New Years Greetings!
I always like to prepare a New Year’s gift for everyone, a thank you for all the support people have shown for clicker training. This year’s gift comes in the form of a new blog post.
As we count down the days towards the Presidential Inauguration, this seems like an appropriate article to post. There were so many times when I was puzzled and even deeply disturbed by the 2016 election campaign. To help decipher the puzzle that is American politics, I’ve been reading some of George Lakoff’s books. What really hooked me were the very obvious parallels with horse training. This post is a result of my reading.
I thought about breaking this article up into a series of shorter posts so it wouldn’t monopolize your reading time, but it is better read in larger chunks. So make yourself a cup of tea and enjoy.
Alexandra Kurland – January 2017
I can still hear the filly screaming. She was only three months old, and she was being weaned. Her mother had been abruptly taken away earlier in the day. She was left on her own for the first time in her life, trapped in a dark stall. She was rearing and spinning, screaming for her mother. The older gelding in the stall next to her was aware of her distress and in the quiet way of horses provided her with comfort. She had latched onto him for security. As long as she could hear him next door, she was okay, but now that he had been taken out to be ridden, she was screaming her distress.
The barn owner wasn’t having it. He moved the gelding to another part of the barn and put a different horse next to her.
I was watching this drama play out from the other end of the barn where my own horse was stabled. The filly’s anguish wrenched at my heart. I wanted to help her, but she wasn’t mine to comfort. I couldn’t do anything but listen to her scream.
The barn owner didn’t share my concern. He explained he was doing this for her own good. She was destined for the race track. She needed to learn how to be on her own. Her life would be a lot better if she learned early on not to attach herself to other horses.
After the third move, and the third loss of her equine comforter, the filly did settle. She stopped forming attachments with the horses that were nearby. She stopped screaming for them whenever they were taken away.
Over the years I’ve seen the terrible stress some adult horses go through when they are separated from their friends. I think of that filly when I see their anxiety. Through his actions the barn owner may well have been saving her from a lifetime of stress, but every time I think of her I still want to give her the comfort she was so desperately crying out for.
If I told this story to the cognitive linguist, George Lakoff, he would immediately know who I voted for in the 2016 presidential election. – I’m guessing that’s not where you thought this story was heading.
To save myself some time I have uploaded the full article as a pdf file. Click on the link below to continue reading.