Do you park in the same spot at the bank or at the market? Do you do the same morning routine? Do you read the paper (or Internet news) the same way every day?
Me, too. Creatures of Habit.
Pretty much we all do things in a habitual way which makes us feel comfortable. These habits are our adult “blankies” so to speak. If we do these things in a patterned way, we feel safe and complete. These are our own little compulsions.
Of course, the people who know all about our brains — and how to make them stronger — will tell us that we should switch up our little compulsions daily. For example, if you shop the market from left to right, do it the other way… If you eat with your right hand, do it with your left.
These types of exercises are supposed to keep our brains sharp and help us not become sedentary mentally.
Yeah, well, who has time for that, right? Most of us don’t. However, it might be a good exercise in brainpower (and humor) if we actually did park in a new spot at the mall. Could you imagine the cacophony of car fobs chirping all over the place as we all try to locate our cars?!…
Anyway, this Creature of Habit idea brought up a very current situation at my farm.
(It despise that I think of Jersey Shore when I write that phrase…)
The situation at my barn is this… When it rains horribly and all the waters from the nearby hills are spilling into my pastures, there are really no dry places to feed outside. I have plenty of shelters, but I usually feed outside.
Thereinlies the issue. I USUALLY feed outside. That means MOSTLY ALL THE TIME, I feed in the same place, outside.
EVERYONE HAS DRY FEEDERS
Having just stated what I USUALLY DO, the reality is that everyone had a feeder in their shelter or at least they all have a shelter which is clean and dry.
But, the pattern for the horses is to use the shelter when they want shade or dry, but when it is feeding time, they all go to the fenceline in the exact positions that they always maintain at feeding time, in the same pattern in the same way.
To set the stage for you, Grass Valley doesn’t usually have enough rain at one time to make the highest and driest areas by the fences too sloppy to feed (or too windy). Generally, when it rains here, MN (Mother Nature) gives us a break. The ground stays relatively compact and the hay stays where you put it. Nice. We all like that.
So, feeding time has become a pattern for me. I generally feed at about the same time, I feed in the same order, using the same bowls in the same ways at the same pace, twice daily and three times on holidays.
FEEDING IN THE DARK
As an aside, the pattern of my feeding is never so apparent than when I feed in the dark…
Feeding time is such a routine that I can tell which horses are where – even without seeing them. For example, if I hear a horse by the gate in the mare pasture as I’m walking to the barn, I know it is Sam. But, once I start feeding in the mare pasture, I also know that Gwen will push Sam out of that poll position. So when I hear a horse by the mare gate while I am feeding, I know it is Gwen – even without seeing her.
I can count them in the dark by knowing where each horse will be and how they usually act. If a sense that a horse body is present in the right spot doing the right things (pawing or nickering or jumping around), I know that particular horse is OK and present. I do this for all of them and it works.
It is quite odd and powerful — this routine… It sure drives the Creature of Habit point home. I can’t see any of them clearly in the dark, yet I know they are all there and OK by their patterns.
CREATURES OF HABIT
It has been storming here and the ground is really nasty. Also, the wind is blowing so when I put the hay down, half of it blows into neverland.
Hmmmmm. I asked myself, What to do?
I came up with a plan… all the shelters have either feeders or dry ground. I’ll just put the hay in the feeders or on the ground of the shelters. Great idea… in theory.
HERE’S WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED.
I decided to start with Remi and Bodhi and the ponies (who are in the next pasture together). Their fields were the most sloppy at the top near the fence where I have trained them to stand at feeding time. (I’m really good at training some things.)
OK, so I went outside with my camera and took photos of Remi and Bodhi in their shelter, keeping dry. They like it in there and spend much time inside when it is raining. Especially Remi. I think growing up on Oregon has made her despise the rain. I can’t blame her…
Anyway, I started with them. I crawled between the fence rails with two flakes of yummy hay. They came out to watch me. I then strolled into their shelter and put the hay into the feeders hung on the walls.
They just stood there and looked at me.
WHY DID YOU DO THAT? WE EAT OVER THERE.
me: I know, but it is raining and I thought you would like to eat inside
WHY DID YOU THINK THAT?
me: Because I am a human and I think that you should like to eat inisde
BUT WE ARE HORSES AND WE DON’T CARE AS LONG AS WE HAVE OUR ROUTINE WHICH YOU TAUGHT US.
me: C’mon, it is nicer inside and you will enjoy it more
NO, WE LIKE TO EAT WHERE WE CAN SEE OUTSIDE AND MAKE SURE THERE ARE NO PREDITORS
me: There are no preditors.
PROVE IT. YOU CANNOT CHANGE MILLIONS OF YEARS OF GENETICS.
They wouldn’t touch the hay inside their shelter which was in the feeder against the wall where they couldn’t see out. Nope. Not one bite. They stood outside and glared at me. Remi actually went over to her tree (the usual feeding spot) and stood there, glaring at me.
THIS IS WHERE WE EAT. PUT IT HERE.
So, I did and they ate.
I then did the same thing for the ponies. I put the hay in their shelter.
The ponies can see outside of their shelter no matter where I put the hay. So, I figured they would be good to go. However, Hubby had just added a panel to their shelter so the wind would not be as strong in there.
Uh oh. Change. Change is not good.
I put the hay onto the nice shelter ground. There! I presented them their meal with a flourish.
They stared at me from outside of the shelter.
me: Yes, I put your dinner here, in your nice, dry shelter.
BUT WE EAT OVER THERE BY THE GATE.
me: Not today. Today you will eat in your shelter.
UHHHH. WELL, THE SHELTER LOOKS DIFFERENT AND WE DON’T LIKE IT ANYMORE. BESIDES, WE EAT OVER HERE BY THE GATE. LOOK, WE’LL GO OVER THERE AND STAND THERE SO YOU CAN REMEMBER WHERE TO FEED US . JUST PUT THAT NICE PILE OF HAY RIGHT OVER HERE.
me: No, eat it here.
NO. THE SHELTER IS DIFFERENT AND SCARY NOW. YOU WRECKED IT.
me: (breaking down a little and quickly creating a new plan) You guys are so wet, please, eat this nice beet pulp in this nice bribery bowl inside your shelter.
OK! IF YOU PUT IT THAT WAY. BUT, WE WILL ONLY STICK OUR HEADS INTO THE SHELTER TO EAT OUT OF THE NICE BRIBERY BOWLS. AND, WE’LL USE OUR NOSES TO PULL THE BOWLS OUT TO WHERE WE WOULD RATHER EAT.
me: Sigh. How about if I stand in the shelter with you and watch you eat inside the shelter.
OK, BUT WE’LL DO OUR OWN THING AS SOON AS YOU LEAVE.
Sigh. I stood in there with them, freezing, and then left. As soon as I came back to check on them, they had both the bowls outside. Figures.
I was relating this story to Hubby as we were leaving for our road trip. I was telling him how frustrated I was with his horse (Bodhi) and Remi for not eating inside of the shelter and then I was telling him how the ponies were rejecting their shelter because of the new panel.
As I was talking, I was pulling into the bank parking lot. I parked where I always park and Hubby said, “Why don’t you park over there in the shade or over there by the ATM?” And what did I say?
“Because I always park here,” — proving my point.
CREATURES OF HABIT — all of us.
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