Horsey Therapist

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I met a pony the other day. He is not happy deep in his soul. How do I know? I heard enough of his history and shared some experiences with him and that is how I know.

But I have faith that he can change.

He was a stallion until 15 or so, and not helped to develope a willingness to get along with mares and geldings alike. That would have been a suitable thing for a handsome young fellow to do.

Shetland/Arab cross. Can you imagine? Brains, looks, build, athleticism, and a long time with major hormones driving his decisions. Poor fellow.

Hormonal compulsion is gone now. But his thoughts have not changed.

If he were mine (and admittedly I think about this), I would see about helping him change his mind about other horses as soon as possible. How can a horse be happy if he thinks about defending his space instead of having thoughts about sharing an acre or mutual grooming or such? How can a horse be happy when he's on the lookout, worried with a busy mind most of the time?

I've had fantasies about what I would do. I would definitely employ the help of my herd to socialize him. But first I might want to introduce him to a horse or two while I have some control, like with halter and lead in case I wanted to actively work at interrupting his thoughts to attack my horses. He needs help to have some new thoughts, to start trying to think differently when his chemical reaction kicks in.

I wonder, do horses get adrenaline rushes like humans do? And cortisol flooding the veins like humans do? When cortisol comes, there is no thinking. Only reacting on an emotional, survival level. I'm guessing the same biochemical activity occurs in horses as in humans.

I think of Harry Whitney and his passion about helping horses change how they are feeling. I can hear him say "Don't let his actions confirm his feelings." That would suggest that I could help when this pony's emotions are aroused and he starts moving toward another gelding with lots of bad feelings. I could help by interrupting his behavior and interrupting his thoughts. And giving him a moment to come up with a new thought. Then decide if that new thought warrants my allowing him to act on it (ears up, curiuos) or the thought warrants another effort to interrupt his likely behavior should it be a repeat of the thought to attack.

Interrupting without criticizing.

It would be interesting and challenging. Once the initial upheaval looked like it would have a safe outcome, I would let my opinionated and confident horses attend to the business of putting this pony in his right place in their heirarchy. They do a terrific job of that, so much more effective than I could ever be!

However when I'm thinking clearly, I remember I have more horses than I can ride right now anyway.

AHA! That is what is going on! This is the season when I don't ride much, so having some new horse(s) to mess around with on the ground is attractive. I am not drawn to do much ground work with the ones I have -- that would bore them or offend them unless I was particularly creative and inspired and managed to engage them as if they'd never done any ground work. Ok, that could be a Double Dare Me revelation. On the other hand, I truly enjoy the early changes that occur -- they can be so radical and rewarding. So if that's something I prefer, why deny myself the enjoyment?

I'll figure this out some day soon, and either go get one or two of these horses I'm thinking about, or not.


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