Friday, July 15, 2011

Body Language 101:

A backwards kick can convey many messages. I think the kick in this photo conveys sheer exuberance but it could mean a lot of other things. (See below)

As sensitized as I am becoming to horse language, I did not approve of the way Kanani barged into the run-in shed a few days ago headed for the hay net I had just filled. After all, I was still standing in front of it fastening the clips. In his enthusiasm to get to "his" food he easily could have run me over and never noticed.

It was the perfect opportunity to try out a little horse language of my own. I instantly decided to behave like his Mom--or the head mare in a pasture. Presenting my hind quarters to him, I made backward kicking motions with my legs.

Was he ever surprised!

It was much more effective that if I had held up my hand and shouted no--or even smacked him for barging into my space. (Most good horse folks will tell you that smacks should be a last resort in a dangerous situation and may even anger and accelerate aggressiveness in some horses. And on no account should a horse be hit in the face. That can cause REAL problems!)

Snorting in surprise, Kanani spun around and raced to the end of the paddock. He did bang his head on the wall as he spun. But hey, he would have done the same if I actually had been another horse bent on disciplining him for rude behavior.

The second time he returned he was much more respectful but still high headed and nervous. So I sent him out again in the same way. I never said a word or touched him. I just presented my hind quarters and repeated the same horse-like backward kicking motions. (Luckily, no humans saw me or they would have thought I was totally nuts!)

The third time Kanani returned, he came like a well-chastened youngster, which is to say S-L-O-W-L-Y, head lowered, licking and chewing. This is universal language from a junior horse acknowledging the authority of a senior horse. It means: "I'm sorry. I'll behave now. Please let me join you and I promise I'll be good."

Only then did I allow him to approach and "share" MY hay as any good, benevolent leader would do.

Following this "attitude adjustment," Kanani has been super respectful of my space. He has not once offered to hurl himself toward his food whenever I am nearby. Instead, he now waits to be invited. And he seems even more determined to stay glued to my side and be my best buddy.

All because I set aside human nature for a few minutes and tried speaking to him in horse language!

2 comments:

  1. WOW ! LOOKS LIKE YOU SHOWED HIM, BUT I REALLY WOULD LIKE A PICTURE OF YOU KICKING BACKWARDS !! HA HA ...... I HAVE THIS FEELING HE'LL HAVE A FEW MORE SURPRISES FOR YOU !!!!! BARB

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  2. i would have liked to see your kicking:)

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