Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Damn it, Stormy!

Robert Miller, DVM, is best known for developing imprint training for newborn foals and as one of the early practioners of what is known as "natural horsemanship."  Several years ago at Road To The Horse, I questioned him about the horse's intelligence.  Horses have traditionally fared very poorly when compared to other barnyard animals such as the pig.  I said to him, "We both know how intelligent horses are, they learn easily and never forget anything or anyone, so why then do they score so poorly on intelligence tests?"  He told me, and I paraphrase, "Horses aren't reasoning animals, they're reactive because they are a prey animal.  Their first reaction is to flee or fight, one or the other.  Natural Horsemanship is based in part upon teaching a horse to use the reasoning side of its brain."

Well, we must have done a pretty good job with my mare, Stormy.  Our trainer says that he can see her thinking.  She has intelligent eyes that flash fire when she is angry and are liquid and gentle when she wants something...which is most of the time.

Stormy never pees in her stall, never.  Callie's stall, on the other hand, often looks and smells like the Dismal Swamp.  Lately though, Stormy's begun to pee right outside her stall as soon as I let her out in the morning.  There is a lot of it, and at the risk of being gross, let's just say that it doesn't smell a lot like Fabreeze.  To make matters worse, I like to spread her breakfast hay in front of the stall, right where she likes to pee.

So to encourage her to move away from the stall, I've started tapping the ground with my dressage whip, and it's worked reasonably well.  Still, there's been a lot of snorting and head tossing while her ears are pinned agains the sides of her head.  She's mad and she can't afford to be angry at me so she hazes Callie with nips and threats to kick.

Yesterday, whip in hand, I tapped and tapped the ground until a reluctant Stormy trotted toward the pasture, but abruptly turned on her hocks and headed for the remains of yesterday's hay lying on the ground near the stable.  I could tell she was pissed.  Her eyes were hooded and hard as flint, and I knew something, perhaps a "not good something," was going to happen.  I went into the feed room and emerged with a bucket in each hand.  I fed Callie and, skirting her stall door, saw Stormy standing in her stall waiting to be fed.  I also saw a river of pee snaking its way around and through her bedding as it flowed slowly, inexorably toward a depression in the floor where it formed a small but growing body of water.

So there you have it.  Stormy has shown an ability to reason and at the same time proven that she is intelligent and capable of initiating and executing a plan.  Oh, and she is also a vindictive witch.

Copyright, April 24, 2013

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