human was left to hold all three of us, but since we knew how to behave it wasn’t a big deal.

My human walked over and spoke to Marvel’s human. The poor thing was leaking from her face and seemed very distraught, much like Shorty is when he reaches the bottom of his food bucket. Lucky’s human got all the “but rope” untied and took it over to the blustery human, where he was getting his head treated with cold water. Pity they didn't just hold it down in the bucket until he stopped kicking.

My human walked around with Marvel, letting him get to know her. She really is a darling, and as much as I hate to share her, I know that the training I have put into her cannot be selfishly kept to myself. Once they were working together my human started telling Marvel’s human what she was going to do. They walked up to the wheeled cave and then my human stepped up and entered. Marvel hesitated, because when his human did this she would immediately turn around and try to drag him toward her. As if any self-respecting horse is going to walk into someone facing them! When my human didn’t turn around, she just remained facing the front of the wheeled cave and gently giving a few tugs on the lead, then Marvel put his forefoot in the trailer. Lucky’s human gave him a gentle pat on the rear, to show he really was a “good boy” and he loaded right up.

They remained inside a few moments and then Marvel backed out and my human walked with him some more. The second time my human entered the wheeled cave Marvel followed her right in. It was a nice example of horse and human working together, with the human respecting the horse’s needs. Then Marvel backed out again and my human handed the lead to his human. She was given some very good instructions on how to listen to her horse and then she walked around with Marvel and managed to load both of them in the wheeled cave without any more refusals or hesitations. She also learned not to immediately turn around and face the horse, since that just makes us want to move away from the human.

Once Marvel and his human were working together we got into our own wheeled cave and headed home. I wish there was an instruction book somewhere for horses, so they’d all know how to raise up a caring and civilized human. Maybe I’ll write one someday. More Later.


c2b said...

You must be so proud of your human. Well done on training her so well.

Leah Fry said...

Tuffy, as always, you made me LOL! I like your idea of holding that guy's head in the water til he stopped kicking! Someday, I really really want to see an actual photo of you and Salty and Shorty and all your stable mates. Even snotty Voltare.

Flying Lily said...

This was hilarious even though I feel sorry for the poor head-banger. Watching people load is sometimes one of the most agonizing experiences in horses.