Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Wednesdays with Tex: Eyes

A few weeks ago, a friend posted a link to an article.  The article, "Look Him in the Eye." was about horse's eyes; more specifically about determining personality type by the shape of the eye and the amount of wrinkles.  I'm not sure if I buy everything in the article, but it was interesting, nonetheless, and I did make a point of looking at the eyes of my three horses.  Based on the article definitions, their eyes do match their personalities.  Maybe it's like people wrinkles; the furrows on our foreheads or deep smile lines that permanently crease our face as we age.

Lucy is a worrier; a nervous Nellie.  Her eyelids have a multitude of lines.  In this picture, there are fewer than normal.  It must have been the massage I gave her before taking the picture.

Her normal look is exactly like the picture in the article for the horse type labeled "flight risk."  She is worried but talented and requires a strong leader.  We've got that worked out and get along great.

Jackson is an "open book" according to the article's definition.  He's open to trying anything, confident, and easy to be around.  Everyone loves him and if I had a dime for everyone who has referred to him as "Sweet Jackson," I could quit my day job.  He has a round, open eye with very few wrinkles.

Which brings us to Tex.  I think he falls in the category of "work horse'.  These horses are semi-confident, looking for secure leadership.  This horse can become a great working horse with a strong bond if paired with an experienced and fair rider.  Tex is confident and willing to try anything on the trail, but he's a flight risk on the ground.  I think his core personality is work horse -- with a bunch of layers of crap and misuse and abuse on top that has accentuated the worried component.  If I offer him a secure, safe place to be through my confident, yet soft and consistent, demeanor he relaxes and almost, almost snuggles with me.
Ignore the fly; 'tis the season...
He's done well with the fly mask this week.  A couple of times he's even kept his head low when I removed the mask, not taking a step back as it comes away from his face. I swear I can hear him saying "Look at me!  I did it!"  Before I can say "good boy," he's already looking at me all pleased and happy and proud.  Tex did have a difficult morning earlier this week, but even then he immediately returned to me after jumping away.  Embarrassed almost.


12 comments:

  1. I thought of you this morning when Mag saw the fly mask and took off. He really doesn't like it but he has no deep issues, just it looks dangerous to him. So I whacked him with it (probably not the best choice) and made him move out of the area. Then I cheated and got some grain, put it behind me, called him over and held the mask out to him again. Mask, then reward. He made it as difficult as possible to put on by straining his neck far away, but as long as he holds still, that's fine for now. He's starting to show signs of aversion to the halter too, the other day he walked away from it, so I followed him and when he let me put it on, I just walked away and did nothing with him.

    I know your technique is different, can you give me some tips on the fly mask thing?

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    1. When I work with Tex, I have three or four cookies in my pocket. He gets one when he comes to me, one when the halter is on, one when he drops his head, and one when the fly mask is on. Then I stand with him, rubbing his neck, and praising him. He will stay with me as long as I want at the end. If he walks away - turns his butt to me and leaves -- I swing a rope or my arm and make him leave. I turn it from his idea to my idea and he isn't allowed back into my space until I decide it is time (when he has settled down, licks and chews, and turns toward me). I hope that helps. There is a difference between being afraid of the fly mask or halter, and just not liking it or wanting it. I treat them differently. I am very patient with Tex because he is afraid. A few times, its been about "I don't want to" and not fear, and I did more of sending him away.

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  2. Interesting! I would say that Carmen is definitely the worrier and Irish is the open book, like Jackson. Royce has theories on whorls and personality that's rather interesting. Essentially the more whorls the more 'hot' the horse is. Carmen has a lot of whorls all over her body. :)

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    1. I've heard that whorl theory before as well. I don't think any of our horses have more than normal. I know there are also theories about which way the whorl spins -- too complicated for me.

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  3. I just read that article myself. My new mares eyes are similar to your Lucy's. Have to admit, this has me a tad worried.

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    1. I think you will love your new mare - as long as you give her confidence, she will be a blast to ride. Lucy is the most fun horse for riding that I've ever had, incredibly light, responsive and athletic.

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  4. I don't hold with many of the theories about stuff like whorls, markings, etc. as indicating personality - they're pretty much genetically random. But the eye and how it looks and the horse's facial expression - largely communicated by the eyes/eyelids - does say a lot about a horse's personality.

    Red and Dawn are both definitely worriers/noticers. Pie is a work horse and Missy is an open book, and that correlates well with the eye and degree of tension around the eye shown in the eyelids. When Red's particularly alarmed or on alert, his eyelids are very wrinkled and he shows a lot of white. Pie's eyes are often half-closed, and Missy is just open to anything. Red and Dawn both riders who can provide them with a lot of confidence and direction; you have be in communication with them at all times and ride every step and can't allow yourself to get distracted. Pie has a mind of his own but will do anything you ask if he trusts you, and anyone at all can ride Missy and she won't do anything bad - she might just stand there and not move, though . . .

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    1. Pistol is like Missy -- an open book that anyone can ride. Jackson is like Pie -- definitely a mind of his own (we say he marches to his own drummer) but will try almost anything if asked fairly. Flash is a work horse -- he's very confident, very brave but also doesn't suffer fools or weak riders. He will take advantage of both given the chance.

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  5. I read the article and found it interesting. If I had to choose I'd say Blue falls into the "herd leader" category. The eye in the picture matches his and his attitude is described perfectly. I don't know if I buy into all the personality predictors like eyes and whorls etc. but it's always interesting to hear the theories. I think the more time you spend around your horses the better you get at reading their individual personalities.

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  6. Don't you just love it when they know before we can even respond!? SO happy for Tex!! He's learning that you can be trusted. :)
    Interesting about the eyes, would be fun to check out my horses and see how they rate.

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  7. I agree, I think you can read a whole lot in the eyes and wrinkles--in humans and horses. TTouch--Linda Tellington-Jones has a section on this. I've never believed the swirl part either, but I have talked to many trainers who swear it holds true. But then you wonder if it's evidence-bias. The eyes, however, and the set of the neck--I think tell the tale.

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  8. An American in TokyoJuly 21, 2016 at 5:18 PM

    Very interesting article!!
    I wonder if it works on humans as well? ha ha!!

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Thanks so much for commenting! I love the conversation.