Here’s the real scenario:
Last fall, Matt, our farrier, came to shoe and trim two horses: Raven, and Laddie.
You know who Raven is, and he is always well behaved when anyone does anything to him, be it farrier work, floating, etc.
Laddie is the newest horse in the barn. He is an immense, 17.2 hand Thoroughbred. I believe he’s about 16 years old and is/was an eventer.
O, Laddie’s owner, had seen Matt work on Raven in the past and decided she wanted him to do Laddie.
Matt –who, like me, is beginning to feel his age and is trying to cut down his workload-asked her how she came to contract him to shoe Laddie. She said Barnlord had told her about his work. I admit, Matt is probably the best farrier I’ve ever been lucky to have.
Laddie began to act up almost immediately. Tossing his head, flicking the tools out of Matt’s hands, tried to back up, etc. He has white line disease in his hind feet and acted as if the methylene blue (that purple stuff that has a staining radius of fifty feet) hurt.
As the process wore on, Laddie got worse and worse. He literally yanked his feet out of Matt’s hands, reared, kicked and tried to bolt. What should have taken no more than half an hour took twice that.
Matt later told me that afterward, he felt as if he’d been hit by a pair of linebackers..and Matt is a big, bear of a man, a burly cowboy/farrier, tough as nails.
Yesterday, I walked into the barn. The barnlord’s farrier, Bob, was shoeing and trimming a big bay horse.
Barnlord was holding his lead rope. The horse had his head down and was half asleep. It took me a couple seconds to realize it was Laddie.
“Holy cow, what did you do, sedate him?”
Laddie was acting like any good horse, calm, patient, willing to accept anything Bob did to him.
What was the difference?
No, it wasn’t the farriers.
It was the owner.
O wasn’t present for the trimming this time.
O is the 22 year old daughter of some very wealthy, upper crust blue bloods back somewhere in New England (on the US East Coast.)
She drives a Mercedes. She bought a truck and a horse trailer when she got here. Her parents are paying her way through college. They paid to ship Laddie out here to the West Coast (something that is NOT cheap). They are paying for her rented HOUSE, and the barnlord sends all bills to the parents, not O.
O has very obviously lived a life of ease. She’s accustomed to “people”...a nice way of saying servants or employees..taking orders from her and doing things that she is too high society to do.
She demonstrates no sense of responsibility. She is passive-aggressive-sometimes arrogantly insisting she knows everything about horses, and other times, completely ignoring the needs of her horse. Laddie was on the point of foundering and barnlord insisted O call a vet. O refused. He’s done this before, she said, all he needs stall rest. She wrapped some vet wrap around his fore pasterns as if that would fix it.
Barnlord got pissed, and after O left, she called a vet, who got to the barn in time to prevent any damage.
She billed O’s parents. She also, later, told O that she is NOT O’s servant, that O needs to accept responsibility for her horse. O...ignored her.
O doesn’t really like Laddie, by the way. She’s taken him out eventing precisely once since she got to the barn last year. Laddie’s blanket is in tatters. She doesn’t care. She can easily afford a new one, but, she doesn’t care.
And that’s the point.
We humans project energy without knowing. Horses pick up on it. You can’t lie to a horse. If you have had an argument with your husband, and are still stewing about it, you’re mentally broadcasting it to every living being in the barn.
I think we humans are immune to it. We have to be, we’d go insane if we heard every other humans thoughts. But animals aren’t immune. They HAVE to hear in order to survive. Most dogs easily prove it. How many times have you experienced or heard "my dog knows when I'm coming home."? I think dogs are smart enough to know you’re not pissed at them, but horses aren’t. All they ‘hear’ is that you are angry, aggressive, and scary.
As well, if you don’t particularly like the horse, he’s going to pick up on that, too. He’s had prior experiences with unfriendly humans broadcasting their non-physical aggression, and he knows, now, that some humans are things to be feared.
It’s not just horses that ‘hear’ our thoughts. Wild animals are especially sensitive.
We feed the wild birds. The deer have learned that there’s free food under the feeders. We have a group of six or seven black-tailed deer (depending on how many fawns the does produced last spring) that live on my property. If I walk out to the feeders and look hard at the deer, as if sizing them up for an attack, they bolt. If I merely glance at them, AND allow the damned earworm in my head to play or...if I mentally do my times tables (“2 times 3 is 6, 2 times 7 is 14”), they not only are unafraid, they come closer, waiting for me to dump the feed so they can feast.
(Excuse me while I boast...I no longer need to do that. They are accustomed to us trudging through the rain and snow with a pair of feed buckets that they barely wait for us to spread the feed before they’re in it. )
When Matt was there to shoe Laddie, O was supposed to handle her horse. While she did so, he began to act up. She slapped at Laddie, cussed him out, shrieked at him, and literally drove him crazy. He kept pulling his feet out of Matt's hands, making it almost impossible to nail a shoe on.
When a 17.2 horse rears and waves his size 3 hooves around your ears, it turns into a dangerous situation.
Matt, being the conscientious man he is, carried on, but when he was finished he told her straight up, “don’t call me again. I’m never touching this horse again.”
O got pissed. She didn’t say anything but later, Barnlord said O complained to her about Matt being “incompetent’.
I had left by then so I didn’t hear it. Which is okay, because Matt would rather she think him incompetent than risk getting hurt by her horse.
When Bob came out to shoe Laddie, O...who had promised to be there but then decided to skip it, there was just me, Barnlord and Bob. No one slapped Laddie. No one shrieked at him. Barnlord held the lead and expected Laddie to mind his manners like the good horse he is. She and the farrier had a long conversation about something other than the horse in front of them, and Laddie dropped his head and half slept, as ho hum as Raven always is.