Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The World Through the Eyes of a Fjord

Night after night in the summer the RideAbility horses - especially Dee Dee and Merit, the two fjords - plod around the arena as though there was no doubt in their mind that their job was to take care of the precious cargo on their backs.

Those of you who spend time at horse exercise night have probably seen another side of our equine friends!

So everyone can understand our fjords a little better, here is a little insight into their world.

Take a look at this eye. See how large it is? See how it's on the side of her head? Horses are prey animals. Their eyes are large and on the sides of their heads so they can see everything that's out there, and that's exactly why horses can sometimes be hard for us to understand.

Horses often see all kinds of shadows and movement that we may never know are even present. The fact that our horses don't jump all over the place during class is a testament to their special personalities and the time put in by all of our awesome volunteers. They have come to trust us.

Horses are herd animals. This means they find safety in numbers and are not particularly trusting by nature. We spend a lot of time building trust with our horses, trying to make ourselves part of their "herd" so they can find comfort and safety in people. This is why they don't act on their natural instinct to flee everything that's not "normal."

We're especially grateful for the fjords because they are a breed that comes with a very steady personality. They're not overly sensitive to the things around them. It makes for a very predictable and not very spooky horse (though Dee Dee especially, and particularly when she hasn't been spending a lot of time with people lately, can actually get kinda jumpy), but it can also have it's own complications.

Those of you who know the fjords well know that they are very attached to each other. Personally, I don't think it's a mother-daughter thing. I think it comes from the fact that they have worked as a team so often and perhaps Dee Dee passed on her personality to Merit so that they feed off each other's needy-ness. Thankfully it doesn't show up much during our program year, but this time of year is a different story!

Tonight the girls got a little bit of work - exactly what they need. I wasn't able to ride them, but I tied one up in the paddock and walked the other one around the driveway. Then I switched. Last time we went through this routine they were quite distracted. I realized that was, in part, because I had thrown some hay out for the one left behind. In my human brain, I think, "One can eat for a few minutes and then we'll switch and the other one will get a turn." They don't think that way. They just think, "How come I'm not eating?!" The other reason they might have been better tonight is that every time that they are asked to do something on my terms, not theirs, they realize a little more that I can be trusted to take care of them and they can listen to me.

Next time you see how great RideAbility's horses are, don't forget how much work goes into keeping them that way. These are animals, not machines, and our job is to take the time to teach them how to do their jobs and to trust us. Thank you to all who spend time to do that!

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