There are so many ways that I am totally human. I walk on only two feet in the barn, mucking and feeding and doctoring. Those are human jobs. I have a book of checks that have Barn Account printed on them, and I’m pretty proud of what I pay for around here. Again, a human skill.
I have the Dude Rancher, he isn’t all that wild about horses, and he married me, so I must be human, right?
But between working with my extended herd of horses and riders, and taking care of everyone here at Infinity Farm, the vast majority of my time is spent with horses. It impacts how I perceive things and I notice I’m taking on some horse behaviors. I’m not complaining, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
No, I don’t take a dirt bath after a ride, and other than oatmeal in the morning, I don’t lust for grain. I would like to look as smooth and shiny as my horses, but nope. Let’s not even mention athleticism or grace. No, it’s none of the cute and clever stuff that I’m mimicking. It’s more subtle than that.
I did develop a deep, low heh-heh-heh sort of laugh that sounds like a nicker. Or to be more precise, a particular mare’s nicker. I hadn’t even realized it, until she pointed it out to me. But what I’m talking about is even a bit more socially awkward than that.
One the biggest differences between us and horses is our senses. Being prey animals, they have a keen awareness of their environment. Humans are blind, hairless mice in comparison. But if we spend enough time trying to understand and communicate with horses, slowly our senses improve. Balance and body awareness changes first, we have to learn that in order to ride. Slowly, our use of the limited senses we have improves. I have a hearing loss, but being with horses taught me to hear with my eyes.
But I digress. It usually happens when I’m doing some random human communicating. Everything is fine to start, we are all standing around in the shade, swishing our tails against the flies. I’m fine as long as everyone is polite and the interchange is willing, “Can I have your eye?” and I get to volunteer an answer, just like my horses. As long as things stay in a peaceful, Classical Training sort of tone, I’m good.
But passive coercion begins, humans are rarely honest for long. Some of us think it’s okay to lie if we have good intentions (?), so we distort the truth, or we are passive about asking for what we want. We use insinuation instead of honesty. We say one thing when we mean another, and then pass it off as a joke. I start to feel restricted, my ears show it first. “Is that person actually trying to move my feet about this? I really don’t want him/her to be my Boss Mare.” I long for clear communication; I notice I don’t enjoy groundwork with humans as much as I do with horses. Both species can be pretty rude, but horses become peaceful partners with confidence building groundwork. Humans seem to have more resistance.
From a position of herd dynamics, some of the leadership I see in the human world is pretty self-serving and ego based. They can want to be Boss Mare for all the wrong reasons. Thinking about the best for the herd is rare, and too often leaders have ulterior motives. When words feel predatory, we have to use our senses to find our bearings. Do they look nervous? Can I see just a bit too much white around their eye? Does their body look tense? If a horse wouldn’t trust them, then neither do I.
More often than not, I disengage a hip and break eye contact. I don’t like confused or contradictory communication. If I get frustrated enough, I’ll either blow up or shut down. Who does that sound like?
But on the high side, a herd with a kind Boss Mare will be inclusive. Old geldings and young fillies all have a warm barn. They tolerate humming llamas and goats who pee where they eat, because it takes all kinds.
What happens if I keep acquiring horse behaviors this way? Maybe one day, my eyes will get big and soft and I’ll know forgiveness and trust. If I spend enough time with horses, maybe I’ll have mare eyes.
In the meantime, I’ll keep fine tuning my limited senses and practicing my groundwork.
Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.