I pull on my jeans, lace my boots and tie up my hair – head down to the pasture because my horses are there.
We have all had one – you know which one I am talking about-the aunt who always pinched your cheeks when she saw you as a child and exclaimed how you have grown. Do you remember your feelings when she would do that? How you would shrink away from her and try to stay out of her reach whenever she came around, even if you loved her. You hated that but tolerated it because it wasn’t polite to rebuke her affections.
Well, guess what? We do that same thing to our horses all the time. I don’t mean literally “pinch their cheeks” but we tend to go right for the face when we encounter them. They are so beautiful that it is hard not to. It just seems like those elongated noses, soft muzzles and deep eyes draw our hands right to it. To us, we offer it as a sign of affection and admiration, but does it mean the same thing to them being on the receiving end? What if the horses touches you with his nose first? Do you get offended and slap him away? Do you deem it to be disrespectful? Does it scare you? Maybe you weren’t ready for that contact yet.
Now, look at our actions from the horses’ point of view. Let’s say a total stranger, someone you didn’t particularly have an affection for, or someone that might frighten you somewhat approached you, and without your consent, started putting his hands on your face. Even if it was done gently and lovingly, you would be repulsed by that action. It is presumptuous and shows a total lack of respect for your space. Unearned familiarity may even be intimidating. Are there times when stroking someone’s face is appropriate and meaningful? Of course! The operative word being “appropriate”. A tender touch to the cheek can be one of the most intimate and loving gestures, as we all know. Realize the difference and apply it to your horse. Stay away from a horses’s face unless you are familiar to him and he has invited you to do so. Stroke his shoulder or withers instead – a very comforting and non-intrusive gesture of friendship that he will appreciate. Notice how horse friends “groom” each other in those places.
Oh, and another thing. Girls, I see this all the time and it drives me insane. I am talking about those pictures (mostly selfies these days) where the person takes a close up of her face smashed up against her horses. Notice how the horse is being held tightly by the clasp of the halter just below the horses’ head. I don’t see the horse smiling in those pictures. That is not a pretty picture to people who know horses well. Now if you get a photo of the horse willingly and freely coming that close to you, then you have something.
I was much different when I was younger – Indeed it was an altogether different story. I craved the speed and feeling of power. I knew no fear. It was all guts and all glory.
Deep in thought
The town was all abuzz because the rodeo was here. Horses, action, broncos, roping, etc. A single girlfriend of mine was asked to go to the rodeo on a first date with a new guy she had met. She had never been to a rodeo before and her date enthusiastically encouraged her to go. It was a highlight of this guy’s life so she agreed and went with him. I saw her the next day and asked what she thought, expecting the usual replay of action-packed memorable moments. The reply I got from her is one that I will never forget and has caused me to rethink my opinion of some of the events. Her reply was simply: “I just wanted to cry”. So many of the animals used were terrified and exploited for it. There was pain involved with whips, ropes, spurs, harsh bits and rough hands on animals that had no choice but to participate. Most of all, she couldn’t stand to watch the calf roping segment of the show. It broke her heart to see those babies running for their lives only to be savagely roped by either a leg or the neck and thrown down and tied, all the while thinking they were about to die. More than one of them limped off when released. Some of them entered the arena already limping most likely from practice runs. She never went out with that guy again because she knew that they were miles apart on some very basic core issues. She could never be attracted to someone who thought it was “FUN” to treat animals that way and think nothing about how they felt. It is not a game or a sport to them and to most of us who attend these events, they are dispensable. We just get another one when and if they get injured. A broken leg? No problem. Shoot that one and bring on the next. How can we humans be so calloused when it comes to animals? Is it because we just don’t want to spoil our entertainment to acknowledge that they feel fear, pain, grief, terror and affection for each other? She taught me a good lesson that day. She spoke with her heart and wasn’t afraid of how silly or over-the-top that guy or anybody else thought she was regarding her humanity toward the animals used in this widely accepted tradition. She has since died of cancer. As valiantly as she fought that battle, I admire her most for standing up for those rodeo victims. She was willing to endure ridicule for their sake even though she had no personal connection to any of them. She is one of my greatest heroes.