UC Davis undergraduate, 4th year
Major: Environmental Science and Management
Earlier in the summer, at the beginning of my working with the minis, I wrote a blog post detailing all the things they have individually taught me thus far. Of course, since that last blog post, they have shown me so many more things, as well as taught me quite a bit more about myself. For this week’s blog post, I present to you, an updated version of what the minis have taught me (so far!).
Firstly, Ms. Daisy Mae. Ever since Daisy’s eye wound started causing some trouble, her attitude has shifted quite a bit, given the discomfort of the situation. I can’t blame her one bit for her more isolated, quiet attitude. We have had to treat her eye twice a day everyday for the last several weeks, and while she’s a trooper through it all, she definitely doesn’t like it. Her personality shift has shown me that putting your feelings on display is not a weakness. Without Daisy’s ability to show us just how uncomfortable she is, we may not have seen what a problem this eye wound truly is for her. Even when I’m feeling anxious or uncomfortable, I often like to act as though I’m not in order not to “mess up the dynamic” or “ruin the fun” of those around me. But Daisy's outward feelings and discomfort are not at all the burden I believed I would be if I chose to act the same way. Therefore, I’m going to take a page from Daisy’s book, and instead of keeping my feelings inside to spare those around me, I know that however I’m feeling is acceptable, and those around me will even find me more genuine for expressing myself as such, and in no way burdensome.
Then, there’s Mary, baby Memphis’ mama. Mary is an excellent mother, with her patient and gentle nature, yet assertive and consistent boundaries. She has fostered Memphis’ playful spirit, while instilling within him politeness and manners. Mary, though shy, has come out of her shell. Most days when I’m grooming the other minis, she walks straight up to me in the hopes that it will be her turn for some attention soon. At first, when I started walking her around the ranch, she would often plant herself in place and refuse to move. But recently, we have both discovered her love for treats, and her ability to follow me around has greatly improved. What I’ve learned the most from Mary, however, is forgiveness. When I first started working with her, I knew she wasn’t happy with the way I was going about asking things of her, like walking forward or putting on the halter. I couldn’t figure out exactly how she wanted those things asked by me, and we both found ourselves getting burnt out and frustrated in trying to communicate. Recently, I have taken a different approach to handling her, in the way that she handles Memphis: patient and gentle, and then slowly more firm until boundaries are respected from both parties. That methodology seems to work quite well for us, and now we go on long walks without problems. From her, I take the beauty of forgiveness, taking a step back to reevaluate, and more than anything, treating others the way I would like to be treated.
To round off the donkeys, we have baby Memphis. Similar to his mama, sometimes on walks he would plant his feet and refuse to move, but also throw in a little bonus game of tug-of-war with the lead rope. He thought it was very fun…I didn’t. Similar to Mary, I had to take a step back to figure out how to approach asking things of him in the format that he can respond best to. Not all of these animals are the same, and it’s my job to figure out the language that works best for our individual communications. I took a similar approach to that of Mary, and treated him the way she does: at first patient and forgiving, and then a bit more firm. While this method is quite similar to that of what I experienced with Mary, he has actually taught me something very different. Per Memphis, while there is a time and place for fun and silliness, there is always room to throw your personality into even the more serious moments. For example, even though we have worked through to end a lot of the tug-of-war play time during our structured training, Memphis still finds a way to throw in a little hop, a bump with his nose, or some other silly thing that reminds me that he is a playful, silly baby. While there is a time for tug-of-war, even during our training moments, I don’t want him to lose his sense of play and inherent silly nature. Therefore, even in my more serious times, I hope to maintain my sense of humor and throw that in every once in a while. People will often appreciate it.
Now for the mini horses, Randy. I know mothers shouldn’t pick favorites, but he just has a special place in my heart. In my time working with him, I have found that he exhibits the greatest curiosity and willingness to learn out of all the others in the herd. When the Garden Whisperers are planting, Randy will be right next to them on the other side of the fence, seeing what they are doing. When I’m cleaning out the water trough, Randy is right next to me, poking his nose around to see what’s going on. When we first turned on the fan and misters, he laid down right in front of it so his belly could get all the air and cool water. New things are an opportunity instead of a fear for him, and that is something I hope to take with me.
Lastly, Ms. Olivia, Randy’s beautiful dark bay mama. Olivia, similar to Mary, has a bit of shyness and fear within her. While Randy views new things as an opportunity for potential fun or learning, Olivia’s gut instinct is fear. Given that she lived many more years in a hard situation before she was rescued, it is completely valid that she would have more instinctive fears and act more wary of new things. However, that hasn’t stopped her from instilling in Randy a curiosity that she doesn’t possess. Randy isn’t trusting and curious for no reason- I feel as though Olivia truly wants Randy to be all the things she is not. While Olivia has overcome so much and made great strides (no pun intended), she still will probably always have a bit of fear within her. But, she makes it a point to at least mother Randy in a way where he isn’t scared of the world in the same ways that she is. I think it’s incredibly honorable and important to not pass on our own fears and trauma to those around us. While much easier said than done, it is crucial that future generations learn about the world through their individual curiosity, and create personal views undefined by their parents' fears and pasts.
I will continue to make an updated version of this blog as time goes on, as I don’t foresee the minis making any less of an impact in my life than they do. I am eternally grateful for the things they continue to show me, and I look forward to when they will make a similar and greater impact on the greater community at large.
Green Care Blog
Here you can find blog posts from each Green Care Lab intern. We'll be talking about our research process, the benefits of Green Care therapy, and sharing pictures of our work. Follow along with us!