Continued from last time…
The word “pollution” is an interesting term. Briefly, it is defined as “a substance or thing that has harmful or poisonous effects.”
“So,” you might ask, “does pollution in horses refer to manure?”
Feces from every source is usually considered such a substance. In other words, if we were to eat it directly, we would probably get very sick. However, that same substance, composted properly, produces rich and nutritious fertilizer for a garden; even clean energy for a house. (See: “Cow Power” and “Humanure”) So, is it more efficient to cart it “away” (or flush it down the toilet), and then buy chemical fertilizers that strip the soil of biodiversity before leaching into our rivers? Rivers flow to the ocean, along with chemicals from said fertilizers and pesticides, creating dead zones thousands of square miles wide — such as the one off our very own Gulf coast (See: Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone) — costing much more to be cleaned up and remedied after the fact.
Carting “away” and flushing is a quick way to rid ourselves of what we don’t want to deal with. It does not require us to think about the consequences of our actions. The only thing is, because the Earth is a closed-loop system, there really is no “away.” Pollution is merely deferred or shows up somewhere else, eventually. But because that can take some time, we are usually caught unawares and made to question ourselves only when our own ground water has become too contaminated to drink or our beaches unsafe to swim in.
The latter approach, on the other hand, requires us to think first before taking action. It’s slow going in the beginning because we have to conceptualize a consequential chain of events that might occur down the road before we even get there. This is time consuming, requiring patience and a willingness to educate ourselves on the nature of the substance we’re dealing with, what it will take to recycle or reuse it so that it is rendered harmless to ourselves and to others, and what infrastructure needs to be in place to accommodate that process. It also means that we have acquired the maturity to take responsibility for our role in generating waste, rather than leaving it for someone else to clean up.
Likewise — and for the more immediate sake of our equine partners — something similar occurs when we define “pollution” as our horse’s “bad behavior.” Just like feces, we want to get rid of it — to make it go “away.” But here’s the rub: bad behavior is, most of the time, the unwanted result of interaction with humans, that closed-loop relationship between us and them. That doesn’t mean that the interaction was intentionally abusive. Sometimes we are just not experienced enough to know how to deal with our horse’s natural tendencies, or we are met with an unplanned occurrence that overwhelms our ability to cope. Other times we acquire a horse who has been misrepresented. They seem fine when we try them out, but once at home, everything we don’t want in their personality comes up in our face.
There are many methods of training and re-schooling. The choices we find closest to us and most affordable are usually the ones we opt for. A typical approach is to use techniques that stifle unwanted behavior or that attempt to retrain the bad behavior “away.” It’s usually the quickest way to deal with a problem up front, like the approach initially taken with Zoe, the subject of our previous blog entry. But if the method employed keeps our horse in line by coercion, we will find that either the behavior gets worse or that our horse simply shuts down, becoming responsive only in very mechanical ways. For those of us who are adept at putting on a thick skin and ignoring our horse’s displeasure, this may seem the best solution.
But, as usual, there is another way to interpret our situation. What if we’ve already been down the road described in the previous paragraph and found that our horse’s unhappiness is actually painful to us? And what if, as in Zoe’s case, the attempts to train our highly gifted horse merely causes them to fight back harder and become more dangerous than before? Then we become motivated to seek an alternative and prepare ourselves to participate in the “clean-up” rather than covering it up or deferring it entirely. We set ourselves on the path of becoming better educated about our horse, what motivates them and how we might intervene on their behalf, thus repositioning ourselves as their advocate rather than their adversary.
This does not mean that we now have to do everything ourselves, but because the lens through which we are assessing our horse and their world has changed significantly, who we seek out for help will change too. We will be interviewing potential trainers or handlers with more discernment, watching to see if they are genuinely interested in our horse’s welfare rather than in stoking their own egos or doing things for our horse the way they do with every other horse. We will be trying to assess whether their decisions and actions support the emergence of our horse’s underlying good nature (and yes, your horse does have one) rather than masking over the problem with a new technique, a new trick or a new piece of equipment, just to keep everything in check. It’s spending time up front, and it will initially seem to take longer, but after traveling down both roads, the phrase “slow is fast” becomes ever clearer and true.
Tune in next time for more of Zoe’s progress!