Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Todays Tip: Leave the stall door open!


Not what you’re thinking! Alternate title: Leave the barn door open, but that’s a different visual.

Background: we have three equine animals: a small horse, a pony, and a miniature donkey. Until the last few years, I’ve never been around horses, much less owned them, but somehow, I’ve got them now, and my primary job is stable boy. Anyway, that’s where our tip begins.

The other day I was cleaning the stall of one of the pony, who’s battling laminitis, and is now confined to his stall, and my wife tried to come in, and noticed that the stall was locked. “Never lock yourself in a stall,” she said sternly. She’s the expert.

How does that apply to self-defense? Have you ever left yourself in a potentially dangerous situation without a way out?

On several levels, we could say that I assumed I knew the level of danger in a stall with a horse, and assumed I would be able to handle it. I didn’t think about how unpredictable animals can be, even if they know me. If a wasp were to sting him, he could put the through a wall, despite how much he likes me and my treats. In the same manner, do we really always think about our surroundings, and even more importantly, the people in those surroundings? I know I don’t. Don’t get me wrong, I probably have more of an idea of those threats and their threat indicators, but do I really?

Since my wife and daughter somehow convinced me to invest (hah!) money in large pets that constantly require feed, water, maintenance (hooves, vets), and daily cleaning of their stalls and pasture, I’ve learned a little about how to look for the body language and psychological games that they can play with us, and with each other. With horses, there is a pecking order, and there are constant negotiations and threats that happen as they jockey for the dominant position in the herd (even one as small as three!). I have learned that to turn my back, or be unaware of what’s going on with them could be inadvertently dangerous, as even them quickly turning around is dangerous (700-800 pounds is a lot of mass that can knock even a bulky guy like me over easily). So, I’ve learned that, as much as I love them, watching for a nod of the head, ears turned down, or a snort and turn of the flanks can mean that I need to move, and FAST!

I try to do the same with these people, even those that I know. Not out of paranoia (OK, maybe a little), but out of caution, or pre-caution. It’s easier to act than react, and faster. If I see someone that may be annoyed or angry, or just agitated, my awareness may let me know before he pulls out the pistol and starts shooting at his unfaithful wife. If I notice a group of young people is sporting the wrong type of clothing or behavior, I have time to clear out. It’s just common sense, and easier than “self-defense.” And potentially less painful.

Have you unlocked your stall door?


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