Monday, March 9, 2009

The Horse-Human Bond

A few months ago I ended up on some horse-related message board that appeared to be a big draw for young girls. The hottest topic for 11-13 year old equestrians? Bonding with your horse. Some girls were very anxious about how they could bond with a horse they ride once a week in lessons, especially considering that other kids rode this same schoolie as well. So how could they create the biggest, strongest bond with this horse? And what was the quickest way to do it? And how could they prove their bond was stronger than anyone else's?

I'll hazard to say that the bonding they were talking about is the romanticized, unrealistic type you see in movies, usually where a kid who knows nothing about horses magically tames some wild, unbroken stallion within 4 days simply by staring deeply into his eyes and stroking his muzzle to earn his trust. Obviously that is ridiculous, but I find it interesting that these kids are so into the concept of creating the mystical bond with a horse. Even more than that, they view it as sort of a competition or as bragging rights.

I guess I was thinking about all this and thinking of Marve. Obviously, relationships develop between humans and horses. Every now and then I'll think back to the Arabian mare I had as a child and get teary-eyed because I miss her so much. She was soulful and kind and gentle and intelligent. I loved her and I know she loved me.

But when I think over all the horses horses I've ridden or cared for, I don't think of the B-word. And that includes, to some extent, Mae and Marve.

It could be a simple time issue. I only had about 4 months with Mae, and I definitely felt more strongly connected to her by the end of the lease. And I'd wager that Marve and I definitely have more of a relationship now, about 7 months in. But I also don't feel particularly connected to Marve, and I guess that makes me feel guilty, and as if I should be working harder on it. (Hm, do they do couples counseling for people and their horses? Also, could this post get any weirder?)

Could part of it be that I'm still occasionally afraid of him? Or the fact that he doesn't have the best ground manners and isn't always the most pleasant horse to be around? Don't get me wrong, he definitely has a funny personality, and he likes to play and be goofy. But while sometimes I do feel like he is "my" horse, I don't always feel super attached to him.

Maybe that's because in some ways, I'm not entirely different from those girls on the message board: Maybe I am idealizing my former horse-human relationship with my Arab mare in the past, and I can't imagine having that bond again with another horse.

Or maybe it's because Marve is a 17-hand spooky TB who once bit me on the stomach for no apparent reason. Could that be it? :)


Funder said...

I don't have a vast amount of horse experience, but I think it's just a personal thing. I loved Poppy when he was my horse, but I never really bonded with him. (In fact I think I love Poppy more now that he's not "my responsibility.") The other three I definitely feel (felt) a bond with, even though my "favorite" horse changes daily.

I wouldn't want to bond with a school horse. Seems like it's just asking to get your heart broken. But that's a fairly popular activity for "tweens," so maybe I'm just showing my age. ;)

lamenspa: Massages as the cure for melancholy!

sidetracked said...

Just to reassure you, my horse Possum and I did not particularly like each other when we first met. He was a mean SOB rightly so by years of abuse from people, but it could still be scary at times. Even though things were rough I still had to exert my dominance of herd boss, dolling out discipline when warranted, setting boundaries, and giving praise. After a few years our bond strengthened and we came to a quiet understanding. I take care of him, he follows the rules and everyone is happy and we have fun inbetween all of that. You've only been with Marve 7 months, Possum was still trying to kick me and rearing over backwards at that time. There is and should be no time frame on bonding, it will happen when it does and then there is no breaking it. I feel so close to my horse and would trust him with my life, because he trusts me with his. Not a whole lot of people take the time ot even the energy to create a bond like that with their horse. Keeo working at it girl

Anonymous said...

Bonds with horses are a wonderful thing i for one have allways tried to make bonds with pretty much every horse that i have ridden lol! When i was younger i had that magical thinking about bonding with the horse i sometimes still have it now 7 years later. i think having a bond with your horse will improve your riding and how your horse acts in the ring. From my experiance with the school horses that i tried to bond with, after awhile they began( i think) to look forward to our lessons and they also treated me better. the other girls in my lesson were allways the opposite on how they handled their horses, after each lesson i would be hanging out with the horse that i just rode and i would be bathing him and giving him treats, they would sometimes bathe the horse and then just leave after they put it away.To me i think rewarding the horse after you just rode on his back for an hour is nessesary, you know he carried your weight. The bond won't happen overnight and as for him biting you in your stomach for no reason, i think you should make sure he respects you before trying to bond with him. though its is allways worth a try to really put your heart into it, if you give him yours he might just give you his.:)