Times when she balks or questions your asking, sidesteps restlessly and throws nervous glances.
My Southern Belle
Dixie, Southern Belle that she is, is very appropriately named. A Southern lady never lets on her true feelings or intent if she thinks it will be considered rude. Portraying good manners is always first on the list of behavior traits. And while I have heard more than once that “Horses don’t lie”, I have to beg to differ on that one when it comes to Dixie and dogs. She will flat out mislead any poor innocent by-standing dog into thinking that she isn’t giving him a second thought. This usually takes place while we take a break and she calmly grazes while my dogs wait quietly for us to start riding again. I will let Dixie have the reins so she can lower her head and grab a few bites of grass. I might add that the dogs have been along with us for the entire ride without incident. Dixie never gives them a second glance as they run along side, behind or in front of us- even when they get very close and a well-placed kick could easily find its mark. No, Dixie just goes along without any indication of her mischievious plan. She lets the trust build and the guard comes down as the dogs forget about watching out for her as a possible danger. I also fall for the false sense of security she exudes and time and again will relax and let my thoughts wander. That is when she makes her move. She instantly transforms from this sweet, laid-back, harmless horse to a dog attacking wild thing without blinking an eyelash. No laid back ears, no sidelong glances calculating her move, no fixed stares, no agitation – no nothing. Just a sudden rush at the unsuspecting dog who is minding his own business and happens to be within striking distance, nearly unseating me in the process. Actually, I think it is somewhat of a game for her. She is a very passive mare in the herd and gets pushed around a lot. I think she gets a kick out of seeing us all jump in reaction to her aggressiveness as she gets to do the moving. I have to say in her behalf that she never – not even once – has ever connected or hurt the dog. She just loves to surprise them and scare the daylights out of us. She thinks it is funny and gets a good laugh out of it. I always end up laughing also as she gets me time and again with this little ploy of hers and has me scrambling to attention. So, she not only lies about not having those thoughts, she lies about her intentions and acts like she is going to kill. She lies about being a bully, which she definitely is not. She just has a very warped sense of humor.
I sat and I thought quite a bit about it and eventually concluded “Of Course”-The very same method will surely work if applied to problems regarding my horse.
Years ago, I was working as a waitress at a very nice restaurant on the beach of southwest Florida when the entire room was disrupted by a very unruly five year-old child. In their efforts to quiet the youngster, the parents tried bribing him with everything from ice cream to toys but to no avail. In fact, every time they sweetened the pot and upped the offer the screaming just got worse. The parents finally gave up, left the restaurant without dinner while costing the owners, the chef, the waitress (me), and the other diners. Several customers even walked out it was that bad. I didn’t have children of my own but all I could think of was that the way I was raised that would never have happened. At the first sign of misbehavior, I would have been given a warning and if it continued, quietly but firmly led outside- and it would not have been to get a new toy. When we returned, I would have sat quietly and ate my dinner politely and nothing more would have been said about it. I have never forgotten that episode and since then have observed the parenting changes over the years lend itself more and more to “reasoning” with the child, avoiding the use of power or fear over him. More and more I see the children calling the shots in a family and manipulating parents to get their way. It works for the child but but does not necessarily achieve the best end result. I am not saying you have to make your child go cut a switch and take him behind the woodshed. I am not an advocate of violence on any level, but there is a need to know who is in charge and that there are unpleasant consequences if you make bad choices.
Keeping up with the kid
Now that I am working with my colt, I find myself thinking of that scene in the restaurant when my guy decides to try to take charge or “argues” with me. It is firmly embedded in my mind that just “being nice” and giving in is not the way to go. It only creates a bigger problem. Being too harsh and demanding is not the way to go either -although that is the method most of us use on our horses. That creates resentment and defiance. There is a middle of the road way to be firm and consistent without dominating using pain, fear or intimidation. We love our children/horses but because we do, respect is a must. It is how we obtain it that will dictate our methods. By not drawing attention to the problems and rewarding the good, the message gets across and there is no contest. Refuse to get drawn into those situations where tempers flare and someone has to win and someone has to lose before it is over. That is not good horsemanship or parenting.