When I was living in Everette with Betsy Appleton after my terrible break up with my psychologist girl friend, I got to spend some time with the horses that Betsy was in charge of. One horse in particular caught our eye, his name was Denny. Denny had a great personality and a relatively short torso, but he was skittish and nervous. Most people don’t know this but horses can be very specieist, very prejudiced, and mean spirited. In Denny’s coral there were two other horses, taller than Denny and a donkey.
Denny would play with the Donkey as though he were a donkey, he would play donkey games. Donkeys will stand shoulder to shoulder and then act as though they are going to bite the knees of the other donkey, when this happens the correct response is to drop onto your knees so they are out of range. When the other donkey stops trying to bite your knees you leap up and try to bite his knees. He drops down and the game continues. (stop looking at me like that, I didn’t invent the game…)
Well, the other horses thought themselves too good to fraternize with a donkey and they punished Denny by constantly biting him on the ass, these bites were more than gently playing, they frequently drew blood and Denny had scars all over his ass for befriending a donkey and treating him as an equal and a friend.
Denny was unbroken and we were worried that if another trainer tried to break him they wouldn’t understand his hyper-vigilance and mistrust of others. We were familiar with the training methods of other trainers and we were afraid that they would become frustrated and abusive with Denny, not realizing what a truly large heart he had and what great character. He couldn’t be broken like other horses.
I used my knowledge of the occult, which is really just psychology when you get down to it, and devised a breaking technique that was untried, and, well, invented by myself.
My plan was to over stimulate Denny’s orientation response, until he relaxed it and stopped being paranoid.
The orienting response (OR), also called orienting reflex, is an organism’s immediate response to a change in its environment, when that change is not sudden enough to elicit the startle reflex. The phenomenon was first described by Russian physiologist Ivan Sechenov in his 1863 book Reflexes of the Brain, and the term (‘ориентировочный рефлекс’ in Russian) was coined by Ivan Pavlov, who also referred to it as the Shto takoe? (Что такое? or What is it?) reflex. The orienting response is a reaction to novel or significant stimuli. In the 1950s the orienting response was studied systematically by the Russian scientist Evgeny Sokolov, who documented the phenomenon called “habituation“, referring to a gradual “familiarity effect” and reduction of the orienting response with repeated stimulus presentations.
We would walk around him first in one direction and then in the other, he would try to follow us with his eyes, and that would make him dizzy, and then eventually he would get tired of following us with his eyes, realizing that we weren’t doing anything to harm him and he would sigh and relax. Then we would reverse directions and circumambulate him yet again, this time slapping him all over with some vigor so that he could hear the sound of your strokes. He would tense up and become suspicious of us yet again and then relax his orienting response again. By this time he was in a Euphoric Catharsis.
Long story short we broke him to saddle in 1 month, and we sold him for a decent price to an owner that loved and appreciated him. I actually got to ride him on one of our regular routes, he was a little smaller than average but he was strong, and he was responsive, and he was affectionate and attentive. A great horse, he participated, he tried to get along with everybody and fit in. He was concernful of everybody.
Just one of those many experiences that I am glad to have had, that set me apart and make me different. Part of the reason I don’t see things the way other people do.