"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Thursday, September 10, 2015

On Animal Behavior and Anthropomorphizing

Liz wrote a great post after reading my own post about my momentary struggles with Lily's personality, and I would like to add to the subject from my own perspective.

Old, old drawing from one of my sketchbooks.
I have been intrigued by animal behavior my entire life. My mom read me bedtime stories as a kid, but my own independent reading was about animals. I read children's scientific books about animals. I was absolutely fascinated by their behavior and one of the driving forces behind my art was having a full understanding of how animals communicated with one another in order to more realistically portray their individual personalities in the stories that I wrote and illustrated.

Benny, Anglo-Arab that belongs to a friend, captured during an odd serene moment.
Drawing by moi.
I would learn each species' lines by heart until I could draw whatever animal I wanted from memory, and as part of that process I would pretend to be that animal, picking up particular mannerisms and forever wishing I had a tail and ears I could use as part of my expressions so that I wouldn't need to rely on the spoken word to communicate at all. Because I hated having to talk in order to express how I felt.

An illustration from one of my stories.
The girl's name was Sandy and she was grooming one of her stallions. Hence the big neck.
The subtleties of animal communication: how a flick of an ear, a sideways glance, a twitched whisker, could mean SO much beyond a human being's limited comprehension, were a wonderful thing that I paid inordinate amounts of attention to. One of my greatest wishes as a child was to be able to read the minds of animals to better understand their thought processes.

I was around 2 years old here. Already drawing horses.
Obviously, animals think. They can problem solve. They have memories. They make choices. They dream. They grieve. They love. They don't love in the romantic sense, but many species share our capacity to love. They can grieve so hard for a lost loved one that they die themselves. I have encountered this among my own pets and among the pets of others. These are not human characteristics nor emotions exclusively. They also fully comprehend what death is, far better than many humans I have met. They are more afraid of pain and suffering than they are of death.

This horse didn't trust people.
As a 7-year-old, I already knew how to weight my words with the appropriate body language that would lead our dogs to understand what I wanted. Our dogs always obeyed me first. None of our dogs had formal training. This isn't bragging; I'm just trying to explain why animal behavior is so important to me. I understood animal behavior long before I understood human behavior. My best friends as a child were my pets! I didn't tell them my life problems at the end of the day; I just let go whatever baggage I had and hung out with them silently as one of them.

With Amaretto, one of our family dogs. He was the biggest sweetheart and an incredibly gifted being at reading his people. Guests thought he was highly trained. He was not: he was simply insanely perceptive at reading our tone of voice and body language, to the point that it seemed like he could read our minds. We adored him.
It is his fault I love pitbulls so much.
It's what later on also made me effective with the horses no one else could get to cooperate under saddle: over a series of rides, I'd be able to tune into the horse underneath me to such an extent that not only did they offer me the kind of work that they would offer no one else, they would tell me what their issues were and how to unlock them. All sorts of random, unexplainable findings that I can't tell you how I discovered: that Pink Slip, a mare I worked with back in FL, responded to "Stop" and not "Whoa", that Lily down transitions on the word "Easy", that Christa's issues were rooted in pain and not poor training, that Big Boy had been allowed by his owner to realize that he could overpower any human that worked with him. It is a never-ending list. I got horses to jump that no one else could jump, that refused to jump when it was anyone else on their backs, but they did it for me simply because they liked me, because I asked and never demanded. I still am and will always be in awe of those horses: Tamarindo, Tricky, Rocky, Pink, Bella...there was something about me that clicked with something about them and together we were invincible. I loved training horses on the side, but I stopped doing it as a side job because more often than not, their owners/riders wouldn't put in the time to continue what I had started. And also, the risk of injury is greater when you are working with unfamiliar horses.

This mare did not jump.

This is also why I didn't choose animal behavior as my preferred branch of vet med. Credentialed veterinary technicians can specialize in Animal Behavior, but after working with a behaviorist at a previous hospital and seeing just how dependent an animal's progress is on their owner's compliance, I decided to stick with something where my efforts would make a bigger difference, where the owner's compliance won't necessarily define whether an animal recovers from its ailment or not.

One of the most terrifying photos I have ever seen on the internet. If you missed this one, the article is here. I have owned dogs that did submissive grins. This is not a submissive grin. There is nothing about this dog that is "happy." Even if you erase the dog's teeth, the cold hard expression in his eyes, the stiff neck, the raised brows and vertical wrinkles across the forehead are unmistakable. I see this expression a lot at work. It is a warning. You don't kiss the dog's face, you look down and take a step away from the dog. Or  maybe several dozen. You don't maintain eye contact. You don't reach out and touch this dog.  The fact that the little boy's mom posted this photo on the internet thinking it was "cute" and was surprised by the negative feedback she received....
Well, that says something about her comprehension of canine body language, doesn't it?

Submissive grin.
Eyes closed, relaxed brow, ears back, soft neck and shoulder posture.

Submissive grin. Again, look at the dog's half-closed eyes, relaxed forehead with subtle horizontal wrinkles, and lowered neck posture. She's also doing submissive lip licking at the same time.
Note also that on both of these dogs, the nose is slightly to the side: they wiggle their noses with submissive grins.

Warning snarl. Stiff posture, upright ears, hard wide-open eyes, raised brows, vertical wrinkles across forehead. This kind of snarl can be silent: you have to be paying attention. When handling painful, frightened animals, we always keep an eye on their expressions. This warning can happen in the split second between the patient being nervously calm and biting you. And for the record: this type of expression doesn't come unexpectedly. There will be a chain of signals from the dog leading up to a snarl, in which they tell you that they are uncomfortable with a situation. The snarl is the very last warning before biting, and snarls are not always accompanied by a growl.

Warning snarl. See the hard, direct eye stare? The brows? The tension in the neck?
Also: a dog that is snarling at you in this manner and wagging his tail is NOT being friendly! Dogs can wag tails in aggression, and it is a common misconception in inexperienced veterinary staff. This is a FANTASTIC article on the nuances of canine body language that I think everyone should read. 
And it also supports what I'm talking about in this post. :)
Children can be taught to behave appropriately around dogs. This is a great article on the subject.
I do a lot of translating at work, more so than other bilingual employees because I'm one of the few that is truly bilingual: I can swap from thinking entirely in Spanish to entirely in English (this is especially fun when I'm tired...my brain will switch to the opposite language that I'm trying to speak!) 

And as part of my job, I also do a lot of translating from animal body language to human verbal speak. It is one of the most important parts of my job, actually.

"Doctor, I don't know what's going on with this dog, but something is seriously wrong. Can you take a look?"

"Ma'am, I think your dog has neck pain. The doctor will confirm with their physical exam but it certainly looks that way from the way she is standing."

"Doctor, this patient isn't just dysphoric: he's painful. Can we give him something more for pain?"

"OMG this cat is so stressed out! Can we give some sedation before x-rays?"

Animals communicate pain levels, discomfort, love, grief, happiness, sadness, anxiety, stress, trust, suspicion, anger, annoyance, joy, playfulness, curiousity. Some individuals even have the capacity to dwell on things and feel some sort of guilt/remorse, though not in the same manner a person does, but this is another quality that is directly proportional to an individual's intelligence level.

Even dragons can express curiosity. ;) Pricked ears, cocked head, dilated pupils. If you have owned birds, you will be familiar with this gesture, sans ears of course.
Another sketch by yours truly.
I get paid to help decipher what is going on with a patient based on vital signs, posture, expressions, mannerisms, behavioral changes at home and during their stay in the hospital with us. It's a vital skill for being able to tell an animal is about to die in their cage from all the way across the ICU. Heart rates and blood pressure go up with pain, fear, stress, and anxiety; pupils constrict or dilate depending on emotion (Ex: pupils dilate with fear); respiratory rate also goes up. Heart rates alone go up with happiness and love; pupils dilate, respiratory rate goes down. There are scientific explanations for all of this and you study it as part of your anatomy and physiology during both vet tech and vet med schools: some emotions cause a parasympathetic response, some cause a sympathetic response. To oversimplify it, some of this is related to the "fight-or-flight" response. To complicate it, the study of animal behavior is a real scientific field composed of both veterinarians that are boarded and specialized in animal behavior and of researchers with doctorate degrees in animal behavior. They are constantly doing some really incredible studies about animals' capacity to feel. This study used canine brain scans to prove that dogs do love us. Not only that, they can feel love with the same magnitude people can, using the same parts of their brain.

We see it every day in the veterinary field: an animal can be dying on the table in front of us, completely flat and laterally recumbent while rapidly fading....and then their owner steps into the ER and the animal find it in themselves to lift their head, to wag their tail, to give one last purr, to brighten up enough to say good-bye. If that is not love, I don't know what is. It is always both heartbreaking and awe-inspiring.

"I solemnly swear I am up to no good..."
Pupils first constrict then dilate, ears might flatten sideways, the butt will wiggle, and then...POUNCE!
Language is language is language, whether it be expressed with our voice and words or with our bodies, and animal body language is still a language. I had a very interesting conversation the other day with one of my coworkers whose first language is Russian. In typical overseas fashion, he is familiar with multiple languages and he was saying that both Russian and Spanish are better for expressing emotion than English. Why? Because we have more words to describe emotions with. I had never thought about that in this manner until this conversation.

Example: in English you only have one word for love: "love." In Spanish we have two: "querer" and "amar".

"Querer" describes the kind of love you feel for a friend or family member, whereas "amar" is love with capital letters, more often used to describe fierce, passionate love for another. You are not kidding around when you say to someone, "Te amo." It doesn't have to have a sexual connotation to it: you can feel that type of love for a very dear friend, for your child, for your significant other or for the horse who is an extension of yourself. 

As humans we assign words to feelings, with some languages and cultures recognizing and understanding more subtle emotions within a larger category (<- this link is awesome too! The gifs are genius at illustrating what they are talking about!). Most animal species that coexist with human beings have the capacity to feel just as wide a range of emotions as we do. They just don't have a need to describe them because they don't use words. They just feel, and express that feeling through their body language.

Photo from the book Dancing With Cats, illustrating a phenomenon where cats literally dance with their people.
I have yet to succeed at this in particular, but Aengus is more than happy to participate when I sing to him. :)

And we do it too! All the time! We're just not as aware. I became much more aware of what I did with my body after I started owning cats. Dogs and horses can be very forgiving about our corporeal bumblings but cats not so much. My first cat Shakti was a mirror of my emotional state. I'd walk quietly into the room after having a major argument with the boyfriend at the time...and she would run and hide. I had never realized what force an emotion can have to another living being until Shakti. She was the first one that made me conscious of what I was doing with my body when I was feeling any particularly strong emotion. Even when you aren't doing anything, something about you changes with extreme emotion...either your smell or your energy or both, and animals feel that. A perceptive person can feel that too.

Photo by Dom
Hence why when I'm having a really bad day, I won't even touch Lily because I know she can feel that and she will worry that I'm angry at her. She can't understand that I'm rehashing something unrelated to her in my head and I have no way of explaining that to her in a way that she will comprehend. So I have to either set the issue completely aside so that there isn't even an undercurrent, or accept the fact that I am emotionally stuck elsewhere and minimize my interactions with my horse for the moment, until I'm at a better place mentally.

Compare to the dog below...
This is Mal the Shepherd.
He was part of this study. < - Go read. It is awesome.
Working in the veterinary field is a fascinating thing because we are ALL far more attuned to body language than the average person. We have to modulate our movements for three different species: cats, dogs, and our co-workers. I have a 4th species with horses. As a result, there really are no secrets at work. I can look at two people interacting in a friendly manner at work and tell you if those two people ultimately can't stand one another or if those two people are actually crazy about one another. I might not be able to tell you exactly what it is that is indicating this to me, but it is really, really cool to be able to look at my own species nowadays and understand their subconscious behaviors so much better. It goes beyond mere facial expressions. I am not the only one at work that is able to do this: we all can!

I LOVE Toothless because his body language is 100% modeled after a cat's!!
I walked into our hospital recently, upset about events that had happened during the previous evening's shift, and one of our new interns came up to me and said, "Talk to me. What's going on?" She had had nothing to do with the previous night's events. But she cares about me, has become familiar with my body language, and she could tell at a glance from across the room that I was not myself. This is not an isolated event: it is a daily part of working in vet med. If we didn't pay attention to body language, we'd all spend a lot more time in the human emergency room getting treatment for ourselves than taking care of your pets!

This is a 30-second video and you should watch it. There is a 50/50 chance the cat figured that out vs the man trained him. Either way, it's pretty freaking amazing!

Some species have coexisted with humans for so long, they care about making an effort to communicate with us. If a dog and a cat can communicate to the point of loving one another despite literally having opposite body languages, it's not a surprise that they will do the same with us. An individual animal's ability to communicate with us is also a very personal thing: smart animals figure things out a lot faster than not-so-smart ones. I know a lot of animals that are very good at problem solving, and others that are not so much....like a certain mare that got stuck on the wrong side of the fence trying to get to her herd, when the entry to the field was only 300 feet away....(and yes, I'm talking about Lily. She is the sweetest mare but she has never been the brightest crayon!)

It is all endlessly fascinating to me.

To me, my ability to catalog an animal's emotion as something a human understands is not anthropomorphizing. True anthropomorphization is when a pet owner talks about an animal taking revenge, about doing something on purpose, about plotting something so the owner has a bad day, about having a full comprehension of cause and effect. Animals don't premeditate. They don't understand cause and effect in an emotional sense unless it has been trained into them with behavior modification or they have learned it on their own (Ex: "if I touch this electric wire, I will get zapped.") They don't fake symptoms to get out of doing something. They don't plan in advance to give you a bad ride in today's jump school as revenge for making them do dressage on last week's ride. Some animals are mischievous, and some have really great senses of humor and actually seek to make you laugh. Many have figured out that laughter is a sign of joy in our species. Just like a growl is a threat in both the canine and feline species. It is a known fact that dogs understand the meaning of a human smile. Us recognizing these abilities in them is not anthropomorphization, it is recognizing their intelligence and their ability to communicate.

Blue-footed boobies doing their mating dance. The male dances and if the female likes him, she joins in the dance.
Tell me that's not cool!
The beautiful thing about animals is that most of them don't do things out of malice. Humans do that, not animals. One of my favorite qualities of animals is precisely the fact that they have no malice nor premeditation: if a dog is snarling at me at work, it's not because the dog hates me, it's because he is in pain and/or he is terrified and/or he has been poorly socialized by his owner. It's not personal. With animals, it is NEVER personal. 

Having a conversation with my horse, whether out loud or mentally, is not anthropomorphization. It is me translating what my horse is doing into a language I can clearly understand in my head. And also, it makes for more fun blog material. ;) I love both irish horse's and Teresa's conversations with their horses.

I adore this video. (Direct link here.) If you go to the direct link, read the story about the video.
The little boy has Williams Syndrome. This horse was new both to the trainer, who is the boy's parent, and to the boy himself. I cried the first time I saw this video.

All of this said, I am far from perfect. None of us is perfect. On some days I click with every patient walking in through the door at work, on other days it's someone else. About 50% of the time, this ability to click or not comes from the tech's/doctor's state of mind. The other 50% is all on the animal, the reason why they have been brought to the hospital, and their individual personality. My coworker Leah once dealt with an extremely aggressive Rottweiler that took an instant liking to her...to such an extent that she was able to do all of his diagnostics and treatments alone, by herself, without needing to muzzle the dog. The dog just lay there with his head in her lap. While she placed an IV catheter and drew blood. This was not the first nor the last time that I've seen a phenomenon of this sort at work.

Being attuned to our emotions and how we project them 100% of the time can be exhausting. Controlling those emotions 100% of the time can also be exhausting. We can be at our most zen mental state and still encounter an animal that is having a bad day. Either because she is in raging heat and is having mad cramps, or this is the third veterinary hospital visit of the day, or their housemate stole their favorite toy, or there is a new cat in the house and they are upset, or or or. This is just par for the course when coexisting with another living being with a personality of their own, be it at work, at home or at the barn, be it human or animal. The most important thing is for us to recognize that it is not personal. Even with people it often isn't personal either: it's just displaced aggression. Lily's being more nervous than usual about the world right now is just her going through a phase. It can be hard to not take it personally when an animal we own seems to regress in their training, but we need to remember that they are not doing it on purpose: we need to check our emotions at the door, do some self-analysis to make sure it is not us perpetuating the problem, work through it with the animal if it is warranted, or leave them be and try again on a different day.

Understanding this about our animals will help us interact with them more effectively. It will help us interact with people more effectively too. It makes us more compassionate and empathetic. It makes us better human beings.

My number 1 favorite thing about working with animals every single day is that when it comes to learning to be human, animals teach the greatest lessons of all.

Shakti and me.



    Not even kidding. I'm going to go back and read through all your links.

    Courage and I went through some rough stuff this spring, and in hindsight A LOT of it was the baggage I was bringing to the barn with me. If I show up mad, he runs away from me in the field. If I show up neutral or happy, he walks up and meets me.

    We certainly have a wide sampling of animal behavior at home. Definitely interested in exploring this more. Thank you!

    1. I hope you enjoy the links! :) There are tons of animal behavior books out there too; it's a fascinating field. Stanley Coren has some AWESOME canine behavior books that you can find on Amazon. For cats, I love all of Pam Johnson-Bennett's work. Sue McDonnell has several articles on the internet on equine behavior and often writes for The Horse (www.thehorse.com); she is the founder of UPenn's equine behavior program.

      It's incredible how perceptive they are. Horses can often tell our state of mind from all the way across a field! I'm glad you've been able to work through the issues with Courage. You two are such a great team!

  2. Powerful post - thank you.

  3. Another beautiful post - thank you for sharing. And your artwork is wonderful! :D

    Especially love the sign language cat video. I have friends who taught their pre-verbal kids, I'm talking 3-4 month olds, simple sign language - milk, more, sleepy, etc. It was amazing how much calmer the kids were when they had a way to communicate with the adults, and reminds us who take (human) language for granted how frustrating it can be not to have that skill.

    So this is a story that I've been questioning sharing, but here goes. Empathy, not anthropomorphism.

    The other day my resident barn snake (Grace Slick) was hanging around the rain barrel - literally hanging. I snapped a picture as she slid down the building and into the chicken palace. (!) The egg count has been suspect lately so I picked her up to redirect. I was admiring her newly shed iridescent belly when suddenly struck with the thought that she was very thirsty, so I put her face within reach of the water's edge. As I contemplated left-handed iphone video (fail), she drank and drank and drank while wrapped around my arm, with me holding her behind the head. For a full minute. :D

    1. Calm, your story about Grace Slick gave me the warm fuzzies! Thank you for sharing. <3 That is a beautiful example of both empathy and of intuition.

      I've heard before of parents teaching their little ones to use simple sign language so they can communicate even before they can speak. I think a lot of neurotic behavior in our pets comes from them feeling frustrated because of misunderstanding and/or because they are not getting the appropriate stimuli for their breed/species. A lot of dogs out there wouldn't spend so much time getting themselves into trouble eating things they shouldn't if they were exercised more often, if they were given a "job". Same goes with horses.

      One of the awesome things about cats that I've mentioned before on the blog, is the fact that they have developed the meow for *our* benefit. Cats don't meow at one another. They purr, they hiss, they growl, they chirp, but for the most part it's all body language between them. They only meow at us, most often to communicate a want. The fact that they have figured out we are a vocal species and do their best to communicate with us at that same level...I think that is astounding!

      Sorry, I rambled there. :)

      Again, thank you for sharing the story of Grace!

  4. Great art work to go with a great blog post! My time at the vet clinic was very eye opening as well. I learned soo much about body language of our patients over the past 7 years spent there. I too was like you in my studies when I was young. I too was like your friend with the aggressive Rottweiler (except my version was a Border Collie). I was placed with the more nervous/painful/aggressive animals because I knew the body language a little better than some of the other techs and thus, the procedure would go over in a less dangerous manner usually. You make so many great points. Also, I really cringe at a lot of the photos that circulate the internet of nervous pets displaying warning signs with children. The owners always say "oh, they are always fine together. Nothing has ever happened. I know my pet." I wish that were true, but more than often, they really do not know the signs and signals their pets are displaying.

    1. I've been that way with some dogs and many cats. Owners here are pretty good about warning us about pets that are afraid of the vet to the point of aggression, but I'll get a reading from the animal that they are going to be okay with me handling them. They'll let me do just about anything with them and it leaves their owners dumbfounded. It does score points for the hospital too: as you know, one of the most comforting things a pet owner can see at the vet's is their pet at ease. :)

      I always loved your vet stories!

      And agreed: there are a *lot* of pet + kid photos on the internet where the animals are showing signs of fear/uncertainty and the parents are completely clueless.

  5. This post was wonderful in both content and how it was written. While I don't have anywhere near the grasp on animal communication as you do, Gem has taught me a ton regarding this topic. She is very sensitive over what I am portraying and I have learned when I need to stay off the barn property and how to approach her. I find people who don't believe animals have distinct personalities, thoughts, and emotions to be very tiring as there are examples of this every day all around us. Its learning how to not only interact with but also how to include these quirks into our daily interactions that makes being with animals so very interesting.

    As an aside: I hade a friend on FB two days ago post how her husband saw a pit bull attack a young child and now she is scared to let her kids near dogs. My response to her was that teaching your kid to be scared is just as dangerous and instead she should teach them how to properly behave around them.

    Last comment, your drawings are amazing.

    1. To generalize enormously: I sometimes feel that one of the biggest reasons why mares are misunderstood is not only because of their hormones but also because they seem to be so much more in tune with their owners/riders. There are so many times when approaching either of my two that they offer an odd response and when I check myself, I realize it's something I'm thinking/feeling that they are responding to. When owning geldings, I never had huge issues with going to the barn an emotional trainwreck and the horse offering a wonderful, smooth ride to take my mind off of my troubles (obviously there are exceptions to this in the gelding world too!) When my grandfather was dying, I had some of the best rides ever on Indio (my Colombian Paso gelding who was a nervous wreck when I first started working with him) and Lucero (who at that point was already gelded.) I could forget what was going on while with them, not because I voluntarily set it aside before arriving at the barn but because they helped take me beyond that point of emotion.

      I once got into a huge argument in school with one of our Religion professors when she said animals don't have souls. Because Catholics really do believe that. I was livid and I spoke up. It is the only time I have ever been insubordinate in school; the classroom went up in arms because of it: I was not the only person passionate about animals there! It was clear that this teacher had never owned a pet (she hadn't) or she would not have been able to argue that point so heatedly. It is a relief to work in the vet field where everyone can see that animals have personalities and emotions.

      Agreed: it is just as bad to teach children to be afraid as dogs as it is to not teach them to behave properly around them. My parents had 2 Dobermans, a Pit/Lab mix and an Akita when I was a baby. Big dogs with bad reps for being aggressive. There were NEVER any issues with the dogs and me because my parents took their time with introductions and I was taught from the very, very beginning how to behave around them. Children can be taught to behave appropriately around pets so that the pets don't become afraid of young humans.

      I'm glad you enjoyed the drawings! :D

  6. excellent post - and it's all so true. my horse is endlessly teaching me about my own self

    1. Horses are great life teachers in general. Cats are too. ;)

  7. This:

    True anthropomorphization is when a pet owner talks about an animal taking revenge, about doing something on purpose, about plotting something so the owner has a bad day, about having a full comprehension of cause and effect. Animals don't premeditate. They don't understand cause and effect in an emotional sense unless it has been trained into them with behavior modification or they have learned it on their own (Ex: "if I touch this electric wire, I will get zapped.") They don't fake symptoms to get out of doing something. They don't plan in advance to give you a bad ride in today's jump school as revenge for making them do dressage on last week's ride. Some animals are mischievous, and some have really great senses of humor and actually seek to make you laugh. Many have figured out that laughter is a sign of joy in our species. Just like a growl is a threat in both the canine and feline species. Us recognizing these abilities in them is not anthropomorphization, it is recognizing their intelligence and their ability to communicate.


    VERY well said, my friend!!!!!

  8. This is a great, great post for a lot of reasons and very important for me to read today. Thank you.

  9. Very interesting read! I had a similar start in life, spending most of my time on our farm with the animals, watching, interacting and drawing as well! Perhaps learning any animal's language is easier to become fluent in if there is an emersion of it at an early age - just like learning a foreign language. Now as an adult rider, I can understand what a horse is saying quite well. I have found myself in many situations watching other riders where something happens and they say "that came out of the blue!" or "there was no warning", though the horse had shown clear signs of how they were feeling. I do feel fortunate to understand my own horses a bit better, but also frustrated when seeing people completely misinterpret their horse when it results in a punishment when it was not disserved, or leads to creating a dangerous situation.

    1. This. Yes. This is one of the main reasons why I moved away from horse training. Even when I was telling owners what was wrong with their horses ("your horse bucks when ridden because your saddle does not fit her") they still wouldn't listen, they wouldn't change what they were doing, they would make no effort to fix the issue. "That's why I'm paying you," they would say. Well, it's quite frustrating to be starting over on every single ride and to know that the horse is suffering long-term because the owner insists on not listening to both the trainer and the horse.

      Horses put up with a lot from people and it is heart-breaking to see individuals be misinterpreted or receive undeserved punishment. This is also why I don't board at lesson barns; I have a hard time seeing it.

    2. Have you read about this man punching a innocent horse for bucking off his wife? If I ever met that man, I'll throw up on him.

  10. Another wonderful post :) I can barely go on facebook these days...so many morons putting babies on dogs. I have tried to send well-intended private messages in the past but am just ignored.

  11. I love this post. Animals are so expressive and it's humans who just need to pay attention!