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June 20, 2012

Pasture Managing Your Human

When your pesky Human comes to ride, explain to him or her that pasture maintenance is a full-time job. Photo by Dark Horse Photography.

As any of us with our own green space knows, pasture management can be difficult. Throw a lead-rope wielding Human into the mix, and your long day of culling your field’s clover crop just became a juggling act.

Keep It Simple

Lest you forget, Humans are often a little Stupid. The shorter you can make your message, the better your chance of success. The reality is that monitoring the relative heights of your field’s bluegrass, clover, bermudagrass and fescue grasses is a 24-hour job, and it’s simply not conducive to being in a stall for half the day, no matter how well-decorated it may be.

When your Human comes toodling into your workspace offering to bring you inside, Just. Say. No.

Send A Clear Message

I’ve seen many friends use a “blind gallop” approach to evasion when they see their Human coming. The problem with taking off at a run is that it doesn’t reinforce to your Human that your objection to coming inside is your workload.

Besides, running is exhausting, and sweat ruins the stylish mud application you put on your coat.

I prefer a “stroll and sample” approach. Learn to recognize your Human’s vehicle (I like to tag it with a nice poo stain if it’s reachable), and when it appears, without making eye contact, amble unassumingly in the opposite direction of the gate. Keep grabbing mouthfuls of grass as you walk to let her know you’re at work.

If you start out close to the gate, wait for her to go grab a lead rope and try to wander as far away from it as possible when you’re out of the Human’s line of sight; this will make her assume she’s going a little nuts (-ier).

Think Like A Hungry Statue

While your lazy Human carries on with whatever whistling, calling, bucket-banging routine she uses to coax you to do the walking for her by coming to the gate (Oh sure, she wants you to do cantering half-passes for an hour but can’t be bothered to walk across 8 acres), it’s time to play deaf. Do not lift your head from your lunch, do not bat an ear, and do not move your feet. Humans are highly sensitive to body language and will take even the slightest change as reinforcement.

After she’s finished embarrassing herself with a display of waving, hopping and handstands trying to get your attention, a somewhat less-lazy Human will probably begin walking your way.

Get Friends Involved

If, during your “stroll and sample” approach, your human gains too much ground on you, you might try throwing in a few trotting serpentines to induce a little dizziness. If the Human persists, call on your friends for help (whether they’re ready for it or not).

If you go out in a group, feel free to approach a grazing buddy and give him a firm nip on the butt or a head-tossing charge. Stirring up the group will remind your Human that not only is she outsized by you, she is also outnumbered.

Persistence Is Key

As with any area of human management, it’s critical to remain patient and persistent. It may take several rounds of buddy-chasing and wandering around in circles before the sweaty Human gives up on that lame “coming inside away from grass” idea—but she will learn from the experience, and it will help her retain your message for the future.

Jitterbug is a Michigan-bred Professional Draft Cross who skillfully avoided saddles until age 5. Since then, she has been lauded for her talent in successfully managing humans while training herself to one day achieve eventing greatness. Jitter and her human live in central Kentucky. Photo by Dark Horse Photography.