I grab my pony’s head with hands firmly clapped to the jowls, arms outstretched, and plant a kiss on the fleshiest part of the muzzle. I then release my pony, and say “Sorry, it’s a human thing…”
Usually I try to interact with my ponies in ways that respect them, recognizing, for instance, their need to not feel trapped. Clasping their head between my hands (enabling a kiss) or encircling some body part with my arms (a hug) is less than respectful behavior on my part. But sometimes I revert to strictly human expressions of affection. Sometimes I just can’t resist giving a pony a big hug or a kiss.
Fortunately, my ponies are generally tolerant of my human displays of affection. The other day I did the “clasp-the-head-plant-a-kiss” routine on two ponies in quick succession. Both of them ‘licked-and-chewed’ immediately, a sign to me that they accepted my very human communication. Another pony sought out some attention from me, and after she had accepted several scratches in her favorite places, I gave her a big hug around the base of her neck. She twined her neck over my back as if hugging back.
I’ve learned that human displays of affection are not always appreciated. I remember one extreme – after giving a pony a hug around the neck, the pony reached around and bit my thigh. This was early in my pony ‘career,’ and I was quite disturbed by this reaction to my expression of fondness. I now understand how disrespectful I was on that occasion. Fortunately I’ve had numerous experiences on the other extreme. The picture shows my first stallion, Midnight Valley Timothy, tolerating a mounted hug with no halter or leadrope.
I try to treat my ponies respectfully, blowing into their nostrils when they offer them, extending the back of my hand for sniffing as the first greeting, or petting them somewhere besides between the eyes where it’s hard for them to see (especially the Fells whose forelocks obscure their vision!) But on those occasions when I’m overcome with my humanness, I follow my disrespectful act with, “Sorry, it’s a human thing.” And more often than not, I’m forgiven.
© 2011 Jenifer Morrissey