In being a caring owner I am my horse's gaoler.
In being a caring owner, I have become my horse’s gaoler.
My horse seeks through me:
sustenance, security, shelter, stimulation & siblings (fellow horses)
All of which I provide under a constant routine in return for her compliance (agreement to follow my instruction) and complicity.(willingness to obey). As with all equestrian terms, these terms have a specific meaning when used in the context of horses. The covenant between horse and human only works well, if both parties respect their obligations under it.
If we humans fail to provide the essential needs of the horse then we must expect the horse to withdraw its cooperation with us. The more resourceful horse may well develop its own counter measures as resistance to unsuitable treatment. The horse may come to be positively uncooperative. indeed like a street wise urchin it might devise behaviours as a defence against, or as a response to, prolonged abuse A horse undoubtedly has the mental capability to resist, in the same way as it has the capability to comply.
When we rider/owners witness unacceptable behaviour on the part of the horse we mostly rush to seek solutions to the symptom - which is merely the act of resistance. Perhaps we should look more closely for the root cause of the horse’s hostility. However it is not so easy to counter the owner’s share of culpability in the matter even on those occasions when we might have accurately guessed at the reason for the horse’s misbehaviour.
As an owner, when I accepted responsibility for DiDi. I recognised my side of the bargain and in order to comply with my obligations I created an environment and a routine which would cover her needs as I perceived them to be.
Sustenance: Her diet is one devised by me: she has little choice in her diet except in choosing to eat or not to eat certain weeds in her pasture. The quantity and the quality of her feed bowl and hay net were established by me.
Security As far as I can anticipate, she is not put into danger and her field is fenced and the access thereto is locked. She is registered and micro chipped. Her health is closely monitored. When she sleeps, where she grazes and with whom she grazes are at my discretion.
Shelter. She has a tree to shelter under but there is no field shelter. She does come in to her own stable for approximately half of any 24 hour period. When the weather is inclement she is rugged up either with a raincoat or a waterproof insulated day rug. If the sun shines she is covered with a reflective sun sheet.
Stimulation. On each and very day I try to make sure that either she is ridden or that she is schooled.
Siblings She does not mix side by side with siblings but she can see other horses and she can get close to them across the fence. - if she so wishes. Which interestingly she rarely does. She has a stable mate next door.
Her daily timetable is set by me and I try to make sure that the events of the day occur with regularity and as anticipated. Effectively she has no freedom to choose anything - except the patch of grass on which to defecate or the grass which to eat.
She is my prisoner and therefore as gaoler, I have responsibilities for her well being.
Her side of the bargain is to understand my instructions and to act in compliancewith them. I do not ask her to do anything which she does not already know how to do, I merely ask her to do it on command.
Her complicity, ie her willingness to do as she understands that which I have asked her to do is assumed by me, Any refusal on her part is viewed as a breach of the covenant unless of course I have made an unreasonable request or if I have made the request inconclusively. I would not claim that there were never disagreements between us but on the whole the deal works well enough and we live together in an acceptable state of harmony.
Now, if all this palaver is indeed of importance, how should we expect a neglected or cruelly treated horse to respond. Should we not expect rebellion, aggression, non compliance and general resistance?
For these reasons when hearing of disobedience rebellion or aggression should we not look first at the horse’s regime & history in order to establish the cause and not simply suggest a remedy to the symptom?
YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE MATTER, PLEASE.
Hmmm... My horses seeks through me the attention (and treats) for sure. Lol! And I'd say attention more then treats. They are happy to have me there even without any treats. And paint tries to keep me in her stall if she can... :-)
A neglected or cruelly treated horse, would respond unwillingly at first, As, it has no good reasons to turn to humans.
I know this might kind of be off topic, sorry, but, when a horse is neglected as starved and weak, it has unwillingness because it knows it has no power. But, when that horse becomes healthy, it does get back it's spirit, and willingness, more as to fight humans than bond with them. But you can change that, with time, and get them to trust you.
I also think that it could be a hereditary thing as well. And knowing a horse's past is always helpful. If you find out the horse is headstall shy, but only with a bridle? Was he just never worked at yielding at the poll with a bridle? Or did something happen in his last home that led on to that behavior? If he is registered, does any of his other siblings, his dam or sire have the same 'mental' problems if that be the case?
I hope I answered something :?
Good one Barry........I'm going to break it down into sections, only because I have two "rescues" at home that came to us in horrid condition but due to their ages have entered back into "life" very differently. Also, as horse haulers for the local SPCA we have seen the worst of the worst.
Maybe it's just me, but wouldn't one ALWAYS be looking for the root cause? Is it lack of effective communication? Is it pain related? Is it lack of confidence, ours and/or theirs? Is it lack of knowledge about their past?
I've mentioned before that I currently have a 2 1/2 yr old that has been with us for about 7 months now. He was entombed in a barn for 6 months, no food or water. He survived by licking the condensation off the inside of the barn and "cycling" his manure. Before I could attempt to to ANYTHING with him I first had to deal with his mental state of mind. EVERYTHING he did was unacceptable. I didn't cause his pain and suffering, but because he was so badly abused every human was evil. So unlike the little mare who never questioned that we were her friends and "took" to us right away, this little guy has to be dealt with in a completely different manner. Because I'm dealing with such a screwed up mind the solutions could only be resolved on his time. That would not necessarily be the how I would deal with a horse that already had his foundation in place.
In a perfect world we would all know the horse's history, but in reality that is not the case most of the time. Two of my horse's came from the person that breed,raised and trained them. I know their complete history from day one to now. Two I know very little about, except their abuse. So while I'm working in the dark with 2 of them, there are training methods that can be applied to both sets. This is because I understand how a prey animal thinks. I understand that a horse learns from the release of pressure. I understand body language, theirs and mine and the cause and effect of that. I understand what gives them comfort.
So to answer this last part....... we can ask for more information before forming a reply, which is often done......we may suggest that a trainer should be called in depending on what the transgression is, or based on our personal experiences offer a suggestion. It's not an absolute, as were are not present to view what is really happening, it's a suggestion........like anything on the Internet it should be taken with a grain of salt and the person getting the information needs to take into consideration if they are experienced enough to follow through with the advise.
I can go onto the Internet and look up how to re-plumb my bathroom sink, step by step..... would I attempt it? No!!! I don't have enough experience to deal with it, I call "The Guy" and pay him to do it...........
I'll come back to this later, I must get some work done...........LOL
PS, I wonder how many knew what a gaoler was......... British through and through.......LOL
My thoughts on the matter of being a caring owner/gaoler... hmmmm. The use of that word has a negative connotation to it. To be jailed means that one has been accused/convicted of a crime. Since a horse does not perceive crime and punishment in the same way that a human does I prefer the term "protector". I care, therefore I protect my horse's physical health by providing him with sustenance, shelter, exercise and medical care when needed. I care, therefore I protect my horses mental health by providing him with security, stimulation and other horses. He has come to trust that I will protect him... not jail him. In return for his pampered life I do ask things of him... considering I'm still quite a novice, my requested tasks are not very demanding at this point in time and he complies quite readily now. I do not see our relationship as one of jailer and the jailed, but as a partnership where I retain 51% of the stock and ultimately have complete control.
I do realize that most horses do not get to live such a pampered life, in fact my horse didn't either before he came to me. Where he was the first 3 years of his life is a mystery to me as he was bought at auction by the man that I purchased him from. He spent a year with him and while I respect the man that previously owned him, he's "old school" in terms of dealing with a stubborn/lazy (as he put it) horse so I'm sure my boy had his share of physical methods used against him. I have no way of knowing who is original owner was, and that suits me fine, He's with me now and that's how it will stay for the rest of his life. He is free to be a natural horse the majority of the time, I do not stall him unless necessary... he has his freedom to roam his 20 or so acres... until I pull up to the gate and ask for a partner.
Going back to what G and K's Mom was saying about different rescues or abuse cases behaving in different ways, I can add another that seems to defy logic. Scout wasn't a "true" rescue; he wasn't "adopted" from a rescue farm; but he was given in pretty poor condition to the people I bought him from, who had him for about a month before putting him up for sale. When I bought him, he was still probably over 300 pounds underweight, his coat still crusted with poo (too cold here in early spring for the bath he desperately needed), and his feet in horrible need of a trim and a shoeing. He is the biggest puppy-dog pony I've ever seen, runs to the gate to see me when he's turned out, nickers every time I enter the barn, nuzzles my face constantly, and is willing and eager to please (9 times out of 10, anyway, he is a live animal...) under saddle, with good ground manners. Although, as far as I can tell, he had never been beaten, only neglected (not that neglect is much better than outright beating...). I imagine a horse who was whacked over the head with a chunk of dimensional lumber would have a different attitude toward humans (But, then there's your POA, G&K!).
I also agree that one of the many joys of reading your posts, Barry, is how the British culture, vocabulary, and accent seeps right into the writing. Beautiful. Gaoler took me a minute, I'll admit!
The subject obviously strikes a chord with you - as with me. It would be nice to hear more about your work.
By giving her security etc I am sometimes aware of just how little freedom of choice I leave DiDi.
In the same way a "jailer" restricts the freedom of his prisoner yet he is at the same time responsible for that prisoner's safety - or should be. The prisoner becomes institutionalised and mostly loses the ability to make his own decisions.
I control DiDi by smothering her - in my mind for her own good. It is an ethical issue in my mind. What happens to her when/if she outlives me?
Sometimes I feel I may have to draw a line about how far
I attempt to reduce her Nature given fear of humans - they are after all her key predators. Perhaps she should remain wary of people?
Even the mustangs in the SW US are to be culled because they have been too successful in surviving.
The cruelly treated horses we write about know only too well how inhumane humans can be - even if it is just through neglect and abandonment.
There is no answer - but the questions lurk in my mind.
Maybe I delve too deep.
In England we had a Lord Protector - Oliver Cromwell - he was a tyrant. But he meant well and he fought against a despotic regime - the Stewart Kings.
I/ I/ We lock up our horses out of harms way - we are well intentioned, caring "jailers".
It is all in the meaning of the words.
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