Saturday, November 21, 2009

I'm The Fun Police

After over forty years with horses, I have been well-trained in how to behave around them. My instructors were merciless in demanding strict attention to safety around the barn. Failing to give these large, powerful, highly reactive animals the respect they deserve can be very dangerous.

Now, though, the vast majority of horse owners don't have the benefit of proper training. Oh, it's still available all right, but they either do not know or do not care. They know little to nothing about the huge responsibility they've undertaken. Somehow, neither they, their barbarian children, nor their hapless horses get killed for the most part. Damfino how they accomplish that.
Today was a perfect example. It was a nice day, albeit windy, and I hoped to work with Sarge on Foot Handling 101. He's still a very green three-year-old who can be quick with his heels, and needs to know how to stand like a little gentleman for hoof trimming.

But no sooner did we go into the barn to start training than several other boarders showed up. Ignorant boarders. Ignorant boarders with ill-mannered children and loose dogs.

Enter four running, screeching, arm-waving little girls and a bouncing sawed-off little rat-dog-thing. Fortunately I was working on Sarge's front feet at the time, and thanks to the trust we've already built up, reflexes honed by much defensive training, and a lifetime spent with very quick critters, I managed to keep the situation from going seriously pear-shaped.

Now if I had ever acted like that in public at their age, I would not be alive today. My parents did not tolerate such behavior at all. But with the exception of one still-memorable scene when I first encountered a down escalator at about age four, I knew how to conduct myself in a polite, respectful manner.

The kids continued to run around, jump and shriek, throw things at each other, open trash cans storing feed that belonged to other boarders, and (only once) tried to play with my plastic tote full of grooming tools outside the stall.

That was when stopped I gritting my teeth and told them quite firmly they had better stop fooling around with other people's property, settle down and be quiet around horses, and take their noisy games outside. They froze in their tracks, wide-eyed, and hustled their butts out the door where they switched to throwing screaming tantrums when they all couldn't ride the same horse at the same time.

And the parents' reactions to the noisy play and tantrums? Absolutely nothing. Obviously this crap is perfectly normal and expected to them.

News flash, people. You're the grown-ups. The whole world is not your children's playground. There's a time and a place for everything, and it's your job to teach this to your precious darlings, not mine.

You chose to have horses. Nobody forced you to do this. Learn something before you take on a potentially dangerous activity. HORSES ARE HORSES, not Disney cartoons. The 230 grain +P Hornady XTP I keep in my carry gun delivers 461 foot-pounds of energy out of a five inch barrel. A thousand-pound spooking horse can hit you with well over 7,500 foot pounds of energy.

And I will not hesitate to put the heavy thumb on your offspring to protect myself, and them, from experiencing that first-hand.*

* I've already been splattered by horses plenty of times during the aforementioned forty-plus years when being as careful as humanly possible. Every experienced horse person knows of somebody who was killed or nearly killed doing everything right. I am in no hurry for a repeat.


Warthog said...

While I have ridden a couple times in the past, my enjoyment of it was ruined on one hand by horses not too well trained to ride, I need at least a half draft due to size, and by the underlying fear that this large animal is more than capable of doing irreparable damage to me.

Fenris said...

Cannot and will not tolerate people moving in a loud, fast, erratic manner. I don't care if they're adult or child, a spooked horse (if not one of the more high-strung predators I've handled)is incredibly dangerous. I'd be tempted to let the stable owner know. That lack of discipline risks a lot of property damage, medical costs, and vet bills.

smartdogs said...

I see the same thing in the dog world. I'm a professional dog trainer and I can tell you within three nanoseconds of meeting someone's children the likelihood of their success in training the dog.

If they have wild, screaming, obnoxious kids - the wisest course of action is to encourage them to give up the dog... and not get another. Quiet, calm, respectful kids - success guaranteed.

Forget dogs. I'm all for mandatory spay/neuter of most humans...

Hecate said...

Oh, yes. I've denied requests to adopt Greyhounds many times because the applicants' children were complete hooligans.

I agree with Karen Pryor and Sue Ailsby that good animal trainers have polite, mannerly kids. Behavior science works the same regardless of species.