I watched a horse program where a trainer of zebras said that when the zebra yawns it is actually 'showing it's teeth as a warning.' On this forum I have read that the horse yawning is 'letting out butterflies' due to some stress.
Are these separate actions due to the level of domestication - even though these zebras are in training?
You know, Evermore, you can hear a lot of things from a lot of different places. I have repeatedly warned against the danger that comes when people try to make their horsemanship into a 'quilt' -- stitching something they've heard from one person on to something else they heard from some other person, and out of that trying to make a viable horsemanship. It isn't possible to do that, of course; and anyone who tries to do it will be condemning themselves to a long and frustrating time merely buzzing around the surface of things.
What do you think? Do you think that every horse, donkey, mule or zebra who opens his mouth to show his teeth is being aggressive?
Do you think they are sleepy?
Do you think they are bored?
Or do you think they are, as our elderly teacher used to say, 'letting out butterflies' --?
How would you be able to tell which of these it was? And more importantly, how do you think you might become able to tell?
I know which one I think is the most beautiful way to live. It isn't always 'butterflies', but when it is, it is a beautiful thing to be able to perceive. -- Dr. Deb
I have been thinking about my question all week so I am glad to read your response. When I saw the zebra yawning and twisting its head I did not get the impression it was ‘showing its teeth’ to “warn away the approaching unfamiliar human’, but, I have never worked with a zebra. My impression was that he just didn’t seem too happy being pulled around by the halter. But I had to ask.
There are occasions when my younger horse lets out a few yawns. Since studying the Birdie Book and the books by the Dorrances I have come to see a pattern. His level of trust is growing, I am becoming more important to him than a ‘pile of manure’, his eyes are softer, his focus is improving. I have learned how to observe his pattern of learning. It’s that fine line of saying ‘yes, you can and I’ll help you’ or ‘I understand. Today is not the day’ and we go do something else. On the ‘yes, you can and I’ll help you’ moments, he will try, I reward the try, and then here come the yawns. I let him be when he’s yawning. No pressure, just presence. And it’s generally not an issue again. Now, before I learned to observe, remember and compare, I would have gotten upset with myself that I pushed and made this horse uncomfortable.
Now that I am writing this response I am acutely aware that this trainer’s interpretation bothered me because I did not see the rest of the zebra’s body showing aggression. But, you know, once in a blue moon, I just need to get out the butterflies of my past horsemanship life. That’s why I ask my questions; to get your feedback. Kind of a confirmation that I do know what I know. It isn’t always easy but the rewards are endless.
I normally never watch these horse shows on TV. I don't know why of all episodes I watched a bit of this one. Maybe I was supposed to? I agree about the quilt analogy. I have friends who ride with every clinician that comes along, follow bits of this and bits of that. That's their path, I guess.