To see some of my marginally more organised rants, try these links. If all else fails, try hitting them with whips. It works with horses, doesn't it?
I didn't mention Winston's teeth at all, but his tendency to come at me, at speed, ears flat back, and teeth on display, has reduced over the last few days. This sentence sounds like nonsense if you have come fresh to this blog, or if you are expecting yet more boring discussions of Parelli baiting.
But this is actually a continuation of my last blog on Winston's habit of kicking, and the incredible variety of uses to which he will put his feet. Obama, by contrast has only kicked me once, though he has threatened a couple of times when he feels I am being unreasonable. Obama has started to tread on my toes of late, but he is pretty discrete and tries to give the impression it is an accident, though I know full well, it isn't. For the first 17 months, he never trod on my toes, but now, if he is bored, will stand gently on my feet.
And once, really scared, on a narrow footbridge over the A30, that I knew scared him, he went up and came down, just brushing my shin with his front foot. But a 5' bridge doesn't give much turning room for a scared animal.
On the teeth issue, Obama has bitten me loads more than Winston, and a lot harder. Mostly he gets the back of my hand, or my forearm and just once he has bitten me on the chest, but I think he was aiming for my shirt.
Obama bites for three reasons, as basic communication, "Oi, look at me!", when he is bored or annoyed, as a message that something is wrong, crossed straps on the harness, traces undone or the painful version when he is scared. these don't divide neatly into three categories, and a more accurate description would be a continuum. But throughout the continuum, the teeth convey a message, and the harder the teeth, the more serious the message. When Obama is scared, the teeth hurt.
The bite that really taught me what was going on, when Obama chomped hard on the skin on the back of my hand, and held it in his teeth until punched him really hard on the cheekbone, was entirely my fault. Punching him made me realise two things, the phrase "This will hurt me more than it does you" makes a lot of sense if you go round punching ponies on the cheekbone, and secondly, that before you hit a horse for biting you, ask why he is biting you, and have you ignored all his previous attempts to tell you something.
The same is true for kicking. I haven't listed all the kicks from Winston to impress you with how brave I am, though I am of course incredibly brave, but to try and explain how Winston communicates. Obama bites first, and kicks a long way down the line, with Winston we seem to have the reverse and he talks with his feet.
But I haven't a scar from all Obama's bites, or a bruise from Winston's kicks, and I don't expect to get one. I am not brave, I have just learned the concept of body language, and when Obama or Winston use it on me, I don't retaliate with unnatural violence.
The whip can deliver a level of pain that is out of all proportion to the physical exertion involved, and that, to the horse, appears almost magical. I know all the extension of the arm nonsense, but I was beaten at school, and I remember the level of pain. If you don't believe me, get your whip, bend over and get somebody you have just irritated, to hit you. When you crack your lunge whip, the tip goes supersonic. That is what causes the crack. The whip lash was the fastest man made object until rifle bullets went supersonic 150 years ago approximately.
Body language is about communication with the body, not escalating to seriously painful weaponry. Again, I will be told that we only stroke our animals with our whips. If my headmaster had stroked me with the whip, I would have been, very, very worried, but a tap with a whip conveys the message that the option to escalate is there. I could give you a massage using knuckle dusters, and if you had never seen them in action, you might be relaxed, and enjoy the massage, but if I had used them with force on you once, their touch, however gentle, would remind you that I have the power to inflict serious pain.
(And a quick message to the boys in blue, I don't have knuckle dusters, I have never used knuckle dusters, I was using a literary device whose name evades me.)
Both Obama and Winston have taught me that they have the skill and judgement to use their feet and teeth with discrimination, as an instant messaging system, I would prefer SMS but we can't have everything, so I have to treat kicks and and bites as communication. I tend to shout abuse at them, because both of them ignore the bad language, and do pick up the vague message that I don't really approve, without being frightened. Waving hands terrifies them both, but I know they have both been exposed to people with whips, and their reaction is one of simple terror.
I haven't dared show Winston a whip yet. He's still terrified of unarmed people. He may be OK with high speed double deckers, but joggers still worry him deeply. But as he meets more and more non horsey people, he is learning that there is a world out there where hitting horses is considered weird, freakish and rather nasty.
I was driving Obama through Exeter the other day, and a lady stopped me and asked if she could say hello to Obama. I said fine and she immediately started cuddling him and holding her hand to his mouth, but with no food. I asked her to stop as he might nip, and she said, "Don't worry. I've had lots of horses!" About 30 seconds later Obama nibbled her and she stepped back and hit him in the face.
And then had the nerve to be offended when I told her what I thought of her. I am seriously having to consider not letting horsey people anywhere near Obama. He is fine with people who don't know about horses and ponies and who don't think they have the right to assault someone else's animal. But he doesn't like being hit by the horsey set. Who does. (He has nibbled non horsey people and not one of them has even thought of hitting him.)
Another simple question. Someone is going to hit an animal with a whip in a public place and is not going to be arrested. What is the animal?
Rather trickier question. What has the animal done to deserve it?