We have way too many eggs. I never thought that having chickens would result in me feeling overwhelmed with how many eggs we have an trying to round up people to pawn off fresh eggs on. My other quandry is Woodia. His foot was much better while on antibiotics again but now he can't use it at all. He hops around on one foot and tips over a lot. But he doesn't look unhappy to I'm not quite ready to kill him. And I think my husband and I will have to draw straws on who's going to kill him because neither of us wants to. Especially me because I've put so much effort into keeping him alive. And he's so sickly I'm scared to eat him or even feed him to the dog. I do wish I had enough chicken anatomy knowledge to do an autopsy and see what all is going wrong in his poor little messed up body.
I've been listening to What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell - essays on a bunch of different things. Normally, I check out books on cd from the library to listen to when I'm driving to and from the stable, but I actually splurged and paid $24 off iTunes to download this one because I really wanted to listen to it. The book's title is from the essay about Caesar Milan (the dog whisperer). I'll leave it to anyone reading this to go and read the book themselves but it was very interesting and a lot of the stuff that was talked about regarding how dogs see people and how they communicate has had me thinking a lot about dog and horse perceptions and how similar they can be despite one being a predator and one being prey.
One thing in particular that stood out to me is the concept of standing up straight and how dogs see that as a solid, consistent stance. It's the same when riding horses (at least English - obviously not for jockeys). When you lean forward and/or slump in the saddle it says to the horse, "I am weak and don't know what I'm doing up here," which is scary to horses (on various levels depending on the horse). An old lesson horse who has constantly had beginners on his back will just know there is a beginner on his back and quietly do his thing. But a horse like mine who was trained to be ridden professionally and hasn't really had people on her back who don't know how to ride (at least a little) - she finds it terrifying. It means to her that the person on her back is not in control and is therefor a hindrance to her and of no use to her. If a monster popped out from behind that tree, the person on her back would only weight her down. But if the person on her back sits up straight and tall and balanced it takes some pressure off her - this person on her back is in control and she can follow them without worrying so much because they can handle it if a monster jumps out from behind the tree.
One of the things I tell my horse whenever she gets a little ancy is "Don't worry - I won't let anything hurt you." I know she doesn't understand the words I'm saying but it helps me stay in the mindset of "I need to be the strong one and make sure she knows I will protect her," and that energy is translated to her as safety. I have definitely noticed that horses will change their demeanor around me when I'm feeling anxious about whether or not I can control them. They are a lot like little kids. If I keep an attitude of firm, consistent authority then I seem to do better with dogs, kids and horses. If I start thinking, "What if this horse decides to bolt and I can't control him?" or "what if this big dog suddenly attacks me" or "what if this group of kids just decides to go ballistic?" then things start to fall apart. But if I stay in the attitude "I am the alpha. I am in charge," things go better.
I think about this stuff a lot because it seems like it's "energy" the horse is picking up on, but it's not. It's subtle cues that I don't even know I'm doing, like how I stand, how I hold myself, how I move. And since it would be too hard for me to intellectually keep telling myself, "Stand up straight, lean back slightly, move slowly and deliberately" I've found I will naturally do it if I just convince myself, "I am in charge. This horse needs a strong, gentle person to take the lead and I will do that and everything will be fine."
I tried to explain that to one of the teenagers at the stable when we were going out to the pasture to bring in a couple of the horses for the evening. She was saying how scared she was of some of the horses and I was tired and hungry and couldn't explain it very well at the time. But I will try again. When I walk into a pasture to get a horse and bring him in, if I think "the horse will come to me and will be calm and easy on the way in," that seems to happen. If I think, "I'm scared that this horse is unpredictable and I can just see him spooking and rearing and breaking away from me and he'll run off and I'll get in trouble," things go badly. And if I keep the first attitude that the horse will be calm and I will be calm and in control, even if the horse spooks, it de-escalates a lot faster and becomes a non-issue. Because even with the best intentions of the rider, horses do spook, but if the person stays calm, the horse quickly realizes that they can calm down too.
So, I can kind of see how positive attitude can really work. Not in a magical way like new-agers like to say, but in a way in which intentions actually do somewhat control the outcome. At least where horses are involved.