My horse has been called stubborn. His real name is Sam. When I first met him, he reminded me of Dick Butkus. In three years, I have learned that attitude is pretty much everything.
I bought Sam before we could move into the farm where he would eventually live. His first residence under my ownership was a boarding stable. For some reason, the boarding stable owner decided that Sam needed some socializing and tossed him into a paddock with several residents that included an already-established lead mare who was one mean horse. She had no trouble biting and kicking all of the other horses in the paddock and there was no question of her dominance.
Sam was the new horse and was ostracized from the herd at first. This is normal until a new horse can establish its position within the herd. There really is a pecking order and new horses have to fight their way into it.
A few days after he arrived, though, Sam was moving around with the rest of the herd. All of the horses except for the lead mare left him alone to do whatever he liked. The mare would move all the other horses out of the way by pinning her ears, then biting and kicking if necessary. Each time she tried this on Sam, though, she accomplished nothing. I watched her pin her ears, bite him, turn and threaten and then actually kick him. He ignored her. Nothing bothered him. He didn’t fight, threaten or react and was apparently unaware of her actions. Eventually, she gave up and left him alone.
Horses learn fast. Teaching them is pretty easy once you’re aware that all you have to do is create a pressure situation where only one answer is right. At first, a horse will try every option and when it happens upon the correct one, it is rewarded with a release of pressure. After two or three lessons, the horse stops trying every other option and does exactly what it is supposed to.
Sam is a little bit different. He and I have developed a beautiful working relationship. For most of the work that we do from the ground, I don’t even need a halter or rope. He knows what to do and does it perfectly.
He has limits. I use a halter to walk him down to a pasture or to the trailer if we are going to ride. I’ve done this for three years. Sam is not supposed to eat grass when the halter is on him. I yank hard on the halter rope when he does that. It hurts a little and reminds him not to do that.
Remember the learning thing? After a few hard bumps, most horses would realize that it hurts when they try to graze. They stop doing it. Sam is not most horses. I lead him from the paddock at least four days a week. He tries to graze at least three times per trip or six times per round trip. At an average of thirty weeks without snow times six hard bumps per round trip times four days per week, you can figure that Sam gets bumped hard as a correction for trying to graze at least 720 times per year.
He hasn’t stopped trying.
Neither have I. You see, it takes someone to do the bumping.
To keep trying the same thing with the expectation of a different result is someone’s definition of insanity. There are times, though, that we keep trying for a different reason. I keep bumping my horse. If I don’t, he will eat grass. That is something I won’t allow while he is under halter.
I keep going to work, too. At times, it might be viewed as insanity, since the drive is the same each day, the arrival and departure times are pretty close and I do a lot of the same things, often at the same times. While I have rarely judged myself as being successful, I have to keep doing this job because other people depend on it and I depend on the income.
I am beginning to rethink the whole insanity definition. Sam doesn’t really care. Or maybe he realizes that we’re both just awfully stubborn.