From The Horse's Mouth
Hay, kids! This is Ole Buck. Well… I wasn't always called Ole Buck. When I was a youngster they called me Bucky. As I grew up, I became just Buck, and now that I'm gaining in years, why… everyone just calls me good Ole Buck. You can call me that too.
Now, I want to share with you kids a few things I've learned over the years about how you humans and us horses can get along a whole lot better than usual. You see, it seems to me there is an awful lot of confusion out there about horses. I have heard some awful adjectives used by humans when talking about us like stupid, ignorant, stubborn, dumber than door nails, ornery and a whole lot more. Well to be honest with you, most of the name-calling is done simply because you humans don't really know what makes us horses tick. We don't think like y'all do, but you seem to think we do or should. Kids do seem to have a more natural ability to see us for what we are, but something happens when y'all grow up, and that all changes. So, I thought if I could give you a few tips while you're young, maybe it would stick with you when you're all grown up.
I'll give it to you straight. Our first and foremost thought at all times is self-preservation! Yep, we are looking out for old number one, and making sure we are going to survive whatever is going on. Now, if y'all would think on that when you are asking us to do things for you, you might have a bit more success. We horses size up a situation pretty fast and decide if it is dangerous to us or not, and then we react accordingly - just as fast.
Let me see if I can paint a picture for you. Some years ago, a young girl at a summer camp was riding me. We were in a big arena with several other kids and horses. I was really trying my best to pay attention and do what was asked but my rider was really nervous about something. That made me think there was something to be nervous about too. That's the way it works you know. You get nervous, we get nervous. It is contagious. Anyway, we were trotting around the arena nice and slow. I had checked things out pretty well and was fairly sure everything was safe, but I was still on my guard. Then, when we came around to the gate area again, I spotted it! Outside the arena, crouching on the ground…. a mountain lion! Needless to say, I scooted sideways real fast to get away from it. My rider shrieked, tightened up, grabbed the reins real tight, and burst into tears. She must have been really scared of that ole lion too! Then she started calling me names! Well, it wasn't my fault that lion was crouching there on the ground scaring both of us. I didn't know why she called ME those names.
My only salvation in this situation was another human, who happened to be the instructor. She evaluated the situation, quickly realizing it was the mountain lion crouching there on the ground, that wasn't there before, that was causing my problem. She talked real soft to me and stroked my neck as she calmed my frightened rider down. Then she did what I thought was unthinkable! She started leading me toward the mountain lion. No kidding! Now, I wasn't too sure about this, but she wasn't in the least bit afraid or nervous. That helped me be less afraid. She was real nice to me, so I very cautiously took a few steps toward IT. Funny thing was, IT wasn't moving! We continued forward, ever so slowly. Remember now, I was in self-preservation mode, and if that thing so much as twitched, I was getting out of there! Gradually, we got right next to it… and it still hadn't moved! By now my fear had diminished, the thing hadn't moved, and it didn't smell like a mountain lion, so my natural curiosity took over. That is usually what happens once we get over being scared. So I slowly lowered my head and took a sniff. That's when it hit me. It really wasn't a mountain lion! It was a light colored bareback pad someone had set on the ground outside the gate. Boy did I feel silly! Relieved, but silly. I looked around to see if anyone else had noticed. None of the horses seemed concerned and the humans, by now, were chuckling quietly. I have to admit, I was grateful for that instructor that day because she helped everyone there understand just what had happened and why. I couldn't have said it better myself.
So, the moral of the story is, ALWAYS LOOK AT THINGS FROM THE HORSE'S POINT OF VIEW. And remember, we are most concerned about self-preservation. We don't want to hurt you or make you angry. When we do something you see as wrong, we are actually just trying to survive or figure out what it is you want us to do.
Next time, we can talk more about the prey animal and predator situation that affects our thinking, but for now, that's it… from the horse's mouth!