Haley Ruffner, wrapping up her first year of university, imagines if she could treat her fellow students the same way she treats her horse.
As the last week before finals draws to a close, it is safe to say that I’ve reached the point in the semester where I much prefer my horse’s company to that of any human. Living in close quarters with hundreds of my peers has made me grateful for the comparative simplicity of horse-human relationships. Without fighting or even two-sided conversations, Cricket and I communicate more effectively than some of my classmates. The thought of responding to other people like I do to horses is both amusing and oddly comforting.
1. Using food as a bribe. Ideally, I could present baby carrots to classmates either as a reward or incentive for good behavior, after which they would be extra friendly and keep up the good work in hopes of more carrots.
2. Reinforcing ground manners. While most people understand the concept of personal space, there are certainly some that could use a firm push to the chest or quick stop-and-back to let them know that it’s not okay to shoulder through someone.
3. Relying on voice commands. For some reason, saying “excuse me” and poking someone in the side doesn’t go over as well with people as it does horses. In both, the “excuse me” is sometimes ineffective, but with people it’s customary to keep saying it louder until they notice or go around them. “Whoa” means something other than “stop” in horse muggle language, so that command won’t work. Even a crisp cluck or kiss doesn’t go very far with people, which is a shame.
4. Pasture behavior. If I need to get my horse from the pasture, I refer to number 1 or just go out with a halter and lead rope and hope for the best. Polite thing that he is, he usually comes to see me. Trying to catch up with certain people outside of the classroom, on the other hand, take extensive bribing, calling and planning to track them down.
5. Bad attitude. In horses, ears back and a threatening snap earns them an attitude adjustment. If the grumpiness is consistent, vets are called to ensure the issue isn’t pain anywhere, and in most cases that solves it. Some horses do have bad attitudes, but they learn to channel it into something productive, find a different job, or focus the attitude on one behavior (how many girthy horses do you know?). However, lots of people are grumpy most of the time for no reason at all and make no attempt to change it. A growl and firm attitude adjustment would be gratifying but, alas, entirely inappropriate.
What would you add to the list?
Haley is the author of Horse Nation’s “Academic Equestrian” series, following her collegiate experience as she balances her studies with participation on the varsity equestrian team and time with her own horse. Catch up on past columns by clicking the #ACADEMIC EQUESTRIAN tag at the top of the page!
Haley Ruffner is attending Alfred University, majoring in English and minoring in Business and Equestrian Studies. She has a green Quarter Horse, At Last an Invitation “Cricket,” and he is also “enrolled” at Alfred. She rides western and hunt seat and also loves to rein and trail ride.
Being vertically challenged is hard enough, but for those of us who have chosen a sport predicated on telling 1,000+ pound animals what to do? The struggle is real.
Because they always ask.
Because for all the reasons that exist to get kicked out of the boarding barn, there are an equal number of reasons that it might be time to leave on your own.
A not un-useful list.
“Equestrian triathlon” is just the beginning. [Disclaimer: this is a spoof list.]
Straight from a former horse trader’s mouth.
Ashley Farrington, an equestrian and a mother, offers some advice to young moms looking to get back in the saddle or equestrians thinking of starting a family.
Plus one sign he might already.
A tongue-in-cheek guide to your local boarding barn.
Boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, partners … let’s be real, your true significant other is your horse.
Yes, we love our human companions who allow us to spend every waking moment with another living creature, and then tolerate us when we come home smelling like the farm. But there are also a few tongue-in-cheek reasons that the horse is truly a superior creature, no matter how much you love your SO.
- If your horse “drops” or does the “squat and squirt” in public, no one will care. The police will not be involved. Your kids will not be placed in foster care.
- If your horse isn’t the one for you, no one will bat an eye when you list him or her on Craigslist.
- The horse doesn’t protest getting dragged out during Sunday playoffs or the season finale of The Big Bang Theory.
- Your horse doesn’t care if it eats the same thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner … every day of the year.
- If, God forbid, your horse is a dangerous monster and you ship him to that one particular auction barn, people will eventually forgive you and move on (after you’re bashed over the internet for awhile).
- You can dress your horse up in any color or pattern with no protest. You can even go out in public totally matching.
- If it’s just not working out, there’s no alimony, child support or dividing of assets.
- Gelding is totally acceptable.
- You can have multiple horses and not feel unfaithful.
- You can always trade your horse for a younger, better-looking one.
Hey, if you’re going to rock an ugly Christmas sweater, might as well have a horse on it.
In case it’s not obnoxious enough, this one comes with jingling bells already attached:
Hunk o’ burning yuck:
No amount of eggnog will make this sweater look any better:
Leave the tinsel for the trees, please:
Dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh; o’er the fields we go, (they’ll be) laughing (at us) all the way!
Instead of coal, Santa is giving ugly sweaters to naughty boys this year:
This is the perfect present for Grandpa! … if you hate him:
‘Twas the night(mare) before Christmas… :
Keep the “tack” in tacky:
Seriously, only these ponies can pull off the ugly sweater:
Have your own ugly Christmas horse sweater to share? Post a photo in the comments; we’d love to see! Go riding!