Saturday, January 14, 2012

Human vs humanely

Human vs humane, is there a difference? How do we perceive animals? How do we treat them?? Do you think of them as a cute little person in fur suit? Or as a just an animal that lives in the moment, similar, but the not the same as humans? With twenty children coming through my property and another ten in a week, I have been doing a lot of observing of people different interactions with animals. Not just horses, but the dogs, cats, geese, chickens and other assortments of animals we have on the farm.


Personally, I love animals; I can watch them and be around them all day. I don't find them gross or repulsive, yes it stinks when they crap, and its undesirable to be licked by a dog after its jus gobbled up a mouthful of rotten, decomposing animal. But is doesn't put me off them. But i don't see them as humans. They have emotions like we do, if can see that they get sad, happy, hurt, scared, playful and grumpy. But they do not think like we do, they think as their species would and see the world as it applies to them, not to us. I know my cat like to be stroked, the dog patted, my horses to be brushed and my pet goose likes to come sit down right next to me but not necessarily be touched at all, it what makes them all special and unique, but not human.


Watching the kids (and their parents), some wanted nothing more than to pick up and hold any animal they saw, it was like a cute little toy to them. Not saying they didn't love them, just they didn't see them for what they were. Some of the kids could never understand why the horse just didn't do what the kid wanted, not because it was a "naughty" pony, but because it didn't make that connection between having its name screeched at it, was meant to communicate to go trot over a jump twenty feet away. Or that crawling around on your hands and knees after a calf pretending to eat grass, was not going to fool the calf into thinking you're the same species.


But some kids naturally understood, they could tell when the dogs wanted a pat on the head, or when they were trying to get away from the throng of kids surrounding it, they could tell that to a baby bird being picked up and carried away from its mother, was not a pleasant experience and just let them eat out of their hands instead. They knew when the horse was being lazy and when it was just confused or anxious. They got that different animals, like different things, and behaved differently.


Now i think a lot of this understanding can be taught, but some of it just comes down to a natural awareness of what's going on around you. I had many a talk to kids, about how their behavior affected the horse they were riding, most of them really did understand what I was saying and then genuinely tried to improve the way they communicated with their horse. Like I said, all these kids loved, at least the idea, of animals, but only a few really understood the animals. Most of them once taught, could pick up on a horse mood once I showed them what to look for, and developed an understanding of how an equine mind worked, and they really improved their riding.


Its sometimes a fine line between having a horse or an animal well behaved and under control, to being cruel to it. One girl loved horses, her parents raved to me about how much animals loved their child. I can tell you her horse's life was misery 90% of the time she was around it, and my animals went to great lengths to avoid her company. Yes she spent a long time brushing it, oiling its hooves and putting fancy sprays on its coat, but this means absolutely nothing to the horse, it didn't know that her parents spent a fortune on grooming supplies, even though they told the pony how much money it was costing them daily. All pony knew was that, the girl yelled at him every couple of seconds. He didn't lift his foot fast enough she screeched, no calmly keeping your hand their and lifting foot for it to be cleaned, nope she just yelled in his face. Didn't want the bridle, it got the bit banged on its teeth. Didn't go when she wanted she yelled and pulled on the reins, it did go and she kept booting it in the ribs, if she didn't have fun the pony didn't get fed. No matter what that pony did, he got yelled at, kicked, his mouth yanked on, or hit with the whip. That was one angry pony, there was no escape so he just shut down, and stayed away from her as long as he could.


Now she wasn't a bad kid, but didn't understand her horse, a bit of understanding and kindness goes a long way no matter the species. You don't have to treat it like a person, just like a living creature. Maybe yelling words at a person would work but to the animal they only hear loud angry noise. Needless to say that little girl's behavior, wasn't acceptable around me. We had a nice calm talk, and explained the error of her ways. E.g smashing a metal bit into his teeth didn't want to make him open his mouth, only communicated the fact the bridle was even scarier and more painful than he thought. I would like to say a miracle happened and from then on she was never mean to her horse, but that would be a lie. I had to constantly remind her to pause, think about how her horse saw her actions, and then find a new way of getting what she wanted. It kind of worked.  Horse and rider both got along better and improved.


Then on the last day, her parents arrived to pick her up, you know how they communicated as a family, they screeched and screamed and yelled, no different from how the girl treated the horse. I just gave a mental sigh,  how do you  tell a parent that the only way their child was going to succeed with her horse, was to treat it better than her parents treated her??


Human and animals alike we all need a bit of understandings and patience and to be treated humanely, but we definitely don't all need to be treated as a human.


  1. Found your blog via Country Girl (Andrea) and really enjoyed this post. Though provoking to say the least and I look forward to catching up on some of your other postings as well!