Sunday, 18 September 2011

Boring, Boring, Boring

I like to live harmoniously with animals whether wild or domesticated and over the years I have found it essential to stay calm when handling or training them as they pick up on stress, tension, fear and irritation sooo fast causing them to become over-anxious and hard to manage.

Unfortunately not everyone sees it like that and I have seen people who, having themselves created this reaction in animals, to see it as deliberate disobedience whereupon they have become angry and aggressive with the animal. It is then a viscous circle until the animal ends up being labeled unmanageable and is often destroyed. Very sad and unnecessary and makes me VERY annoyed.

One of the biggest ways animals can pick up on emotions is by the way we breathe...when we are tense we take shorter breaths. I used to find it very hard to slow my breathing down and relax until, at a Kelly Marks (Intelligent Horsemanship) demonstration she mentioned a pupil of hers with the same problem who overcame it by saying to herself, on one long outward breath, "Boring..boring..boring." It works brilliantly every time and I've used it lots of other situations too like dealing with difficult people who are stressing me:) Try it.

In general I don't like to tame wild animals as I feel they are safer keeping away from humans, however, I make the exception for the pheasants that visit the garden as by feeding them they stay over my side of the valley where no shoots take place. My little group of friendly pheasants now stay close to the garden all the time which is just as well as pheasant shooting starts on 1st October:( One funny little female pheasant has become extra friendly and given the choice prefers to eat out of my hand rather than eat the same food off of the ground. She really seems to enjoy the interaction.

I do of course put food out for all the birds, however, we have recently had a Sparrowhawk that has taken to resting in our tree, right by the bird feeder, so I have felt it unsafe to refill it for a while. It has been interesting to see how close I can get to the hawk by moving slowly and using the 'boring' technique..only just close enough to take this photo so far.

Another recent occasion when I have needed to use the 'boring' technique was while getting the Downland Project's two Dartmoor ponies used to being handled again and having their feet picked up ready for a visit by the farrier prior to a move to another conservation grazing site. The ponies have minimal handling so that they will stay away from humans as some sites have footpaths running through them. This makes it safer for them and for the public (although some idiots still try to feed them despite the notices telling them not to...grrrr)

The picture below is of Rufus having his feet done back in April. He behaved perfectly then but when the farrier visited this time Rufus managed to plant a sharp kick on the farrier's leg..whoops.. I obviously wasn't thinking bored thoughts...sorry farrier:)

Thankfully the ponies behaved very well when they were moved, a great improvement from the first time which apparently took 3 hours! I wasn't there for that (thank goodness) and since then the grazing officer has spent a long time patiently getting them to feel happy about the trailer which has obviously paid off.

I will miss our visits to check the ponies even though they used to frequently find it funny to do a runner just as we were trying to look them over...

I will also miss their company when we are over at Saltbox pulling ragwort, checking the reptile refuges or photographing things as then they become very nosey wanting to know what we are up to. We can't even take a rest without them inspecting us. This is Rufus investigating my husband's big boots which usually smell strongly of sheep:)

And this is Tavey making sure that he is the only good looking chap in my photograph..after all he is rather handsome and he knows it:)

Hope they will be happy at their new site.


Anonymous said...

It's true what you say about horses, fear travels down the reins and makes them jumpy, so it probably works with other animals. I remember when I was riding, the school had a horse that was as difficult as a horse can be, either not going when you wanted it to or not stopping without a lot of effort from the rider and if you were off balance it would drop a shoulder and off you came...You can imagine our horror when we had some children with special needs come to ride and we did not have enough of the smaller ponies to go round so the boss said 'put the boy on Grump and he will be fine' we thought he was mad but he was proved right, Grump was perfect, slow and gentle, and if the child on him was leaning too far to one side Grump stopped until he was upright again. Animals are not daft, they deserve our respect especially if we want them to help us in our day to day life like guide dogs or working horses or any other animal you can think of.

Helen said...

I had a similar experience when a blind girl came for a riding lesson and my boss put her on the naughtiest pony because he said that pony was most tuned in to who was on his back and would know that he would need to behave..sure enough he did:)