This is just a short story about the sensitivity of horses to changes the pattern of activities that affect their lives.
Anyone who has studied the nature of horses and observed their behaviour will know that their observation of their environment and everything in it is extremely refined. Their ability to read body language is extraordinary and it is one of their primary means of communication. The way pattern changes affect them became very clear to me during a recent experience with my horse Kai.
For the past two years I have had a medical condition which has made it impossible for me to ride. I spend time with Kai doing ground work exercises and just wandering around the paddock with him. He enjoys spending time like this and is always offering to do things for me, (putting his feet on objects, bowing, or picking things up that I accidentally drop).
A few weeks ago my daughter came for a visit. My wife, Val, and my daughter decided to go for a short trail ride. Tracy rode Kai. It was the first time he had been saddled in almost 2 years. Everything went well and although Tracy is a novice rider they got along well together and he seemed to enjoy the experience.
The following weekend my granddaughter and her boyfriend visited. Both Taryn and Ryan are novice riders. Taryn rode Val`s horse, Bob, and Ryan rode Kai. Taryn and Bob got along well but Kai was a bit less willing. He didn`t want to move much and when he did he would come right back to me.
The following day when I went to the paddock Kai was acting kind of depressed. He came to gate and gave a soft knicker that sounded a lot like a whimper. When I went in to see him he came over and tucked his head under my arm. I thought he might be feeling sick. The next day he did the same thing. Then I realized that this horse had been moved a half dozen times in his lifetime. Since I hadn`t been riding him and because new people were showing up and riding him he recognized a pattern. That was the pattern that preceded being moved again. He clearly was not happy with that idea.
During the following week I spent more time with him and reassured him that we are still partners. Basically it is just reinforcing the normal pattern that he has been used to over the past few years. The worry is starting to go away. Horses never forget what happens to them, but it was surprising to me to see how he picked up these events and related them to experiences that were several years in his past. It is a lesson that I will not forget and something that I will watch for in behaviours in the future. To a horse, nothing means nothing and everything means something.When I look at this picture I see a horse with a lot of worry. His ears and the eyes are asking me what is going to happen to me. I thought we were partners. We have re-established the partnership but I will need to be more careful in the future.