An·thro·po·mor·phiz·ing-Meaning-to attribute or ascribe human form or behavior to (a god, animal, object, etc)
This word is thrown around horses and other animals and hotly debated with purists and horse folk of varying opinions and beliefs. I personally have seen people project their own emotions and feelings on their horses needs, thoughts, feelings, well-being well out of connection with what, in my opinion is actually what is going on with the horse. As a trainer, I have learned to observe horses extremely closely for their communication and feedback about how they feel, what they need, whether they are well or not. I have had to learn to use good ole horse sense which comes from experience, feel, intuition plus basic “baseline” information that most good horseman have. I have learned to be objective as possible and “neutral” meaning I take my own feelings out of the picture so I am not putting them on the horse. Even with that, at the end of the day it is all my own interpretation of what the horse is feeling or thinking. Frankly, I find it quite fun, and amusing to entertain myself and my clients with my comical Anthropomorphizing of what I think horses are thinking or feeling.
We use words like the horse is happy, He’s mad, He loves this or that. And maybe some of it is true or not. I bring this up particularly because a good example of how we Anthropomorphize came up a lot this winter in New England. Some of you who are not living here (be grateful!) may not know that it was one of the coldest and snowiest on record. So a topic that came up was to Blanket(rug) or Stable horses during this incredible cold period that has lasted upwards of two months. Ugh! So I took this opportunity to really observe our horses. We have horses of all ages and breeds here. Healthy and some health challenged. I watched them for signs of distress in the cold and signs of any kind of cold and snow issues. Some of our paddocks have shelters so the horses are free to seek cover when they really want it(observing this alone has taught me A LOT about how much and when horse really want shelter) Our horses of course have full healthy winter coats so they had a good natural protection. Being a subscriber to Self Selection on every level. I allow horses to choose blanketing or not. Horses will communicate very clearly if you keep your Anthropomorphizing out of it. Just because we are cold does not mean our horses are too. Horses take the same posture as us when they are cold. They hunch up, tuck their tails and shiver. Sound familiar? Some people disregard their horses clear signs that they don’t want to be blanketed. Mercury has made it perfectly clear that he doesn’t want blankets. How do I know? He used to promptly remove them and tear them to shreds within minutes if I decided he “needed” a blanket. As if to say “There now you can’t put that back on me!” Just because they tolerate it does not mean they like it. I believe people perceive a horses tolerance of something often as them liking it. I find that horses more often then not “Tolerate” us and our nonsense because they have to not because they want to. I am frequently astounded at what they are willing to tolerate frankly. People even say about a lot of things they do “for” their horses, “It makes me feel better, I do it for me”. If you walk out to the paddock with the blanket and the horse stands still and doesn’t pin his ears, tail, swish, walk away or, generally look annoyed. he may want a blanket. Horses that have been stripped of their natural coats may need and want blankets.
I learned something about horses this winter. They are tougher then I even thought! They seem content and fresh as daisy’s each brutally cold day. I let them tell me if they were not ok with the cold and not one horse, has looked troubled by it. In fact, I was reminded that horses seem far more miserable in hot buggy weather then the bitter cold. Again these are my own observations and opinions and I know my horses and I listen to them. One day it was a record cold morning and I leapt out of bed when I saw the temperature and dashed out the house to see if my horses were indeed frozen solid. They all looked me, munching their hay contented as if to say “What? were fine!”
With this all said, I do believe that when two or more beings of any species live and work closely together all the time, they do manifest some of each others traits. Just as when we are in a close relationship with someone, we start to know what the other is thinking, going to say, or even finish each others sentences. Horses are WAY more observant of us then most of us are of them. They learn our way of being and doing much quicker than we tend to learn their’s. I think about Jane Goodall and how she lived with the Chimpanzees and how she integrated with them by observing there behavior. A True horseman who lives and breathes horses all day everyday becomes as much a part of his horses as his horses becomes part of him. We truly become herd/family members and friends. At Ohana farm, I have an ever changing and growing herd. It is fascinating to me to keep getting these new horses and herds and integrating with them. I have already learned new things about horses and herd dynamics by experimenting with different herds and herd chemistry. I could write volumes on that alone! So ask yourself when you are saying “My horse feels or thinks this or that” “Is this really my horses feeling or is it mine?”
Oats for thought! If you are local and haven’t heard, I am doing an Unmounted Seat Awareness Class at Crop and Carrot Tack shop in Spencer MA. The class is free but there is only 4 spots left for this March 29th event. Sign up here at my Calendar. other Clinics are in the works at Ohana Farm for the spring. If you are interested in hosting a Clinic, Contact Us to find out how and date availability. I would love to hear your comments about Anthropomorphizing!