A horse is parked at the mall.
Your mother has driven you to the mall to shop and to meet your friends. She parks the car in the parking slot, and next to your car stands a beautiful paint horse, fully saddled, standing perfectly still. Unusual? You bet!
Egon Settle, a well-known Texas cowboy in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, rides Free Falling, a paint horse, to work during the winter months. In the hot Texas summer, he brings the horse to work in a horse trailer and rides the horse in areas that are safe for the horse and pedestrians.
Egon is a "horse whisperer." Does "horse whisperer" mean whispering in the horse's ear? Sometimes. But Egon's specialty is horses that have been labeled "problems."
Horses have personalities like humans. Maybe you don't like the color red, or you count the number of stairs you climb. These actions are called idiosyncrasies (habits) we have as individuals. Horses also have idiosyncrasies. They may not like snapping noises or loud bangs.
Free Falling has been well-trained. He will stand in the parking slot, perfectly still, until Egon gives Free Falling a command to back up, drink water, or whatever command Egon may give him. Free Falling will not move or flick an ear, even when a noisy car or motorcycle pulls up beside him.
So why will Free Falling act up when Egon replaces the wooden chips in his stall?
Free Falling will back into the corner, jitter around, flick his tail, and lay his ears back, all signs of being upset and nervous. Yet, Free Falling likes the soft, wooden chips under his hooves.
Egon noticed that Free Falling became upset when he picked up the plastic bag of wooden chips. It was the crinkling or snapping sound of the plastic bag that upset the horse, not the wooden chips.
So how did a "horse whisperer," Egon, help Free Falling overcome his problem?
First, Egon took plastic bags and gently rubbed them on Free Falling's body. All the time he rubbed the plastic bag on Free Falling, Egon spoke softly and stroked the horse's nose. He let Free Falling smell and look at the bags. Horses are sensitive to odors and can see almost 360 degrees. (Horses can look forward with one eye and backward with the other eye.) Next, Egon placed a few plastic bags on the floor of the stall for Free Falling to feel them under his hooves and to become accustomed to the sound of the bags. Free Falling no longer objects to the crinkling or snapping noise of the plastic bags.
Does Egon have horse sense? Yes. Egon studied the horse and learned the horse's personality. He identified the problem and found a way to overcome it.