Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Spoiled Toddler or Willful Teenager

I've been thinking about last night a lot and wondering what my best approach is to correcting Ashke's behavior. I think my mom is right and part of what we are working through is his having to do directed work for the first time in his life. So, the question becomes is he acting like a spoiled toddler or a willful teenager. The difference in the two is a question of self-awareness and intent. Is Ashke behaving the way he does because he is focused on what he wants and that's all that matters? Or is he behaving the way he is because he is deliberately challenging me and trying to assert himself, because I don't matter?

I have to go back in time to the other two horses of significance in my life. Queenie and Kieli. (There was Sham, but we have already established that Sham was deliberately and maliciously intent on causing as much mayhem and chaos as he could.) I keep comparing Ashke to Queenie, at least in my mind, but I am beginning to think that Kieli has more in common with Ashke than I previously thought. There are some things that are similar and many things that are different, thank goodness.
Queenie was only three going on four when I got her and she had been started prior to being given to me as a Christmas present. She was calm and mellow without being lazy and the work I did with her that first winter and summer stayed with us for our time together. There was absolutely nothing I couldn’t do with her. I took her in our house, I rode her inside both the Junior High and High School where I grew up, we crossed the Snake River, we trail rode all over the mountains, and we once crossed a canal by using a railroad bridge (pretty darn scary.) I could ride her all day long and she would never balk. Once I turned her for home, I would drop my reins on her neck, cross my legs over the horn of the saddle and pull out a book. I would read while she walked. Even after she fell with me, I was never afraid to be on her back.
Kieli on the other hand was four or five when I got her and she had never even been tied. She had a wicked habit of violently throwing her head and smashing me in the face. She bucked and kicked and fought like a wild thing the first time she was saddled. It took several weeks for her to be rideable and that was back when I wasn’t worried about whether I was thrown or not. She busted down fences and broke more halters than I can count. When I would ride her it was never a relaxed easy thing. I was always on the outlook for anything that might spook her. She was fun to ride, sometimes, but never easy. And she didn’t react the way you would expect a horse to react. She once spooked at a cement mixer, ran into the middle of the street and then backed into the truck. Thankfully the driver had stopped and I’m sure he was very bemused by the horse’s reaction. I wasn’t able to get her to move forward until her butt had been rammed into the grill of the cement mixer. Anything could set her off. One time I was riding and there was a root in the pathway. We were cantering and I saw it just before Kieli did. All I could do was tuck up and grit my teeth, because Kieli went sideways in a heartbeat and I flew off over her head. The final straw was when Kieli freaked out at the tie rail and broke the railroad tie off at the ground, then proceeded to beat herself senseless with it. I put her up for sale the next day, since I knew if I kept on she was going to kill someone.
I think, in looking back over the past sixteen weeks, that Ashke has some qualities of both horses. In some situations, he has the calmness and responsiveness of Queenie and shows that he really wants to connect and interact with me. He wants me to be pleased with him. (Toddler). At other times, it feels like he has the energy level and willfulness of Kieli. Thank goodness he doesn't also have her absolute terror of everything. I think the energy level and willfulness is an Arabian trait, and I just need to channel it correctly. (The absolute Terror trait is from the Saddlebred part of her, I am absolutely convinced.)
So. Back to the original question of what is the driving force behind Ashke's behavior. I believe it is more the acting out of a spoiled toddler than the willful teenager. The reasons? He hasn't had set and consistent boundries set for him. He hasn't ever had consistent expectations. No one has ever taken the time to show him what is okay and what won't be tolerated. And my guess is that any time he has misbehaved he has been turned loose and left alone. I think he loves the attention, the treats, being fed and turned out. He even enjoys the baths and the grooming. I think that if I continue with my expectations and be consistent in what I am asking him to do, he will eventually understand that acting out will cause him more work than just settling down and doing it.
He may never lose his energy level though . . .

1 comment:

  1. I think the energy level is an Arabian trait. My half Arabian would come in as "hot" as she went out even after 25 miles in rough terrain...