Friday, June 20, 2008

Jealous Mama

I admit that I tend to believe that my horses have the same understanding and emotions that human beings have. Interacting with them every day, I am very aware of the nuances of their behavior. Yesterday, I was in a hurry to put Silk into the pasture, so I didn’t take the extra minute to fuss over her the way I usually do. Siete needed my attention, and I was concentrating on her rather than her mother. If a horse could go off in a huff, Silk certainly did. When I realized that she was jealous, I tried to coax her over to me and make amends. She wanted no part of it and jogged off to the opposite end of the pasture to stand still as a statue with her back towards me.

I’m always intrigued by how jealous my animals can be. My dog and one of my cats compete constantly for my attention. Just like people, some animals are more needy. Siete isn’t as sensitive as Silk. She’s a very affectionate, almost cuddly little horse. She welcomes every person who comes to see her with equal enthusiasm. Her mother really only wants to be with me or other horses. Silk shows her displeasure if I’m gone for a day and someone else feeds her and cares for her. I get the cold shoulder when I come home. If I vary the routine and forget to do something that she likes, she withdraws her affection. Even though she can’t speak, she’s amazingly expressive and more fine-tuned than Siete.

As much as Silk clearly shows her discontent, she also lets me know her gratitude. The cost of horse bedding is getting so high that I’m not putting new shavings in the stalls as often as I used to, trying to go an extra day between dumping in a bag. Wednesday night, there were some thunderstorms rolling in. I always wonder what the horses do in the barn during lightning and thunder. I imagine they stand on either side of the inside wall since there’s a window between the two stalls so they can touch noses. I know that they are both happier when they have fluffy shavings to rest on when they lie down. So, even though it was not in my new thrifty schedule, I spread some pine shavings just before the storms started. Silk made some “Nmmm, nmmm, nmmm…”noises and rubbed her head up and down on my arm to thank me.

I ask myself, if I were Silk, what would I prefer? It usually leads me to the answer that makes both of us happy. If I go on automatic pilot, not noticing what her behavior is telling me, I end up with an irritable, stand-offish horse. Taking that extra minute or two to be aware of what’s going on in Silk’s world is the easiest way to reconfirm to my horse that I care about her and she can trust me.


Mrs Mom said...

I have to agree- they ARE intune with us, and can (and often DO) show how they are feeling. Silk sounds like quite the Lady, and very expressive!

Grey Horse Matters said...

I can relate to jealousy in animals. My two dogs are constantly vying for my attention. When Erik was around he was terribly jealous of Dusty. I could do anything with the other horses but he absolutely despised her. If I petted or groomed her he would neigh and carry on shaking his head, he simply didn't like it. I find the mares are much more expressive though on the whole about showing their feelings. We once had a mare that had her feelings hurt and wouldn't talk to us or look at us (she would actually turn her back end toward us) for three days.Dusty is the same way, she can be quite a sulker when she doesn't get enough attention or think she has been wronged in some way.(Which is most of the time).

LJB said...

Your horses have you so well trained! *g*

I learned to set limits even if it disturbed my horses. Picture a good sized gelding letting me know with his body posture and his emotional need/insistence that his butt needs to be scratched... NOW! LOL

I have found with him, during the non-buggy season when he comes wanting to do something with me not merely have his unreachable parts reached, that as little as haltering him and asking him to back up 5 steps or walk with me to the fenceline and back satisfies his need to connect via doing something.

I used to get a little upset -- guilt feelings probably -- when he wanted and I didn't think I had the time. It takes so little to please him, it's easy to help him feel wanted or important or connected, whatever horsey feelings he has. I can tell, whether I can describe them accurately or not, when he's more settled in himself, and that I welcome.

Victoria Cummings said...

Arlene - I always wonder how Dusty and Silk would get along. I have a feeling they'd be good friends.

LJB - They do have me well-trained to be more aware and consider their needs more than I used to. I set firm limits too, and neither of the girls ever tries to push me around. That's probably why Silk chooses to withdraw her affection if she's mad at me. Depending on what she wants, I either pay attention or let it go and laugh about it.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I wonder how Dusty and Silk would get along too. Dusty can be very rude sometimes to her pasture mates(not to Mellon,she wouldn't dare)so I would worry about Silk and her together. Silk is such a sweetheart and a lady and so kind and pleasant to be around. Dusty is a rough and tumble tom boy, from hanging with the boys but I'm sure she would be fine after the initial meeting and challenge to see who was to be boss mare. I'd love to take them both out for a trail ride someday though.I'm sure she would be well behaved then as it is her favorite thing to do and in her mind, it's always all about her and what she wants to do.Maybe someday we will get them together.

Victoria Cummings said...

I agree - a trail ride would be great -Silk has always gotten along with the difficult girls. Her best friend in Virginia was a very alpha mare and it calmed the whole herd dynamic. Silk doesn't tolerate being pushed around, but she also has a "passive leader" attitude so she never picks fights. She is very much a lady.

The Kittens' Mother said...

I too can relate to human behaviour in animals. I have just written my blog and I commented about how my youngest cat, Rani, acts. She is two years old now and she went from acting like a baby, to a teenager, showing jealousy, emotions of all kinds and I find it fascinating just sitting back and watching animals. I did this with the queens and their litters when I used to foster cats and I learnt a lot from just watching them.

Both Silk and Siete obviously love and respect you very much! They are as much intune with you as you are with them. You have a great relationship with them.
Hugs from Meg and cats xxx

Pony Girl said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one that feels this way! ;) I think I'm crazy for assuming My Boy has some human emotions, but I am pretty convinced he does, even if it's in a horsey language of his own. I think they feed off of our emotions, too. He's a little like Silk I think- wants me or other horses only. Although he is getting alot more social in general, esp. with my sister and her boyfriend.

djbrown said...

It always comes down to the simplicity of every small moment, doesn't it...?