Everyone knows that mares are opinionated. There are also a lot of folks who would say that mares have attitudes. So what's the difference? Is it just our perception that changes it? I think about kids and how some parents say that their kids are 'creative' or 'strong willed' and I'm watching this kid mouth off to his parents or draw on the walls and I think, "No, this is not creativity this is bad manners."
I have an opinionated kid. She's five years old and has ways she likes things done. I'm okay with her deciding to do things a particular way. I'm okay with her asking for me to make her a waffle, with strawberry jam but no butter and not too crispy and make sure it's hot enough because she doesn't like cold waffles and please may I have a cup of ice water too? I'm okay with it because she says please. She ASKS. She says thank you when I bring her the waffle and the ice water. Some mornings, she forgets herself and says, "Mommy! Waffle! I'm hungry!". All I need to do to remind her of her manners is to look at her with raised eyebrows and say "What?" This is usually enough of a prompt for her to correct herself.
My daughter is five...only two weeks younger than my horse. So they're basically the same age. The difference is that I've had five years of being consistent with my child about please and thank you. When she was first learning to speak I had to remind her every single time she requested something. It took time. So much time that I don't know when it happened that I was able to stop reminding every day. But I now have a five year old that consistently gets praised by strangers for her amazing manners.
So, let's bring this back to ponies shall we? My pony is also five and I don't know what her former 'parents' taught her but it sure as hell wasn't please and thank you. Even the six months of pro training didn't seem to teach her these kinds of manners. My trainer at the time said to just ignore the ear pinning, tail swishing and go about my business. That she would react to my energy and begin to calm down. Only that hasn't happened. When you groom her girth and chest, she swishes her tail, lifts her front legs and tries (halfheartedly) to nip. Hit a wrong spot and she'll threaten to lift a back leg. Sure, she stops when I growl at her and smack her but I don't want to spend every session growling and smacking.
Some folks say that she's just expressing her opinion about grooming. Maybe she's thin skinned or something. Okay, she can have her opinion but grooming has to happen. I am not overly rough. I'm not using metal currycombs and wire brushes. And at some point she has to suck it up, right? Just like my daughter has to wash her hair AND brush it every day. It's not negotiable.
So I want to spend time teaching my mare to say please and thank you. Teaching her that she can express her opinion but she's got to lose the attitude. I have no idea what this means or how I'm going to do it, but I'm going to do what I do best with it and obsess like hell about it. I hope you are all having a good weekend with your ponies! I'm going to see the princess later on today, so I might have an update this afternoon.