When I first started my lessons, I had set my expectations that I was going to fall at some point and I was probably going to get kicked. The two things sort of came with the territory when you are around horses. Well, I have fallen (twice), but haven't been kicked and I am OK with keeping it that way.
I was taught how to groom safely and I still follow the rules. But, I can see where you can be lulled into a false sense of security if you have been around horses for a long time. Perhaps a bit of complacency sets in. I see it all the time at the stables. No one thinks they will get kicked. Well, you know what? It can happen in a blink of an eye. It doesn't have to be an act of aggression either. Mrs. Mom at Oh Horsefeathers and Wiola at Riding Instructor's Diary have recently mentioned kicking incidents. I have seen Gem kick out once in self-defence and I hope I am never, ever within reach of his kick. His kick connected with the upper part of another horse's stall door, leaving behind two very distinct hoof impressions in the wood. Yikes!
While I can be aware and cautious regarding kicking, biting is another matter. I don't know what it is about a horse biting, but it terrifies me. The thought of those big teeth connecting with my flesh gives me the willies. I know that when a horse pins its ears flat, that's not a good sign. But, I have to say that there are a couple of horses in Gem's barn that pin their ears every time you walk by their stalls. Does that mean they are biters?? Are there any other signs to watch for that can be indicators?
There are a couple of horses that are identified as biters at our stables, including DH, Gem's paddock buddy. In fact, DH's previous owner had a chunk taken out of her forearm which sealed it for DH finding another home. He has a sign on his stall door indicating that he isn't a very sociable horse. DH came up behind me one time when I was trying to put Gem's halter on him. He came out of no where (note to self - always check to see where others horses are) and starting aggressively nibbling the collar of my winter jacket, near my face and ear. I was now pinned in between DH and Gem, with DH way too close for comfort. I had visions of Gem giving DH the business and my face baring the brunt of their scuffle. My heart was pounding outside of my chest, but I walked away as calmly as I could to the gate. DH continued to nibble on my collar all the way there. When I got on the other side of the gate, I was almost in tears and I was shaking. I had STA help me get Gem in. When I told her what happened, she said "Why didn't you swing the halter and lead in front of DH to move him off?" Didn't even think of it.
My first adult experience with horses was my school horse, GM. She tried to bite me from the time I arrived to the time I left. Imagine seeing a round, middle-aged person doing the Chicken Dance in the aisle of the barn next to a horse in cross-ties. That was me. Eventually, I got a reprieve on my humiliation when I had to start tacking up in GM's stall. I would find myself getting more and more anxious as it came time to bridle her though, because I felt that that was the time that it was going to happen.
Gem is mouthy. This is not a new thing. I don't think he will ever stop being mouthy. Part of it is curiosity, part of it is demanding, part of it is neediness. I can usually tell which it is and respond accordingly. Some days are worse than others. I rarely hand feed him because of his mouthiness.
Lesson was not great last night because we are both out of the routine and I really had to push him for everything I asked of him (yes, I am sore today). After I dismounted, I was chatting with one of my classmates. Gem was positioned just behind my right shoulder. In the middle of my conversation he pushed my shoulder - I didn't respond - then he carefully took a piece of the arm of my jacket and yanked the material!! He immediately looked up at the ceiling, looking all innocent. What? No, I didn't do anything. Must have been some other horse. I gave him a stern NO! I turned and continued my conversation and he did it AGAIN! What the heck??!
Technically, he didn't bite my person. But, his teeth did bite down on something that was part of me. A little too close for comfort. In a way, I have to admire his intelligence in getting my attention and reminding me that it was time to go. :-) Correcting his mouthiness while grooming is one thing, but having a sneak attack is a bit scary for me. I don't like the idea that his teeth are connecting, even if it is with fabric. I have visions of him turning into DH! Am I over-reacting? How would I correct this? My Chicken Dance skills are a bit rusty and I'd like to keep it that way!
What was I thinking....?