Sunday, November 11, 2007

11th November, 2007 No force, no fear

I've now done enough work with Dartmoors, Exmoors and New Forest ponies and pure untouched horses to hold an informed opinion. From a marketing point of view, some of the manhandling that these ponies receive when they are brought in from the wild sets them up to fail and makes it far less likely that they will make a good pony for someone; it can also damage the overall reputation of that particular breed of pony. Working on the basis that all horses were designed to be prey animals - to run first and think later, and that we are designed to be a predator - eyes too close together, very short nose and claw like hands, it's no wonder that these wild ponies think that people are coming in for the kill. They are chased in to enclosed spaces, separated them from their mothers, some are deprived of their feet while they are inspected for white hairs and their skin is burnt with branding irons in some cases three times while they are tied up to something solid with an ever tightening halter or their ears and tails twisted to hold on to them. Indeed, in some areas (the Fells and Dartmoor) ear tags are inserted or a shape cut into the ear. This is not me being hysterical or deliberately emotive - this is what happens. Many of the people that I met on the Exmoor Handling Course were horrified that these things still happen and yet the Commoners look at me as if I am mad when I say that these practices cause a problem. Ponies can only store their memories in pictures and the pictures that they have of their first humans must be pretty negative. When a pony survives what it thinks is a life or death situation it learns never to repeat it again. If we could get these ponies before they ever had a halter on, I am certain that they would be easier to handle and truly essential branding or inspection would be far less traumatic once the pony had been trained and it could be done in hand. The training itself would take far less time and would all be positive and the pony would be far more valuable, malleable and less likely to be injured.

PARENT -------------------> CHILD
ADULT -------------------> ADULT
CHILD -------------------> PARENT

Transactional analysis is a popular theory devised to give people an insight into their human to human relationships – accordingly, if someone acts and sounds like a parent towards another person, that person is likely to react like a child and vice versa. How often has your response to a patronising remark been to throw a childish tantrum!!Ithink a similar chart can be used for human to horse relationships as follows:

PREDATOR ----------------> PREY - flight, fright or fight
PARTNER ---------------> PARTNER
LEADER ----------------> FOLLOWER