Edit by Romy: This discussion was split from Titum's diary.
Romy: If you don't like this, maybe suggest something yourself?
Titum: Stupid idea, I don't know anything.
R: Then maybe try this one?
R: Okay, maybe stop training for today?
T: (and then he sometimes agrees to stop, but some minutes later he comes again, suggesting something half-heartedly)
R: Oh, it's so great that you have come. So wonderful that you are trying something!
T: Those girls are so easy to please, that's really not an interesting task...
R: Okay, then I'll just go and do something else, and as soon as you DO have an interesting task, just call me....and then he either goes eating for good or we do a number of repetitions of this game. Of course this is the extreme version and quite a bit exaggerated, but it's the tendency of our interaction.
How beautifully drawn!
I know that you're probably going to be shaking your head in exasperation over what I'm about to say Romy, but here goes anyway...
When one of my horses gets like this, (firstly, always these days, I'm happy with them.. and)
sometimes I go and put my energies elsewhere and leave them to their own amusement
sometimes I hang out and do nothing in particular,
sometimes I take them out for a ride or a walk (I loved Volker's posts about walking off the funk.
and sometimes (depending on the dynamics and the particular horse)...
I just give them a job to do and remind them I'm the boss.
Here's my rationale.
I think that some horses can easily love training with positive reinforcement. They love play, interaction, pushing the buttons on the cookie dispenser, bending us to their will, figuring out what we want and all the strings and things that go along with this. They feel powerful and self determining. They love having a say. It makes them feel autonomous.
Others have a tendency to feel manipulated. Regardless of being given choices, having their opinions called for and counted, having the option of saying no, yes, maybe, now, later, like this.. etc etc etc. Regardless even of enjoying the activity, or wanting the treats. In fact, sometimes, their enjoyment and desire serve to make them even more angry at their own collusion in the manipulation.
More intelligent, more independent, more self determined? I'm not sure. I know that my shetland is not like this, although she is incredibly intelligent, self determined and independent. But despite her bossiness, independence, loud voice, she has always seen me as a benevolent herd leader..and I think therein lies the difference.
I try to imagine..
I love my husband. He's kind and good and takes care of me well.
Through some trick of fate, he owns all our resources. He controls the food, the money, the house, the means for me to move outside our immediate environment, and the people that come into it to interact with me. I feel a little uncomfortable about this - I thought we were supposed to be equals, partners, soulmates.. This seems unbalanced. But what can I do?
And he has cookies, my favourite cookies, and he gives me one of those cookies,
every time I do something he likes,
when I play with him,
train with him,
do tricks for him,
repeat actions that I really don't understand and aren't in my natural repertoire,
and sometimes just for no reason except that he likes me...
and he listens to my ideas and opinions, and follows my suggestions for activities, and I get to choose...so I should feel good...
but always, always, always, it is him, holding the cookie bag and handing out the cookies... deciding what and how much he will reward.
I would feel horrendously manipulated.
I would start to hate him. I would resent him. I would feel as if there was some unfair secret reason that he saw me as less than him. I would hate him most in the moments I was weak and went along with his ideas, for the cookies, or for the fun of it, or just because I enjoyed being with him. I would start to dream about killing him and taking over the cookie bag. And I would feel bad about that, because I know he's good and kind.. I would hate myself. I would feel confused at my own emotions. I would feel confused about his motives. I would feel stuck. I would feel helpless. I would feel sick. In my helplessness, I wouldn't want to move, I would give up. I've been in this situation in my past. I know the truth of these feelings in me.
For me to feel good about working, playing and training together in this relationship, I'd need to be allowed to hold a cookie bag too - the currency of power.
I think many teenagers reach this point in how they feel about their parents.
Now, I imagine another scenario. I'm an English teacher, working in a little cram school. (that part is true!) I spend a great deal of my time there. My boss is kind and good. She takes care of her teachers and her clients well. She controls our environment very carefully - who can come in, what time we must enter and leave, where we must be at any time, what we can and cannot do there, she controls our eating time, and where and when we are able to drink water. She controls who I'm able to interact with there. She is powerful. She is strict about certain standards. And she controls the resources. The most important resource she controls is money. The currency of power. I do not challenge her, because she is The Boss. I want her money. But I do not resent her. I respect her! She runs a good company. I like my work. My life is clearcut and simple, but challenging! I trust her to make decisions that I don't need to be involved in, and I will follow her directions. I feel confident in my ability to do my job well. She delegates responsibility to me and I'm proud of the trust she has in me.
Now, she has a bag of my favourite cookies. She tells me that as well as providing me with my livelihood, she will give me a cookie
-when I do something she likes
- when I offer something special
-when she asks me to do something repetitive that I really don't see the point of
-when I make suggestions
- when I train with her
- when I play games
- when I put in a good effort
-when she delegates responsibility to me
and sometimes just because she likes me.
How do I feel? I feel GREAT! I feel appreciated. I feel like my job has real meaning. I feel motivated to offer more. I feel valued. I feel like I'm encouraged to be an individual. I feel like I have real freedom in my job. I feel like my boss values me, and I feel warm towards her. I feel as though she sees me as an equal in some way, even though there is a very clear cut power differential. Even though she's my boss, and I'm clear about that, I know we can even be friends!
The difference in my feelings between one scenario and the other are poles apart. But the differences in the situation are what? Only perceptual really I think.
I accept my boss as having more power than me. I accept her as a leader, and I don't question her authority.. I feel great that I'm allowed to give feedback.
I do not accept my husband having more power than me. I question his right to wield authority over me. Who is he to be able to "allow" me anything?
Understanding this has helped me come to terms with my issues of leadership with my horses. I'm the boss. And I feel good about that. Being the boss doesn't preclude me from having friendships with them, or listening to them. I can still value, appreciate, delegate, share, empathise and be friends with them. They can still suggest, offer, refuse, have opinions, own their own experience and be friends (or not!) with me.
Some of my horses, sometimes, I believe, have felt uncomfortable, confused, in our relationship when I haven't shown enough clear leadership, meeting them instead as a best friend and equal, but then always holding the balance of power and the cookie bag. That feeling would show up as resentment, aggression, or passive resistance. And I've found that taking on the "good boss" role at those times, has really helped them to feel better about things.
Horses don't get to choose us as friends any more than they choose to come to work for us. So I don't see one as intrinsically more morally wrong than the other. We make the decision to bring them into our lives, we put fences up around them, and then it is up to us to decide how best to take care of them. I've found that sometimes "showing them I'm the boss" is exactly what they need from me to feel really good about themselves, me and their life in general.
That's what your story brings up for me.
. I know that you and I don't share the same feelings about leadership, possibly don't even share the same syntax.
So I'll be interested to hear what you think. It's good to have my brain engaged!
Ps.. I totally understood what you meant by boring! Like food cooked without passion. Doesn't matter if it's cheese on toast or a ten course banquet..you can taste it when it's made with care.