Sunday, March 24, 2013

Habits

Are Hard To Break

As I fed the Boys this evening, it occurred to me how both I and my horses have regular habits we seem to rely on all the time.

Some are good.

Some are bad.

I know for sure I have a lot of habits when I ride. One of my trainers called me a "control freak" in that I really need to feel I am in charge of what is going on with my horse all the time. I suppose that stems from the "old days" when I showed hunters and often had to warm up in the chaos of a hunter warm up arena. Or, it might be the product of riding a rather motley collection of horses in my youth who could provide the most unexpected reactions at any and all times. I certainly don't like to be too daring any more, so the unexpected reactions of horses I'm riding now does tend to make me a bit defensive.

Tucker is a good case in point. He is very unpredictable uncertain situations and often chooses bucking as a way of expressing his emotions. As such, I don't enjoy taking him out on random hacks in the fields and countryside. Despite his really good month of "boot camp" with Kenny Harlow, he can still get pretty scary out there when something unplanned happens.  And that's one of his bad habits--his buck as an outlet for his physical or emotional discomfort.

Toby can buck too and his attachment to his pasturemates has brought me back to the barn early from a hack more than once. He's a worrier and I have to make sure the other two horses are within his "control range" if I am going to have any success riding him. This was not always true, but now it's his habit and I need to respect it.

Feeding time brings out all out habits clearly. Toby, as herd boss, needs to be fed first. Tucker, as "wannabe boss" chases Chance off to the far corner of the paddock to make sure he has to wait to be fed last.

Lately, all three Boys have tended to be on the west side of the barn at feeding time. That's the side open to Chance's stall. I first put the hay in Toby's and Tucker's stalls on the east side, and then those two come inter the barn through Chance's door, march to their own stalls to chow down, leaving Chance to wait until they are settled in.

Then, since his own stall door is still open to the barn aisle, Toby wanders out, to nibble on the stray hay that's fallen in the aisle and keenly watch me as I dole out the grain into the feed buckets. More often than not, he moves the wooden step away from the feed room door in search of tasty morsels of invisible hay. Good thing I know that habit of his, or I'd be stepping off into empty space as I head in to put the feed in their tubs.

The routine continues with everyone happily munching grain. But then, Toby starts to crib on the side of his stall and if he's too involved, Tucker will leave his own stall and barge into Toby's stall to see if his "elder brother" has left any grain.  Since Toby gets fed three times as much as Tucker, that is often the case.  Fortunately, herd boss Toby usually corrects him pretty quickly unless he is in the total euphoria of his own cribbing.

Now, I could forestall most of this by closing all the outside stall doors each time I feed, but that breaks my own habit of letting the Boys roam free in and out of the barn. And, as another habit that's hard to break, if I do that, then more than likely I will forget to open the doors again when everyone has finished eating.

Tonight, I made the mistake of breaking another habit by opening the gate by the barn in order to move a pile of hay.  Since I had to go in and out several times, I left the gate open while the Boys were in the barn eating.

Good thing I came into the house and headed back out to put some seed in the bird feeder--we are supposed to get a snowstorm--because as I was dumping the seed I suddenly felt a warm muzzle nuzzling my shoulder.

It was Chance who'd, as always, found the gate I'd left open and sauntered out on to the lawn.

Habit. If I make a mistake, Chance will always take advantage of it. He is never one to miss an opportunity.

4 comments:

  1. I know what you mean about habits and changes.

    Sometimes it's important to adhere to routines, and sometimes it's important to do something different - the challenge is knowing when it's right to do what . . .

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  2. Habits are a good thing to keep everything organized I think. Chance sounds like one of my horses (Blue)if there's a gate left open or an opportunity to amuse himself at my expense he'll be the first one to take it. Glad you went out to feed the birds and got nuzzled. Hope the snowstorm isn't too bad. It should melt right away but still annoying.

    I remember those days of warm up rings and can only say I used to dread them. I'd rather go in cold than school with the chaos.

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  3. I do love hearing stories of your equine family. I laughed at Toby's habit of pushing the wooden step away from the grain door. It is a good thing you are used to that. Gotta love Chance's curiosity about gates and his person filling a bird feeder.

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  4. my WORST habit is that I let the water troughs overflow (sometimes for, um... hours... a whole night...) because I multitask and totally forget about it.
    I'm also a riding control freak - when I ask a horse to do something, I expect a horse to just DO it. it's not like I'm asking anything impossible or hard. One horse I finally learned to stop being such a control freak on - kind of ignore some of his annoying habits - and miraculously we get along great now and I really like riding him. that was very hard for me to do though!
    - The Equestrian Vagabond

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