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

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.


  1. Another amazing photo-post. I just love these, you're so good at capturing them and how you see them. Made my blizzardy night.

  2. Thanks!

    Do you have a blizzard there? We had freezing rain last night and it's threatening again tonight. Hoping for another snow day!

  3. Wonderful photos again, thanks!

    Their mouth is their only choice when inspecting things closely, I agree. I notice you have those velcro things on your sleeves, Olga is always opening them in all my jackets. Actually just yesterday my friend thought she didn't have them until Olga showed she did :D

    I always trust my own feel when I am "mouth-inspected". I try to walk away when I feel worried or when I get a feeling I should have more space around me, a kind of a defensive feeling.

    I say I try, because I am still learning that, when I let things go too far and I am late in the situation I still easily start to shoo the horse away and that annoys most of them a lot. (Old dominance-schnominance habits :D)

  4. Nice photos! I have to say I would not have the nerve to allow Ben mouth me like that - I would be too scared of chunks disappearing....

  5. I know what you mean, Jen-ska. Yesterday, when Rose swiped at me, I instantly over-reacted. I should take a leaf out of Bridget's book - she just looks at Rose, like, "What's the matter with you?"

    I must say, Maire, that with George I do somewhat share your fear of chunks going missing. He doesn't normally mouth me, and he was a bit more enthusiastic than was comfortable! But as I said in the post, I was glad he was being a bit more outgoing and expressive. Tricky to balance bringing the little dear out of his shell with protecting body parts!

  6. I guess (thinking aloud here) that when George is using his mouth to snatch at things out of frustration, that's not a good time to stick around. On the other hand, he doesn't groom either me or the other horses and is very reticent. I suppose it's not a bad thing if he learns that the world won't come to an end if he uses his mouth politely (ish).

  7. June,
    You capture their personalities so well! The more I read about George, the more I am falling in love with him. I tend to be drawn to the slightly obnoxious/annoying ones :)

    During Griffin's early years with me, he would often grab the edge of my shirt with his teeth and just hold onto it. We'd be walking somewhere together and he would just reach out and do it. The first time he did it, it suprised me quite a bit -- but I didn't react and I'm not quite sure why.....I think becuase he was so gentle in the way he did it.
    I continue to let him do it when he feels the need, but he doesn't do it as much as he used to. I think it was his way of letting me help him cope with stressful situations (which seemed to be the times he would grab me).
    Over the years, I have had other people comment that I shouldn't let him do it (because of course, they think he will soon start biting me)...I always tell him that if he wanted to reach out and bite me, he could....but this isn't a bite, or even a threat to bite in my eyes. I also tell them if they find it uncomfortable that's fine -- because they don't have to interact with or lead him. :-P

  8. That's interesting that Griffin also responds to frustration in that way. Does he ever bite himself?

  9. I have never seen him bite himself other than when he is scatching something.
    One other thing he DOES do though -- is when he is frustrated...often when I used to groom him in cross-ties in spots he did not like -- he would quietly chomp his teeth together, making little noises.
    At first I thought it was cute, but when I realized he was doing it out of frustration at something it wasn't so cute anymore.
    Just one more thing I look back on and feel bad because I didn't always listen to him. :(

  10. Olga uses her teeth on me when she feels anxiety or frustration because I am talking to someone else and she feels left alone. Also Skuggi does that when I don't pay attention to him.

    It is quite rude to go to someones private space and then forget where I am and what I was supposed to do and just talk with humans. Shame on me. Good lesson again, thank you June & Carol!