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Body language (of the horse in question)
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IrishPony
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 Posted: Sun Aug 19th, 2007 01:34 am
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I have a 5-year-old gelding who exhibits a body language that (I think) represents impatience and/or annoyance...or dominance?  He does this when he sees me walking to the barn, and he assumes it's feeding time. (I feed the horses five times a day, so it's safe to say that many times, it is INDEED feeding time.)

The body language: he lowers his nose to the ground and twirls his head back and forth on the long axis of his neck from the withers to his nose. He is a dominant sort of fellow, and I wonder (risking anthropomorphizing) if this is merely a "Hurry up, woman. Don't you know I'm hungry" or a form of dominance which should be nipped in the bud.

I'm a keen watcher of my horses and have not seen this before.  I must add that he does not do this in my "presence" but only from afar...when I'm approximately 30 feet from his paddock. 

It's annoying behavior; my question is should I be concerned about such an attitude, or merely let him vent his emotions?

 Kathy

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Aug 20th, 2007 01:44 am
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Kathy, could you please explain to me why the behavior you describe is "annoying". I need more information before I can give you a good response, even though your description of how the pony lowers his head and "twirls" it is generally clear. -- Dr. Deb

IrishPony
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 Posted: Tue Aug 21st, 2007 01:04 am
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DrDeb wrote: Kathy, could you please explain to me why the behavior you describe is "annoying.
I guess because I think he's always vying for top position in the herd of us, and this is just another way of showing it. He's a left-brained, non-reactive horse to most situtations, but will test the waters, so to speak, most days as far as who the leader is.  I don't wish to totally squelch his spirit, but also don't want an 1100-lb disrespectful animal on a rope.  

By the time I get to the corral gate, the twirling has stopped, but he grinds his teeth at this juncture.   Normally at this point, I just ignore him and walk on by and into the barn, but if I stop to greet him with a stroke on the neck or a blow in the nose, he narrows his eyes ever so slightly and jerks his head ever so slightly.  He does not, however, walk away from me or flatten his ears. 

My vet mentioned last year that she wondered if he didn't have an incomplete gelding surgery because of his typical vocalness. He "huh-huh-huh's" at feeding time (food is his real motivator).  According to the bloodwork, his hormone levels are within normal range for a gelding.

Maybe I should just let him twirl away, as long as he doesn't start snaking his head when I do walk into his stall with his hay.  I've trained him to stand in his corner until I walk away from the manger.  He does not rush me or snatch food by any means.

Let me mention that at no point am I fearful of any of his acting out.  When he gets too uppity, I'll put on his halter and make him back up or do some sidepasses, lower his head...and by that time his attitude adjustment is complete, until the next time.

I must mention that if I go out to ride, and he realizes it's not feeding time, he'll shove his nose into the halter or headstall willingly.  He stands for saddling without being tied and is generally an all-around good guy.  Just hungry all the time?  LOL

Hope this answers your inquiry to your satisfaction.  I know from your detailed replies you like to get the whole picture.  Any further details you'd like, let me know.  Thanks in advance. 

Kathy


Joe
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 Posted: Tue Aug 21st, 2007 01:31 am
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Kathy:

You'll have to get your real answer from DD of course, but in the mean time, I must tell you that in a lifetime around horses, I have known many who rumbled at feed time, or even lightly whinneyed.  I never noticed that it was gender specific.  Figured they were just pleased/impatient to get their grub.

Joe

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Aug 21st, 2007 08:08 pm
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Dear Kathy: OK, now I have what I think is enough information to give you a good answer.

The answer goes to areas broader than the specific thing you wrote about.

First, I want to sincerely request that you quit blowing in your horses' noses. And that you drop other forms of silly, useless bullhockey from your horsemanship practice, such as that there is any such thing as a "left brained, nonreactive horse". These are ideas that come from different types of flakes that populate the industry and whose wrong teaching often victimizes people. But you can't be victimized if you don't let these well self-advertised fanclub-mongers let you.

The reason that your horse jerks his head back when you blow in his nose is that it is very irritating to him to have you blow in his nose. I don't greet my friends that way either. I think anyone who blows in a horse's nose is lucky that the horse does not either strike them or break their own nose when he jerks his head back.

Likewise, ANY form of characterization ("left-brained, nonreactive") is nothing more than prejudice. PREJUDICE KEEPS YOU FROM EVER ACTUALLY MEETING YOUR HORSE. So when you read the well self-advertised female flake who wants to teach you to classify horses' temperaments based on their hair whorls, or some other kook who says you can classify them on the basis of head shape, these things are merely re-vivifications of the old, discredited pseudoscience of phrenology -- how to judge a man's temperament by the shape of his head. Phrenology was used by Hitler and the Nazis as justification for the extermination of Jews and Gypsies. YOU can use it too, to blind yourself to the real horse that is standing before you.

You must empty your mind of these things. The pseudo-American-Indian who goes about in a feathered costume telling people to blow up their horses' noses is laughing with your money all the way to the bank. And so is the guy with the European fan club who claims (falsely) to be the horse whisperer. And the fluffymuff lady with her hair whorls -- she is AFRAID OF HORSES, and indeed confessed as much in an article in a recent national magazine. Why would you ever listen to any advice from such people, or in any manner imitate them? Why do you think their names DO NOT APPEAR in our "recommended" list????

You are quite correct in thinking that when a horse curls and flips its head that this is a sign that the animal is thinking of attacking you.

What you need to concern yourself with, however, is why he would FEEL LIKE THAT when you are around. Could it possibly be that your whole approach with your horses has for some time been way off?

So my first advice to you, Kathy, is to BACK OFF. I wouldn't want eleven hundred pounds of pissed-off horse at the other end of the lead line, either. But you have, by listening to wrong gurus, now backed yourself into a corner of your own making. It is not a matter of merely "fixing" this one behavior on the horse's part. It is rather a matter of fixing KATHY. You are ruining your horses at a deep level, and the "fix" is going to have to go to an even deeper level.

Sometimes these things are unrecoverable, but, I would not have bothered to reply to your inquiry if I did not think there was anything that could be done for you, or that you could do for yourself. So, if you want to learn about that, you can write back. However, before you put finger to keyboard, I want to warn you that I don't want to hear one single word about how "good" all the rest of your horses are, or how much better they are now than when you got them, etc., etc.....indeed, we can save the part where you need to defend yourself against me for much later. The truth is, I am not here to attack you, but you are in enough trouble that I agree with you that you are in physical danger -- you have put yourself in physical danger. I am sufficiently concerned about that, that I need you to sit up and pay attention.

We can go into your new program whenever you write back.

Sincerely -- Dr. Deb

IrishPony
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 Posted: Fri Aug 24th, 2007 04:29 pm
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Okay...ready when you are.  

DrDeb
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 Posted: Fri Aug 24th, 2007 09:03 pm
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Very good, Kathy. We will begin. The first thing I would like you to do is to confirm to me whether you have read the following; and if you have not, then obtain these writings and read and study them. When you have done that, then please write back again and we'll go to the next phase.

(1) Kinship With All Life, by J. Allen Boone. Obtainable through online booksellers or the Eclectic Horseman "corral" of goods for sale. Cost about $25.

(2) Harry Whitney's series of articles reproduced in our "Members Only Archives" section. These articles are now unobtainable from any other source. Get them by going to our "Bookstore" section (click on the Home Page button at the top of this screen, then click on "Bookstore"). Cost $25.

Very sorry it has to cost something, but then again, so would private riding lessons. Best wishes, and I hope you really enjoy these materials. My purpose in recommending them is to take a two-pronged approach, to get you to think more deeply about your reasons for wanting to be around horses. This is an area that all horse owners -- or at least those who wish to be both humane and effective -- must at some point go deeply into. We must understand ourselves before we can understand why our relationships with the animals come out the way they do. Best wishes -- Dr. Deb

IrishPony
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 Posted: Sat Sep 1st, 2007 08:47 pm
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I I have read Kinship, but not Harry Whitney. Until I do, I will have to wait for the lesson to begin I guess....

In the meantime, I'm going to post a question about anatomy and physiology that I bet you know the answer to and will answer.    Thanks,  Kathy


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