Reader Beware: Another Horse Story
Not long ago, the temperature dropped well below zero for a few days. The wind blew, too. It was cold. During that period, I would feed the horses twice a day and that was the extent of our contact. The barn was so cold that the cats got a heating blanket. The horses weren’t happy and I didn’t enjoy it at all.
My horse, Sam, loves routine. He meets me at the barn gate each day and we talk for a minute before I head inside to get his hay bags. A couple of days after the cold front hit, he stopped meeting me. Instead he stood watching me from about a hundred feet away, while I walked up to the gate. No amount of calling or coaxing would bring him up to me.
Horse people will tell you that this is a sign of disrespect, that a horse starts to get dangerous when he makes up his mind that he is in charge. That was how Sam acted. He would not move or come to me at all. In fact, I started to get a little bit upset about his behavior. We, I thought, had a deal. A big part of the deal was that Sam meet me each morning and we talk. Simple.
One afternoon, I had enough. I opened the paddock gate and stomped in, ready to give Sam a large piece of my mind. I was going to back him up, move him forward and get him back to ‘obeying’ our agreement. He stood watching as I walked closer and something stopped me from getting active with him. I stood, about 20 feet away, and pretended that I had no idea he was there. Normally, this elicits the proper response of Sam walking to me. This time, nothing happened.
I moved farther down the paddock and away from him. I stopped and looked off into the distance. After a short time, I looked back. He had quietly turned in place and was facing me. I walked farther, turned to look at him and he had turned yet again. He would wait until I was not looking and then change his direction. He always remained exactly where he was, though, and never moved an inch closer to me.
I walked quickly down to the pasture. Normally he follows me down. When I disappeared behind the trees and could no longer see Sam, I stopped again. No sound, no sign of movement came from the paddock. I inched around a tree that was hiding me and there he was, still in the same spot but facing directly at me.
Thoroughly frustrated by this point, I very quickly strode up the paddock right at him. He watched, unmoving, until I got to within a couple of feet of him and then turned with me as I passed him. I kept walking, so did he. After a few feet, his head was at my shoulder and I could feel his warm breath on my face. We kept moving, then stopped, turned, and walked again. Each time, Sam moved right along with me. We walked around the paddock a little bit and he never once left my side. In the grand scheme of things, this was a ‘moment’. I had tears in my eyes.
All it took was a little bit of attention. Sam wasn’t being disrespectful and he certainly didn’t try to push me around. He just wanted attention. As soon as he got it, he was fine again. It was a good lesson. It applies to all sorts of moments in life. We think about our children acting out and see it as a cry for attention. I look at an employee’s chronic mistake issue and try to find out whether they are lacking in attention, feeling underappreciated, or have just stopped thinking.
Sam enjoys being led by his friend Max.