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Memoirs of a Horse Owner by Sam - Spooking

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   March 7, 2012 12:53

Memoirs of a Horse Owner by Sam


Horsemanship ....... it is an art, a science, a tradition and a lifelong journey!


The articles written for  are a collection of my personal memoirs as a horse owner.  They are about my experiences and about my understanding of horsemanship.  They do not necessarily reflect the opinion of  and in some cases, they do not reflect the opinion of the majority of horse owners today.  They are about my journey toward understanding a horse.

It is interesting to observe how the older horses deal with the youngster in the herd.   I think they make a significant contribution to her upbringing.  The way that they respond to her influences her behavior and shapes her thinking.  Take spooking, for example.  The youngster always finds a monster lurking in the pasture.  It could be a glove on the fence that wasn't there a minute ago or a barrel that has been moved to a new spot along the fence line or the neighbor's dog out sniffing for new droppings.  But whatever it is, she notices it and gets concerned about it.    

 It seems to me that there is a process that goes on in the herd when the baby finds a monster in the pasture.  Her spooky reaction alerts the herd to the dangerous situation.  And while she is dancing around, the older horses stop what they are doing, lift up their heads and take a look at her monster.  It is almost as if they make a decision about what they are looking at.  

On the rare occasion that they decide "yep that is a monster", one of the older ones will head out and deal with it.  That usually means that some old mangey coyote gets chased out of the pasture or that the neighbor's dog has to high tail it for home. 

Often as not, there isn't really a monster in the pasture and it is almost as if the older horses say "oh that's just a ......".  Usually one of them will nonchalantly walk up to her monster and wait beside it until she gathers up enough courage to come in for a closer look.  

Either way the youngster’s concerns are acknowledged and resolved or her comfort is restored. 

Horses are hardwired for fight or flight.  They operate out of the inherent need for self-preservation.  Spooking is about the horse's need for survival.  The youngster hasn't been on earth for very long so sometimes normal everyday things can upset her sense of security.  She relies on the older horses to help her sort through the things that are worrisome to her.   She is willing to trust their judgment. 

The idea that a wiser experienced horse plays a significant role in the training of a younger horse is not new.  Within the traditional vaquero training method, a young horse was trained alongside a wiser more experienced horse.  The vaqueros believed that the older horse helped the youngster to accept new things.  Perhaps their philosophy was based on the belief that communication occurred between the two horses or perhaps their philosophy was based on the younger horse's tendency to follow or mimicking an older horse.  Either way it was how things were done in the vaquero style of training. 


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