Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Irrational Fear? Part Two

Good Morning everyone!  Today I'm going to tell you about someone who is not irrationally afraid of Tar.  Can you guess?  It's my good ol' farm hand, Rose.

Rose is a tough talker.  She's not nearly as tough as she talks.  She will never admit it, though.  Rose has no horse experience.  You'd think she'd know to admit what she doesn't know.  She doesn't.

Occasionally, Rose will admit to being unsure about something.  She will never go farther than that.  That attitude is going to bite her in the ass one day.  But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Rose announced that she is not afraid of Tar one day.  Really?  Yes, not afraid of him.  He's pulled that wheelbarrow trick on her, too.  You know, the one I told you about yesterday.  Nope, not afraid, she says.

Well, during the last snow, I found out that Rose is afraid of Merry.  Merry?  Afraid of Merry?  How is that possible?  Talk about an irrational fear!

Merry is a small horse.  She weighs 800 lbs.  The average horse weighs 1000 lbs.  Tar weighs 1600 lbs.  Merry is not physically intimidating like Tar.

Merry is a really good horse.  She leads easily.  She doesn't try to eat grass while leading or riding.  She doesn't crowd you while leading.  She doesn't try to walk in front of you.  She doesn't pull away.  She's high energy.  She's sensitive to instructions.  She's rarely, if ever, in a bad mood.  She's darn near perfect.  How could anyone be afraid of Merry?  It's an irrational fear.

Well, Rose is afraid of her.  I asked why, when this came out during the last snow.  Rose said she was afraid to lead Merry in the snow. She said she was "uneasy" around Merry, period. Why?  Rose is afraid Merry will have some sort of explosion of energy.

Yes, Merry is high energy.  She doesn't do anything about it unless she's asked or spooked.  But, you can feel it leading her.  She kind'a has a vibrating energy that comes down the lead rope.  It's not harmful, though.

I have to work with what I've got on staff.  I told Rose if Merry had this "explosion of energy" and she couldn't regain control, just drop the rope.  Sometimes, there's a point at which you have to drop the rope rather than be drug, stomped, run over, or have irreparable rope burn on your hands.  It rarely happens here because I have really well trained, calm horses.  But, it happens once a year or so.

I walked out with Rose and Merry that day in the snow.  That snow was more ice than snow, so it crunched when you walked on it.  Knowing this, I had scrapped pathways to the paddocks with the tractor the night before.  Rose somehow didn't think to walk in the pathways.  I have no idea why.  They were four feet wide.  You couldn't miss them.

No, Rose was walking in the path leading Merry on the snow.  Crunch, crunch, crunch.  I kept calling to her to get Merry in the path.  It was no use. 

I've told you about horses having more energy in the cold weather.  I've told you horses don't like change.  So, here's this high energy horse who's got even more energy because it's chilly.  Here's this very sensitive horse who's now crunching along on the snow.  That's not what she's used to.  Then there's a tense farm hand leading her.  Do you see where this is going?

It's not as bad as you think.  When Rose finally got Merry to her paddock, when she was just inside the gate, Merry flinched.  Dear God you would have thought she'd turned into a dinosaur and tried to kill Rose.

Rose dropped the rope and jumped out of the paddock.  Now Merry is scared.  What's the rope doing "chasing" her around and why is Rose jumping away from her?  What's happening next?  Is a tiger going to eat me for lunch? Is that what Rose sees?  A tiger coming to get me?  Oh no!  Panic!  This is how a prey animal thinks.  Horses are prey animals.

Merry starts running from the rope, which of course is futile because it's attached to her halter.  The rope starts to wrap around her legs.  This doesn't help matters.  I've called to Rose she has to go get the rope.  Rose makes no move to do so.  Crap!  Damn wimp!

Ok, I can't let my best horse get hurt because Rose is a tough talking wimp.  I go in the paddock and get the rope.  Merry had chilled for a moment and was standing at the hay ring.  It wasn't a big deal.  If I got the rope while she was calm, that would be the end of it.  And, it was.

Afterward, I had to clarify with Rose when it's appropriate to drop the rope.  And, that you cannot just walk away and leave the horse with the rope attached to her halter.  When the horse calms down, you gotta get the rope.

Rose's display of "horsemanship" was a fine example of an irrational fear in motion.  I didn't say it.  I thought it.  The worst thing you can do is tell someone who has an irrational fear that it is irrational.

Saying their fear is irrational makes them dig into the fear even more.  Or, in Rose's tough talking case, just tell you how she isn't afraid in the first place.  See, I told you all my therapist training was just cleverly disguised these days!

Oh, dear Rose, life is going to be hard on you.  The farm offers such a good opportunity to learn.  It offers an opportunity to work with a boss who wants the best for you.  It offers a place where you're not supposed to know, so it's ok to say so.

Very few people have need of horsemanship skills in this day and age.  It's ok to say you don't know.  Nope, not for Rose.  Rose needs to be a tough, sometimes know-it-all, person.  Oh Rose, life is going to bite you in the ass one day...just like...well, that's tomorrow's story!

Thanks for reading!

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