Training Log: Kiwi, fear frustration anger

Training Log: Kiwi day twenty-four, fourteenth ride

ordinary parked non-threatening skidder

scary skidder as seen by a horse

Sunday, January 09, 2011

No one knows how the world looks through a horse’s eyes.  Some have said a horse can see ghosts or spirits.  I don’t know about that, but I know that horses are sensitive to the point of telepathic intuition.  When we are in close proximity, they are able to feel and respond to the fears and emotions we are hiding. Today Kiwi and I took the same trail ride as yesterday. Kiwi was still over aware, snorting at the skidder and the freshly cut logs, but not as balky and fearful as yesterday. I am not afraid of the skidder or the freshly cut logs, but if I became afraid, frustrated or angry over her fearful behavior, the alarm could escalate into panic in the horse and turn into a dangerous state of affairs. It is the new or odd thing that shows up on the trail that causes a horse to fear, and sometimes they use these odd things as an excuse to be rambunctious or work off their frustration about something unrelated to the immediate object of concern.  But however the horse behaves, the horseman must not give these scary objects any undue attention.  When we are on the back of a horse, we must not allow ourselves to be frustrated, angry or afraid, because a horse is uncanny about finding out our sins.

A case in point:  A neighbor kid named Peter was visiting our farm and was bitten by one of our foals.  From my vantage point it was not a big deal, but Peter was eight or nine and the bite left a temporary but visible mark on his shoulder.  He cried a bit. I apologized. We remained friends. Fifteen years later Peter called and asked to go riding. Peter is now a six foot three, athletic young man.  I picked out Toni, our calmest mare, and after a brief introduction and riding lesson,  Peter mounted. I saw the whites of Toni’s eyes as she spun around and raced with breakneck speed across the training pen. At the fence she spun around to run another direction.  Peter was flopping all around, but hanging on with all his might. It was a wonder that he did not fall off.  I could not see a way for the panic to end without disaster as the horse raced out of control all around the pen. Finally Toni ran to me, slid to a stop and put her face against my chest.  I spoke calmly to her.  I told Peter to stay in the saddle and we walked around with her still carrying Peter but staying close to me.  In fact she would not leave me.  She was finding her security in me.  I didn’t understand why this sudden terror had happened.  I asked Peter, ‘Are you afraid?’  ‘Oh yes!’ he gasped.  I asked, ‘Were you afraid when you got on?’ ‘Oh yes!’  he replied again. Previous to the ride I was completely unaware of his fear, but Toni felt it and responded as if to say ‘I know there is something really scary here!’ She is not and never was a fearful horse.  Peter later confessed that he came out riding that day with the admirable goal to confront his fear of horses that had begun that day long ago when he was bitten.

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