Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Cold Hard Lesson

Natural horsemanship requires one to understand, to the degree possible, the mind of a horse. That requires us to realize that a horse is not a human and is not driven by human desires. The harder lesson for many people to learn is that a horse is not a dog and is not driven by the desires of a dog.

Of course, human, horse, and dog are all driven by a will to survive but their strategies for survival cause them to exhibit radically different behaviors. A horse wants nothing more than security. A dog is driven by the excitement of the hunt. Horses do not find being hunted to be positive experience. A dog finds warmth and comfort in a small, cozy den.

A horse has evolved to view that warm, cozy den as a life threatening potential trap. A horse needs to be in a place where it can see, hear and smell any oncoming threats to its safety. A dog has no such worries. Puppies will quickly die if exposed to cold weather shortly after being born. Foals are often born on the snow or on frozen ground.

As a predator the dog could afford the luxury of seeking warm comfort and evolved into needing that warmth for survival. The horse's evolution and adaptations took a very different route.

This morning really bore this out. I went out to the horse lot. The wind chill was barely above zero. The dogs were cold. They did not want to come out of their warm house. When they did come out to eat they were clearly uncomfortable and quickly returned to their cozy straw bed in their house. The wind was howling.

The horses acted no differently than they did yesterday when it was nearly thirty degrees warmer. They did not seek windbreaks and the red shelter in the mare's pasture stood empty. The horses ate hay or simply stood in the sunshine. None showed the slightest hint of discomfort.

I was layered heavily and the exposed skin on my face was starting to take on an unfamiliar burning feeling. I looked over to see two horses standing in the shade, not even taking advantage of the bright sunlight. How could this be--with all of my clothing and with the dog's thick hair we were miserable and the horses were completely oblivious to the cold.

On the other hand I sit here in a small room typing. Perhaps there is someone wishing to do me harm in another room--I cannot tell. The door is shut. If someone is sneaking up on me I could not tell. This comfortable, high backed chair blocks my view. I could not even smell the villain--all I smell is this left over pizza that I am eating.

And I am completely oblivious to the threat.

If I was a horse I would not oblivious to the threat.

But I am not a horse--and even more important for me to truly understand, is that a horse is not me.

And that is a cold, hard truth.

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