Don’t be afraid of the grass!

Having laminitic ponies or horses to manage can create a plethora of emotions in us humans, which are then communicated to our animals. Animals communicate with feelings. Just because we don’t know how to do that, doesn’t mean we are not communicating how we feel.

Think of it like this: There are 3 humans tied to a tree. 2 are blindfolded and are wearing earphones to block out sound. A large snake uncurls itself from a branch and comes to investigate. Which human will it investigate first? The two calm unaware peaceful humans? Or the human that is screaming warnings and trying to escape? Well..the peaceful ones are no threat to him and are too big to eat, so probably not worth investigating. The other one is giving off a lot of fear and anxiety, and making a lot of noise, which signals danger. The snakes fear aggression response comes up and it decides to defend itself and its home.

The same happens with grass.. believe it or not. You can give off feelings of anxiety about grass. Horses need to graze to survive. When they sense your anxiety about grass they will want to defend their food from that fear and anxiety. Something I have learnt over the years is that whether I give them access to grass or not is almost irrelevant to their health. What is more relevant is how I feel about giving them, or not giving them, access to grass. When I am not anxious about keeping them off the grass, they are not anxious about it either. In nature horses wander and roam from good grazing days to bad. Give them a good grazing evening and a few bad grazing days and it will not make them angry, worried or distressed. It may affect you, but to them, this is normal.

Bear in mind always, that the amount of time we actually spend in the company of our horses or ponies is very little, and if we arrive to see them with fear about their health, whether that is laminitis or anything else, they will get anxious. They just will not be sure of what they should be anxious about. So they get anxious about you.

You will see in the little video that when I go to check Queridas pulses, she is wary, and doesn’t want me to check them. This is a learned response. At some point in her life, having her pulses checked meant something bad, so she defends herself. I will be working with her to make this peaceful over time, as she allows. Chocolate has been with me for many more years than Querida and is happy to let me check her hooves and pulses, and has no fear of any consequences to this activity. But…she did have, and that was because I didn’t know that I was causing the unease, until fairly recently.

The video is a bit of fun, opening a pasture for the herd this evening despite it being full on growing season. They will have the little field over night and then, in the morning, it will be closed and they will be back on the track. The grass is fairly long and the pasture has a lot of meadow plants and it will be grazed for one night only. This is the instinct I am currently following this spring. Over night pastures for one night at a time, then a couple of nights off.

Every year is different and challenging, but I am learning to take each year as it comes, and follow what I think is right for my herd, from my heart, my senses, and my feelings, not my head, my fears, or my anxieties.

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