29 September 2011

no science - experiment on the side

Besides teaching and preparing the project hours I have to teach there are not that many hours in my working day. I do however ride my horse 5 days a week. (A careful rider might have noticed this went down from 7 to 5... time is scarce). The thing I like about horse back riding is not the total domination or something other that guys often ask me when I tell them I ride. I like to find out how to make a horse listen to you and do what you ask even when you are not in front, but on it. I like making creature that is not build to understand me understand me. And make it do stuff so we do stuff together. I have to admit, it is a tiny bit like running an experiment, at least that's how it feels for me. I also simply like the softness of horses, and riding in the country. Smelling nature, being busy, relaxing and taking my mind off work, since when dealing with horses your head has to deal with horses for 99%. In my case this means I can only have one train of thoughts at the time, and only when I am not focusing on the horse. My way to shut my brain up. Two weeks ago we (horse and me) had a break though. My horse never dares to cross wooden bridges: there are small gaps between the planks (is that a word??), so he can see the water, combine that with the echoing sound, and now way he wants to go there. Usually I get off, and he follows me when I go in front of him by foot. Two weeks ago he went while I was still in the saddle. How cool is that. He trusted me to go there, because I said so. He did it because I asked him. I do not kick or yell, or hit. I just ask. If he wouldn't have done it, I would have dismounted, walk in front and get up again. There are debates about whether this is a good thing to do by the way, getting off and walking in front. Some horse people say this does bad things to how the horse sees you in rank. I just do not want to stress out my horse and definitely I do not want to have my "power" over the horse be based on fear and kicking. I don't even have a whip. This bridge adventure was really truly deeply marvelous, the way your hart opens when such a large (and in my case a bit simple and scared) creature trusts you... Today another thing happened: You can determine the ranks between a horse and a human by letting a horse run loose in a sand arena, and add the human. The way the horse reacts to the human says something about what he feels. If he runs away, he could be scared. If he runs towards you and snorts (which is pretty scary), he is playing chicken and is trying to see what you do. Not always bad intentions, sometimes just playing. My old horse did that just to say, come on, lets run! My old horse was braver and a tad bit more intelligent than the horse I ride now. As soon as the horse stands still the human walks to the spot where the horse is standing and makes the horse go away. Depending on the nature of the horse and its experience with humans this can be pretty scary again, for both the horse and the human (the horses sometimes kick in the air and stuff). He who claims the spot is boss. My old horse was way more confident than this one. I have to ask the new horse to go but gentle, while with my old horse I could make loud noises and wild gestures. If I do that with this horse, the poor thing is stressed out for days. Anyway. What you do next is walk away and see if the horse follows. After some time of interaction (days, weeks, months depending on character and how scarred the horse is of previous human encounters) most horses do. Walk with you. You have a better chance of being followed when you go towards the door, meaning exit, meaning stable, meaning food. For horses a minute spend not eating is a minute wasted. My old horse would occasionally walk with me when I went away from the door, but always followed me towards it. It gets harder to get horses to run with you when you do not have any leach or rope or something. Most of the time they stand there while you run away, thinking "no way am I going to follow this idiot". Running towards the door might increase your chances. My old horse did not run with me. And when he did, he would run over me when I stopped running. Now this happened today: Horse was following me, I started running away from the door. Horse started trotting just behind me, keeping his pace just so he didn't bump into me. When I stopped he stopped next to me. I started running. So did he. I stopped, so did he, exactly next to me, keeping 10 centimeters between us. Didn't matter in what direction I ran, nor how long (not that long, I am in no condition to run, I blame my wrong type of muscle fibers). How cool is that, I have 700 kilo's of flight-creature that clearly wasn't made to trust anything trusting me and following me, without any pressure from my side, no scaring with whips, ropes, or anything else that could give him pain. And I did not bribe him with candy either. He simple followed me. Cause I was his human. And we run together. Awesome......

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