Thursday, January 14, 2010

Nature vs. Nurture

Bear is Bear, what can I say. I love him to death, but now comparing some of his manners to the new horse, I can’t help but wondering, have I created a monster?

Nature vs. Nurture is debated in the human psychology fields depending on the realm and which philosophies they follow. Nature versus Nurture asks if there are certain behaviors in humans that a created by the environment that the individual was exposed to (nurture) or are they innately predisposed to those behaviors through genetics (nature). Let’s take a serial killer for a very general (and extreme) example, is this outrageously unacceptable behavior because of poor nurturing, say from severe neglect and abuse as a child? Was this killer naturally wired wrong and this behavior is a reflection of his mind not working?

The answer most often is both. Sometimes in extreme cases of mental illness the social behaviors are never quite right regardless of the best nurturing. Sometime the most neglected child can grow up to break the cycle and become something completely removed from the violence and chaos they thought was normal for so long. There are exceptions on either side of the spectrum, but most cases have a little of both. If mom had a history of mental illness and dad had a history of violence, both of those factors are surely going have an effect on the child and later his chances of being a successful adult.

So now we get back to Bear. What behaviors are there because is, after all, only four years old and seems to have a natural curiosity about what things are and how they would fit in his mouth? What behaviors are there because I haven’t been consistent enough in laying down the lines of what is expected of him?

Example: Lola ties quietly, occasionally paws, but can be trusted to stand tied alone. Bear dances, paws, puts his head down and gets the lead rope over it, bites, chews, eats his lead rope, eats anything around him: tack, blankets reins, his neighbor… you get the point. He has to be supervised! The tie rail at boarding school is chaos for Bear. I have to tie him super short or he’ll stick is head under it. He started clearing off the shelves while I tied the other horse. He’s a menace! Why? I tied him in the arena so he wouldn’t destroy things and he started playing a game by moving the gate back and forth, sticking his head through slots as far as he could. Plus more dancing, pawing, and neighing.

Here’s the even worse problem: this is exactly the same issue with trailering him. With standing tied I can at least discipline him (although I think he secretly loves being smacked) or I could hobble him while tied to quit the pawing. But what the heck do I do in the trailer. He gets bored and creates entertainment for himself! I tried feeding him while trailering, but he stuck his foot in the feeder on a regular basis.

His naughtiness is such a nuisance. In fact I think either of those would have been great names for him! Will it ever go away? Or is this is personality? He is a work in progress though, I guess I just need to remind myself that some changes will only come with training and maturity, and look back at all the success we have had.


Nicku said...
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Nicku said...

Hmmm...yes some horses are naturally annoying and "busy" all the time. But I really think any horse can learn to have manners, stand still and relax. Some of it is age for SURE, he's young and curious. But I think you have to sometimes really be black and white with the cute curious baby horses. With mine I had to stop all treats and groom/get him ready with a dressage whip nearby just in case he got silly (tap tap on the leg when he pawed or EVEN just smack the ground to get his attention when he was being rude to refocus him on me). It was SO HARD being firm with him but he's now MUCH less annoying and still has a great little personality.

Angie said...

When I got my appy he was almost 4 (Now 6)and similar to Bear in the busy dept. I took him out every day and I tied him to a safe spot, while I fed the other horses. Sometimes I would work with him afterward sometimes that was the only thing he had to do that day.

I recently started working with him first and then he got to rest tied while I worked with my mare. That helped him stand better as well as maturity. I don't think he will ever stand like my other horses though.