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Focus and Attention…. Interesting Dynamic

If you’ve been around horses for awhile you begin to realize, usually through moments of unexpected and interesting horse behavior, that there’s more going on in their minds than we sometimes give them credit for. I had another “wake up” moment on this very thing the other day with my horse Bonito (the dun in the photo above).

I have noticed that when I muck and rake and clean up his area (he lives next to the herd during the day because he has food allergies), that he often follows me around (nothing unusual there) and has this uncanny knack for putting his front hooves and sometimes his back hooves EXACTLY where I am working or about to work. To further help you understand, it’s not that he’s standing near me, he goes TO the area that I am raking in, or moving towards and THAT’s where he puts his body. I often find myself turning around only to find him standing exactly where I was working or exactly where I’m about to work. He’s a touchy-feely kind of horse and a bit mischievous, and so I chalked up this behavior to a personality quirk and desire for attention.

About a week ago, we enlarged his area by quite a lot because he needs to spend more time in his area as we remove some sand from his gut, and he continued to follow me around as I mucked and continued to plant his hooves in the exact spot I am working in or about to work in. This behavior struck me differently this time because he now has plenty of room to entertain himself away from me and I realized that he wasn’t just trying to get attention – the WAY he was doing it was to put his body where my focus was, where my MIND was engaged. I don’t know if it’s a kind of syncing or play or attempt to get my attention – regardless, it was deliberate and very precise.

I know that horses will look at things that we look at. I know that if I lean into or move my body or parts of my body (leg, arm, hand) in a direction, that my horse will do the same, in some kind of way. But this is the first time I realized that my horse may put his entire body where I am focusing. The question becomes then can this be played with to great effect or a fun end? Like everything else, the answer is “probably,” but it will depend on the horse’s motivation and the handler’s responses to things.

Moving forward, what I am going to do now is let my horse know that “I see what you are doing,” and then see what happens if I acknowledge it in some way. If we can start a conversation based upon my focus and his action, then it becomes where can we go with this? Can I use it create a conversation in new places, new events, new objects. The wheels are turning, stay tuned for more.

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