The opinions expressed in previous entries may or may not express the current opinion of the author.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Nice George

Today was a lovely day - proto-Spring! Just the weather to take a horse out for an excursion.

I decided Bridget should come out, as she tends to receive short shrift compared to Mr. Squeaky Wheel, who gets oiled more than the others. I put the halter on her without a rope and invited her (a la Spilker) to follow me. She did follow, and then she hesitated. I felt she almost needed the leadrope to give her permission to keep coming, especially given George's proximity. So I clipped on the rope, and we headed to the gate, where George was blocking the way.

Now, coming in is one thing, but exiting is another. Exiting means Someone Else is getting to do what George wants. However, I knew he would let us out eventually and was determined to wait it out. Bridget patiently bided her time in the safe zone behind me, every now and then amusing herself by tugging on my clothing.

It was a long wait, during which George gnawed the gate, pawed the ground, and bit himself. But our patience paid off - he finally walked away, and through we went. I turned around to thank George (who was back looking over the fence) for his kind cooperation. I hope he knew I appreciated it, although I imagine he may have been thinking something along the lines of "Talk is cheap - show me the money!"

Bridget was all kinds of up: the air was filled with noises - on Sunday everyone is home, firing off guns, riding dirt bikes, shouting in the distance.

A little muddy.
She settled down to graze, and after a while I decided today was the day for Bridget and I do a little work or whatever you call it. So I asked her to practice coming to me and allowing us to just stand quietly for a few moments, a technique which has been helpful with George. Her reaction? "What? You're kidding, right? There's grass here!" But I persisted through some dramatic ground-pawing  and incredulous head tossing, as I think we need to establish this zone of quiet attentiveness.

Bridget's return to the field was a faster procedure than her departure. George moved over, a look of disdain on his face, and allowed Bridget to walk in. George stayed put, not bothering Bridget during halter removal. The halter then went on George.

We ran a little, grazed, and engaged in a spot of work too. I was struck by the difference between Bridget's and George's reaction to the let's-just-stand-here-quietly exercise. Whereas Bridget had thought it a novel and bad idea, George seemed to have the attitude: "Yes, dear, I remember your little game, we can play it if you like."

After he'd had a good spell of grazing, I took him over to the grass-free driveway and practiced some other stuff. It's my belief that a lot of "bad use" in horses pops up the very moment they take the first step from standing. They shorten their necks, stiffen their back, and leave their hind legs trailing behind. They even do this when they're out in the pasture. When riding (what? when?), I used to practice stopping and then starting again with a loose neck and back - it's a good exercise, and a walk picked up in this manner is a better walk.*

Practicing this in-hand involved asking George to relax his head and neck before walking forward, while turning his head slightly toward me and releasing his shoulder away. Now, in the past George has been very picky about suggestions regarding his shoulder. Today, though, I had a whole new feel from him, and for the first time, I had the impression we were on the same page. He didn't seem threatened and didn't look crabby. He projected an air of recognition and understanding - although not unmixed with a little impatience!

Later there was a commotion - the dogs barking at a man walking along the far edge of our property. George decided he needed to return to his pasture in order to get closer to the scene of action and check it out. I let him go and he ran half way over to the far side of the field, looking vigilantly into the distance. Brave defender.

Ready for supper.

*Try setting off into a walk from a standstill. Then stop and drop loosely forward from your waist, your neck, head and arms drooping down. Thusly posed, start walking again. You'll feel a whole different sensation in your legs - much more engagement, and greater lengthening down the back of the leg.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Missed Opportunity?

For the last many months, I've been trying to give the horses more credit. But sometimes I wonder if I'm still not giving them nearly enough.

I've been pondering an incident which happened a couple of days ago. Really, it doesn't merit the status of "incident" - it was the briefest of interactions between George and me.

If George is standing with his head by the fence and I want to walk along the fence line in front of him, I'll stop beside him, indicate that I want to pass, and then wait. He always steps back, with more or less good grace depending on the mood he's in.

The other day, it was me who was standing by the fence and George who wanted to get past. He came up - didn't exactly stop and ask - but neither did he push past. He made it clear that he was planning to get by me.

I didn't tell him no or shoo him away. However, I didn't move - and there wasn't room for him to pass. So he executed the horsey equivalent of a teenage eye roll, and went around behind me instead.

I must confess that in my mind some unformed atavistic thought was brewing - along the lines of: "Mustn't let the horse push me around." But - ahem - excuse me - can't we have a little give-and-take here? If he moves for me, why shouldn't I move for him? Why shouldn't we aspire to an egalitarian relationship characterized by mutuality and cordiality? I don't know from herd dynamics, and frankly I don't care if such relationships don't exist in the horse world - I want to have a relationship where the fact that I give way to you freely today in no way suggests that tomorrow I can be forced to give way. If horses don't know about that kind of arrangement, well they're smart enough - and moral enough - to desire it anyway. Hopefully so am I.

It may be a dog-eat-dog world, but in the Kingdom we're preaching, the lion eats straw like the ox, (poor ox, don't we have anything better to give him for supper?), the baby plays with the viper, and the George can be given an inch (or a few yards), and be trusted to not take a mile.

When George wanted to get past, I could have connected my attention to his, paused, and then invited him to pass in front of me. Why didn't I? Not surprising, as Jen-ska said in her comment to my last post, that he is still wondering about me.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

George Deals with his Frustration

I was up giving water to the horses today, and George was standing with his head over the fence. I stood on the other side of the fence next to him. I really wanted to give him a big hug, but with George it's best to hang back a little. He was wearing his put-upon face - not the same as his cranky face, more like he's inwardly shaking his head and sighing. We stood. Finally he reached over and nuzzled my hair a couple of times, before resuming his martyred expression.

Ok, George, I get it. I come back with the halter, George waiting for me at the fence.

Yes, we had 5" of snow on Monday night.
We exited the field, and all that snow meant there wasn't much to be found in the way of  food. George set off ahead of me to see what was out there.

He found one or two interesting items to explore.

This is more like it.
He scraped off some snow to uncover the grass, but only once. I had to stop him from eating the box hedge. (Is box poisonous?)

Then I decided it was time to practice some maneuvers. George and I seem to be progressing in an odd direction these days. Part of it is that he's allowed to express his frustration. Which takes the form of grabbing bits of me or my clothing with his mouth. This is not biting. If it starts to feel like biting, I get crabby. He understands this. 

So - for example - we're standing there, and I'm saying: "George, just chill for a moment, relax your neck, and then take a step forward. It's good for you." And he wants to go off and do his own thing maybe. Or maybe he doesn't like the feeling of being controlled. So he gets hold of my sleeve and holds it. I don't get mad. Maybe I wait a little and ask again, or maybe I rub his ears really hard and tell him he's a silly billy. Or maybe I snort and shake my head, because that's what he does sometimes when he just feels that pent-up frustration but doesn't want to do anything rude.

All this feels in some ways like we're moving backwards. I can't help thinking back to our round pen days, when George would move forward, and turn and stop and speed up and slow down, all on command. But in those days, he was much more of a cipher to me. Occasionally I would see little flashes of resentment, like tips of an iceberg, without really knowing what was under the surface.

Now when he is frustrated or resentful, it's out in the open, laid out on the table and part of the negotiations. I know many people would be horrified at the way I let him use his mouth and would say that I'm opening the door for him to press the advantage and become more and more aggressive. But he's already bitten me, and when he did, it was not the culmination of a process of ever greater liberty-taking - it was more or less out of the blue.

I would rather be with him in the moment, and have him present his feelings to me- I'm having a hard time with this. And then I can respond - It's ok, we can work this out together.

I do have doubts. I think that when you allow humans to continually express frustration, sometimes it can breed more frustration and lead to an inability to focus. On the other hand, supporting a fellow human through the frustration block does not necessitate becoming punitive. Sometimes you may say, "Come on, just get on with it." But that is a different thing from saying, "Shut up, you bad person" - which is what hitting a horse amounts to.

I always used to say it takes two years to get to know a horse. Although I first met George more than two years ago, I've only really known him for a year and a half. We have a ways to go yet, and I'm sure the situation is further complicated by baggage from the past - both his and mine. If I had to characterize the difference between our old way of working and the new, I'd say that before I was working outside George's bubble. In some ways it was a safe place to be for both of us. Neither of us really had to deal with the other - it was all remote control. Nowadays, I'm inside the bubble with George. It was he who let me in initially. When I'm in that close, I have to allow him to wriggle and fuss and complain - anything else would be like having him in a stranglehold.

My thoughts and words on this subject are abstract. I can only describe what I think is going on in impressionistic brush strokes. The way forward is not clear (although I have ideas), but despite our ostentatious lack of achievement (what? no riding? no lunging? no "training"?), I feel ok about where we are.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tricks for Chloe

A recent comment on an old post got me thinking that maybe Chloe should come out and have some activities rather than just graze the lawn.  Perhaps the Chloe Rule - Chloe Never Has To Do Anything She Doesn't Want - doesn't have to mean that Chloe never actually does anything.

So I went into the field with the halter to fetch her out. She saw the halter and wouldn't let me catch her until she was good and sure that George was not going to come and play the boogie man while she was helplessly caught on the end of a rope. After I'd managed to convey to George three or four times in a row that this was not his turn, Chloe must have been finally convinced, and she stood and waited for me to come up and put the halter on - her assessment of the situation is always superior to mine.

Then we had to get out of the gate. Chloe hid behind me while George stood nearby making evil big brother faces at her. I didn't chase him but stood and talked to him for a little while, feeding him a few treats and asking him to back away. Finally mollified, he walked away, and Chloe and I were able to exit the gate without drama.

We ran around together a little bit. Then I lead her over to an upturned bucket. First we shook hands, and then I asked her to put her foot up on the bucket. She immediately struck the bucket with one foreleg, and on being asked again, struck it with the other one. About five years ago, I briefly taught her to put her foreleg up onto things - did she remember that, or perhaps she just understood what I was asking ... ?

Then we ran over to the brick ledge of an old outdoor firepit. She stopped dead a few feet away and refused to budge. I cajoled and coaxed to no avail. When I sat down on the ledge and said "It's ok, you can stay there," she stepped forward. Again I asked her to put her foot on the ledge. She reached out and pawed it. But I wanted her to leave her foot there, so I put my own foot up and waited. She looked, thought for a moment, and then lifted one foreleg, placed her foot on the ledge beside mine and left it there. But not long enough for me to get a photo!

We did the spinning trick, went for a very short walk, and then I took off the leadrope and let her get on with the important business of lawn grazing.

There then followed the action-packed interlude recounted in the previous post.

Chloe was the last one back into the pasture, and of course George was guarding the gate as usual.

I stood in the open gate, Chloe watching and waiting for the right moment to enter.

Eyes on George
George stood by the gate opening next to me, and no way was Chloe going to walk past him.

Again, I had a conversation with him, although this time I had no treats left to give. He knows I need him out the way to let Chloe in, and before long he switched to the other side of the opening, positioning himself behind the gate so that there was a barrier between him and Chloe as she entered. She walked right in, and George didn't follow us when I took Chloe's halter off.

Today, I took a leaf out of Spilker's book and doled out treats as encouragement rather than just as rewards. I gave Chloe treats when she refused to move, or when she looked confused, as well as when she did a trick. And I handed them out to George not only when he backed up as requested, but also before asking him.  Hooray for warmer weather and getting out and doing things!

I know. I'm such a great guy.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Chloe to the Rescue (sort of)

Note to self: If Rose is often indisposed toward being caught in the field, why would you think she'd like the idea better when she's loose on the lawn and her buddies are running around on the wrong side of the fence from her?

Today I moved the horses to a drier pasture (now that we've got some serious thawage). George was taken first, Chloe was already loose on the lawn, and then I decided to lead Bridget with Rose following. Except that Rose didn't. She was fine on the lawn with Chloe, thanks.

But then they all got to running around, and Rose thought she'd explore the fence line along the south side of the new field, and the horses inside the field hared off to the east side, which caused Rose to take off, and before you know it, Rose - with Chloe in hot pursuit - is on the north side of the pasture, heading toward the road. Oh gee.

Then I realized Chloe was actually taking care of Rose. She made an effort to overtake her and headed her off half-way down the field toward the road. I called, and Chloe came over to the far fence line of the intervening empty pasture, and looked at me, like "So now what do I do?" I scurried over, panting. But by the time I arrived, both Chloe and Rose had realized they were in what was left of an alfalfa crop and really didn't care too much about either me or the other horses.

A phone call to the house summoning my daughter for aid. In the meantime Chloe and Rose moved back to the east side of George and Bridget's pasture.

By this time, they were quite tired and getting blase about the whole experience. I got Chloe and lead her over to Rose who let me scratch her and then let me get the halter on. And off we went back to the gate to let her in. Meanwhile my daughter arrived to make sure Chloe made it back too. (Of course she did.)

On the way back, I practiced, "No, you're with me" with Rose. Which involves getting her to, well, be with me, instead of worrying about where all the other horses are.

Rose will henceforth not be escorting herself from Pasture A to Pasture B.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

First Sign of Shedding!

If Chloe is shedding, can spring be far behind?

Um, George ...

I looked out to see George up close to Rose,  reaching his head under her and nipping at her at legs. Next thing you know, he's mounted her. This happened a couple of times.

Well I do declare.

Here is Chloe with her best "Excuse me, I know you've got hay in the back of that car, how about throwing some of it over here" look. She followed when I drove my daughter down the drive to the bus this morning.

And I can never resist a lying-down shot.

Is it just me, or does he look extra smug?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What a Difference a Day Makes

The temperature soared to 49F, the sun was shining, and only the lightest of breezes wafted across the field. The horses and I were in a mellow, mellow mood.

I brought out the grooming box, which Bridget wasted no time in emptying.

Bridget is always gregarious, no matter the weather, but the other three's desire to socialize definitely rises with the temperature. George was back to his old self and planted himself next to me, indicating that it would be acceptable for me to brush him. Bridget kept sneaking up, and at one point - marvellous to relate - she reached out and just barely touched George's hindquarters with her nose.

Most of the time, Bridget and George took turns for attention, although Rose did come up at one point while I was talking to Bridget. She intimated that Bridget should please buzz off, but Bridget, of course, ignored the suggestion. Chloe was looking particularly placid and smiley. When I walked over to her and stood a couple of feet away, she sidled up to me so I could scratch her.

George has taken possession of the shelter (finally - now that the worst of the weather is over!) and I did observe Rose venture in once during George's absence. The shelter is very deep, but you can see that the entrance is much too narrow for horses who have to share quarters with a Troll.

Chez George.

Chloe considers her chances.
Chloe wanted to go join George in the shelter but didn't quite dare. When he came out, however, he went up to her and touched her gently with his nose. He and the mares are definitely making progress - I saw him and Rose stand briefly nose-to-tail/tail-to-nose.

Moving on from their little encounter.
George is still very self-protective - especially about his right side. He wanted to be groomed on his left side, but did not offer the right. I experienced something which I had not noticed before - while standing on his right side, I reached out to touch his back and immediately felt the skin tighten and become hard. I left my hand there and tried to relax and think soothing thoughts. He did loosen up, but it is striking that something seemingly so harmless could evoke such a strong reaction from him. My friend has an Arab gelding whom she says hated to be touched for the longest time - he would just tighten up all over. She wore him down, and now he gets ecstatic when you scratch him.

George also (I think) tried to groom me. I encouraged him by sticking out my arm and telling him to scratch it. If he chomped too hard, I tried to under-react - just enough to let him know he has to pull his punches when grooming a human.

Bridget and I played with the tire. I rolled it for her a couple of times.

She and Rose followed after the tire. I climbed on top of it, holding onto Bridget's neck for balance, while she chewed and pawed it.

Then she worked on undoing my shoelaces.
Rose's abscess opening is growing down her foot. Here are a couple of photos showing its progress down the hoof since December. It looks like there's been about an inch of hoof growth in the last six weeks or so.

December 30, two weeks after it
erupted at the coronet band.

We had a nice time, and nobody once mentioned food. Even the occasional unruly truck roaring past couldn't ruffle the genial tranquillity of the afternoon.

Something's going on in the distance -
but George doesn't care.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Not Much to Report

Today, I officially declare, is the Last Very Cold Day of Winter. So - Yay!

Here are the mares taking a nap while George stands guard.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Speaking of Rapprochement ...

Look who was eating out of the same hay pile this morning -

An interesting little drama unfolded as I watched through the window, eating my breakfast. Every time George raised his head and then lowered it again, Rose turned her head and neck away before cautiously resuming her munching. From time to time, also, George stretched his nose out toward Rose, his ears flattening a little, whereupon Rose instantly responded by turning her head away (but leaving her feet planted). When George softened again, Rose once more relaxed into her eating. I think the distance between them here is the minimum presently allowed under George Law.

Rose got up to get a drink of water. She chose not to return to George's hay but instead joined Chloe at another pile.

Then the next tag-team member had a try. Bridget crept over toward George as far as she was able.

Seen through the window screen.
But George was looking at her, and she dared advance no further. The mares seem to be testing how far they can go with George. If they proceed too quickly, they risk entering the Danger Zone and inducing immediate reprisal. So they creep cautiously up to the edge and gently prod the perimeter, eliciting only mild reactions, which can be instantly appeased by an ever-so-slight retreat. If nothing happens, they can inch forward a little more.

It seems to me that the mares' behavior is similar to Bridget's dominant behavior toward Rose - a kind of determined pressure. The difference is that they fear George a lot, while Bridget fears Rose only a very little.

Rose's "rudeness" toward Bridget (and occasionally toward me) seems similar to George's reaction when the mares have gone too far - a defensive petulance, characteristic more of weakness than of high-ranking bravado.

Which jibes with my belief that a lot of George's behavior is not dominance related but the result of fear and self-protectiveness.

Which brings me back to a thought I had the other day - namely that I think everyone would be happier if Bridget took over. I think she's got a fair bit of growing to do still, both physically and mentally. Therefore, I have hope for the future. Go for it, Bridget!

Breaking news - reporting from the upstairs bathroom window:
Bridget has insinuated herself into George's hay pile, after one or two mini-retreats (involving head/neck movement but no foot movement), and Chloe is advancing also!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Some Are Watching the Superbowl. I am Writing This Instead.

When it comes to deciphering dominance, George is not a very good example to follow. George gets what he wants, but getting your own way is not the be-all and end-all of dominance/leadership.

Dominant horses often enjoy very cordial relationships with others in the herd - sharing space, grooming, or playing. Sometimes they'll even allow another horse to share their food.

Between George and the mares, however, although a rapprochement is in progress, relations are little more tense. Dear George is, I feel, slightly dysfunctional, socially speaking. He doesn't really know how to play with the other children. He gets along very well with more dominant horses, but he has not figured out how to be dominant himself without becoming crabby. Noblesse oblige is a concept George has yet to fully take on board.

So I look to Bridget to explain things to me.

Bridget is clearly more dominant than Rose. If Bridget wants what Rose has, Bridget will get it. However, the two of them are friends and are able to eat together and be comfortable in each other's company.

What I can learn from Bridget is how a more dominant horse reacts when a less dominant one is "rude."

How does Bridget react? She doesn't.

If Bridget walks over to take Rose's food, Rose will give her the evil eye and snake out her head - even open her mouth and swipe. Does Bridget get mad? Not a bit of it. She just calmly proceeds with her coup de food. If Rose seems to be raising more objections than usual, Bridget produces the trump card - she turns around and backs up toward Rose, adding a ladylike kick if necessary - but the turning/backing usually does the trick. And no rancor or excitement accompanies the maneuver.

Bridget isn't always intent on taking something away from Rose - often she's simply saying, "Ok, I'm going to eat/stand here too, so move over!"

If Rose reaches out to nip at Bridget, Bridget sometimes flinches backwards, but she is not intimidated or deterred. Neither will she be moved to reprisal. It's enough that she knows she can win - she doesn't need to punish or scold in the process. And if all Rose wants is for Bridget to just stay out of her space, then -  no big deal - Bridget will shrug her shoulders and give in.

I have given up trying to be "dominant." However, I still sometimes need to be "in charge." Maybe it's a fine line linguistically, but to me there's a difference. I guess it helps to think of it in terms of children. When my children were little, I never thought it would be appropriate to "dominate" them. But there were (are!) many times when it was necessary to be in charge.

Bridget's example could be helpful for those times when I have to be in charge. I don't need to be superhumanly unflappable - Bridget flinches or startles when Rose produces one of her patented stink-eye swipes. Nor do I have to be punitive or defensive. I just have to choose - do I really want this? Or is it not a big deal? If I really want it, I can just politely insist, and if it's not a big deal, then I can let it go.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Helping Chloe

Until it thaws a bit and I can go out on manure clean-up patrol, I'm running out of places to put hay down. Today I served the hay on a virgin stretch of snow along the fence, cut off from the rest of the field by a strip of frozen run-off water.

The three horses crossed cautiously, finding that their weight broke the ice and gave them a foothold. Not so Chloe. Her dainty figure wasn't hefty enough to fracture the glassy surface. She walked back and forth, looking for a way over, but gave up.

I called her over to the fence, thinking she could make her way across at that spot, as there was a line of crusty snow running along the fence which looked as if it might provide better footing.

Chloe pawed a little, but declined to cross. Ok, Chloe, I'm coming in.

She stayed put, and I climbed over the gate to join her where she was standing. I stamped on the ice and managed to smash a few footholds (in my new shoes, mind you). But Chloe chose that moment to follow the path I'd originally recommended - picking her way along the line of snow at the base of the fence.

Not there yet. The George Troll is standing between Chloe and the free pile of hay.

Not enough room to safely pass between George and the fence. And the frozen river is to his right. Chloe went over to inspect the ice to see if maybe she could circumnavigate on that side. Nope. So she parked herself where she was and let it be known how convenient it would be for some hay to be served up in that very spot.

Right here will do nicely, thank you.
Yes ma'am, right away. I fetched her a couple of flakes and left them to it.

It occurs to me that there are those who might find such descriptions about as thrilling as listening to an account of paint drying. Silly people.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

George and Rose are Slightly Unhinged

I was out in the field, playing with Bridget, when along comes Rose, sidling into position close to us so that she can be part of the company.

When I reached out to touch her, she gave me a cranky look and swiped at me. I was startled and swiped back, whereupon she walked away. Oops, sorry, Rose. I walked over and stood by her. She drooped her lashes and said, "Well, I'm sorry I guess, but I'm just feeling funny."

As I was playing with Bridget again, Rose stepped right into my bubble and drooped her head and said, "I'm just going to stand here ok, but you don't have to touch me."

George came over. He was in one of those loony moods where he bites himself.

Reaching round to bite his own leg.
He came to stand by me and proceeded to try and use me instead of his leg. To be fair, he was much gentler with me than he had been with himself, but when he grabbed my sleeve and wouldn't let go, I said Enough's enough, and walked away.

Soon the cause for all this angst became apparent. Rose is in season, and George is beside himself because she is not In The Mood thank you very much.

Look at Rose's cross face 
Rose walks away.
Why doesn't she love me?
Bridget was in a very mouthy mood too. She was intent on chewing my clothing and would probably have chewed my fingers and face too if I let her. Not hard, mind - but still.

We wandered down into the trees, where I found a stick to offer her. She held it for a moment. I picked up a big stick and started banging the snow, which made a satisfying noise as the stick broke through the thin layer of ice on top. Pretty soon, Bridget grabbed a stick of her own and, I think, tried to do the same thing.

I went to get out a new toy which I'd discovered lying around in the barn.

Rose and Bridget figured out how to move it around with their forelegs.

While they were thus engaged, George came over and stood by me for some sympathy.

He was quiet for a while. Suddenly he could contain himself no longer, reached over, yanked my hat off my head and grabbed my sleeve.

A little snack always cheers everyone up. I got out a bale of hay, and pretty soon they were all munching harmoniously.

When George wants something, he usually just demands it. For instance, when he wanted to look at the tire today, he marched over and drove off Bridget and Rose in his usual peremptory fashion. But when the thing he wants is attention from a pretty lady, he can't force it, and he becomes all bashful and pathetic.

She knows he's there; he knows she knows; she knows
he knows she knows. She's not having it.
Today I had cause to reflect on how different an approach I now have toward the horses. Two years ago I would not have permitted myself to be chewed on in the manner I often am now. Two years ago, if Rose had swiped at me, I would have chased her - today I apologized for reacting. George is a formerly/potentially aggressive horse, who has badly bitten me; yet I indulged his desire to use me as teething ring, and confined my reaction to simply walking away when I felt he was carrying things a little far. And Bridget is allowed untold liberties with my person.

There's another side to the coin, however - I'm not the only one who is making allowances and being considerate. The horses modify their behavior for my sake too. As I said before, when George was gnawing on me,  the way he was he was chewing was distinctly milder than the bites he had administered to himself. Rose swiped at me, sure, but she swipes at Bridget too, and Bridget is the dominant one. It's a defensive, pouty move - not at all aggressive. Bridget is quite cautious in the way she uses her mouth in her investigations. All the horses seem aware of the difference between clothing and flesh and appear to know that they can be rougher with my jacket collar than with my ear, for example. This is not to say that I shouldn't be vigilant, but their mouths are a bit like our hands, and I feel that it's oppressive to deny them the ability to investigate with their mouths.

And it may sound funny, but I was sort of glad Rose and George came out of their shells in this way today. Rose was emboldened to "talk back," which was fine. And George, who is often so very buttoned down, was all pestery and annoying, which actually I was glad to see. Hormones. The equine recreational drug of choice.

And where was Chloe in all this? Keeping her dignity and her distance, and waiting until I came to my senses and served up some food.