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February 28, 2013

Romance And Your Human

Does he have a sense of humor? Seeing how a Boyfriend reacts to a little misbehavior can tell you a lot about him. Photo by Dark Horse Photography

I have been informed by the barn cats that Humans everywhere recently celebrated something called “Valley Tines Day”, in which they make goony eyes at each other, and refuse to share their candy with me.

This got me thinking not only about the palatability of red roses (which, for the record, is terrible), but about the biped my Human ditched me for on Valley Tines night. Many horses see their Human’s significant other either as a rival for affection, or an extra set of feet to direct, but I believe these approaches are uninspired.

We don’t trust our Humans to eat, exercise, dress, decorate, or travel without our input, so why should we assume they can pick a significant other on the first (or 30th) try? Naturally, they need our input. Fortunately, I’ve devised a few Boyfriend Tests that I put the parade of new suitors through for the benefit of my Human. And my own amusement.

Boyfriend Test #1: Is he a commitment-phobe?

I want my Human to be with someone who’s not afraid to commit himself to a task for the long haul…so I make sure every task is a long, long haul. After all, she’s no match for the impatient.

You can incorporate most commitment tests into the training you’re already doing with your Human. Some of my most successful commitment tests have revolved around traveling, which I usually resist because my Human has yet to bring me Beyonce’s air bus for that trip to cross-country school. When the Boyfriend is present, however, it is a good idea to use each of your go-to resistance methods three to five times more enthusiastically than you normally would. If you typically back up to avoid the ramp, drag your Human all the way back to the barn. If you’re the strong, silent type, plant your feet for an extra hour or three. My record is five hours. The Boyfriend took to hiding in the truck cab.

It was fabulous.

When he’s been through the 12 stages of frustration, including a crying jag, and still hasn’t left for the liquor store, he’s a keeper.

Boyfriend Test #2: Can he laugh at himself?

In any human training endeavor, it’s critical to maintain your sense of humor. (Otherwise, those crazy bipeds are liable to drive you up a barn wall.) It’s helpful if the Boyfriend has one too. You need him to be able to laugh at himself when he fails to tie a quick-release knot on his 16th try.

I like to check this by putting Boyfriends in what I consider humorous situations. I sneeze in their faces. I chew on their coats. I steal baseball caps. I wait to call my friends until their ears are right next to my throat.

Basically, I try to be as annoying as I find my Human to be, and hope that he laughs.

Boyfriend Test #3: How are his math skills?

The last thing any of us needs is a Human who’s finally coming around to your insistence on Devoucoux, only to be discouraged by a panic attack from the Boyfriend. Remember—he may one day become the Poor Husband, at which point he has veto power over that extra bag of organic horse cookies.

If you can’t get ahold of his grade school report cards, dinnertime is as good a time as any to test his skills. Humans tend to allow inexperienced horse people to present  us with treats, since they consider this a simple task. If your Human is like mine, she probably has you on a diet (emphasis on “die”), which comes with an inconvenient cookie limit. Use your most pathetic nicker, lay on the pricked ears and oh-so-angelic big brown eyes, and keep count of how many treats you chomp on.

If the Boyfriend gives you zero treats over your DIEt, begin acting like he’s abusive when your Human isn’t looking. If he’s one over, assume he’s an idiot. If he’s two cookies over your limit, though, you need to start emailing him links to Tiffany’s website.

Boyfriend Test #4: Is he trainable?

This element is key. Your Human isn’t perfect, so you can be sure her boyfriend won’t be either. You shouldn’t be screening for perfection; you should be screening for imperfections you can live with. Or change. Or scare out of him. The last one being the most ideal.

The best way to do this is to test whether he pays more attention to your instructions, or your Human’s. For example, when she asks him to take you out to the arena for a ride, does he allow you to stop for a snack on the green stuff in the yard first?

When she screeches at him “Don’t let her eat!!” how insistently does he tug on the reins?

Even better, does he respond to your woeful, tired expression by removing the bit from your mouth and letting you eat lunch in peace?

That’s when you know you’ve got a winner.

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.

 

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