Top 10 Ways to Keep Your Human Devoted (by Henk the Friesian Horse)

Henk writes:


Fellow equines, I don't have to tell you how important it is to keep your human madly, passionately in love with you. Human devotion gets you the best treats, accommodation in the nicest stable, and a rider who is forgiving on those days when you really don't feel like working hard. To help you keep that human eating out of your hand (or, more to the point, feeding you out of hers), I've compiled a top-10 list of proven methods to keep your relationship strong.


1) Set the tone right from the start by whinnying and rushing to the gate or stall door the moment you spot your human coming. Humans are big on oral communication, so the whinny is important. Otherwise, she might think you're just looking for a juicy apple or maybe your dinner.


2) Be cute. There's nothing shameful in this, even for a large, dignified, magnificent equine, as long as you don't over-do it. When I work in therapeutic riding lessons, I like to pick up stuff in my teeth and wave it around (like the stuffed toys riders are supposed to be tossing into buckets). The humans go wild. I've also been known to step on the plastic cones instead of going around them. My protege, Louis the Canadian horse, is very good at knocking things over with his butt when his riders steer him close (to a jump standard, for example, where they're supposed to place a ring). Then he looks all innocent and surprised. It gets a laugh every time.


3) Be charming and attentive. Try sticking your nose into your human's hair and blowing out through your nostrils. Even play with her hair a little, using your upper lip. She'll melt into a tiny human puddle.


4) Once in a while, give her exactly what she wants while riding. A "holy-cow-that-was-awesome" extended trot, a perfect lead change, a sliding stop -- whatever discipline the two of you practice together, pick a difficult movement and just give it to her. Your human needs the occasional reward for her hard work, and it will remind her what a talented equine athlete you are!


5) After any encounter with your human, give her the "you're my favourite human in the whole wide world" look. When she puts you in your stall or paddock, stop, glance back over your shoulder with your ears pricked up and your eyes all soft and soulful like you just need one more look at her before going back to your horse business. Try not to let the juice from your apple or carrot dribble down your chin while doing this. It destroys the effect.


6) Use your physical assets to your best advantage. Being a Friesian, of course, I'm just one big physical asset on the hoof, but even lesser equines can pull this off. My friend Moose, a Belgian-cross, knows how to stand in the paddock so the breeze catches his long blonde mane and blows it fetchingly around his face. That mane even got him the cover of Lil's book, Horsefeathers, a fact that still irks me. Bella the resident pony uses her small size and cute little face under a bushy forelock to get extra carrots, and never mind that inside that tiny little body lives an evil pygmy soul.


7) Follow your human around, even when you're not on a lead rope. They think this is pure devotion. You can amp up the effect by sticking your nose in the small of your human's back. But be careful not to knock her over if she stops suddenly. Humans are quite fragile and you need to respect the size difference.


8) Play games. Fetch a ball or kick it, chase your human around in a game of tag. She'll go silly. An added bonus is that this will drive the dogs nuts. You're stealing their gig! How long will the humans bother with them if you can do all the cool dog stuff as well as being a horse!


9) Really enjoy the treats your human gives you. If you get blissed-out, eyes half-closed, chewing like a llama working on its cud, she'll feel so good about being nice to you that she'll probably give you another carrot. And you'll come across as all grateful.


10) Buck and gallop around your pasture when you're turned out for the day. This strengthens the human's illusion that she's giving you your freedom (right, that's why there's a four-foot fence around you) and that you love the home she's made for you. Besides, it's a great reminder of what you could do to her under saddle. But you don't. Because she's a great rider. And you love her. Of course you do.

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Comment by MagsNMe on August 4, 2011 at 6:30pm

Henk, can you talk to my mare about #4?  She's ever so good about everything else...

Comment by Jackie Cochran on August 4, 2011 at 4:43pm
Very good lesson Henk.  If all horses followed your lead they would get a lot more treats and end up fat!

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