By Ox Drover
Many of you know that I have a background and interest in animal behavior, and that I look at the way animals behave and apply what I see to my own life.
I have two mammoth (horse-sized) donkeys (correctly called asses) named Fat and Hairy that I frequently talk about on the blog. Someone called them the Lovefraud mascots, because I talk about them so frequently.
I’ve ridden and owned various horses over the years and they are loveable creatures, but really not very bright. They will trust their safety to you without question once they are trained and will do what you tell them to, usually without protest, even if it gets them into a situation where they will be injured or killed. If they sense danger from a sudden loud noise or something else, they will frequently panic, and in their own panic and efforts to flee the supposed danger, they will injure themselves or run blindly directly into the danger.
Asses, on the other hand are quite bright and will never trust their safety to anyone except themselves. Because of this tendency to refuse to budge toward something they don’t personally think is safe, asses have become labeled “stubborn” and “hard headed” and “balky” and “uncooperative.” In fact, it is not the case at all! They are just very very self-protective and cautious. They will never trust their safety to someone they aren’t sure puts their safety as high a priority as they do.
In the wild, or even with some tame horses, if there is danger, a horse will just take off in all directions at once, but if an ass senses danger, he will assess the situation before he does anything. He will decide for himself to flee or fight, and if he decides to flee, he will make sure he is going in the direction away from the danger. Not so the horse.
Asses never panic. They put their own safety as the top priority and they know that panic puts them at a decided disadvantage in taking care of themselves, over having a cool head in a crisis. While a horse will run blindly in panic and fear, the ass will stop some distance away from the perceived threat and turn around to observe if it is necessary to keep on running.
Asses are not cowards and sometimes they feel it is necessary to fight to maintain their safety.They are quite capable fighters, using their teeth and all four feet as formidable weapons. Because of this tendency, they are frequently used as guardian animals for sheep, goats and other prey-type livestock. They will not allow a strange animal in their territory. I even have photos of a mule killing a cougar. (Mules are half-horse, half-ass hybrids, but have more ass characteristics than horse characteristics. They are quite bright and also take their own safety into their own hoofs.)
Even though both asses and their mule offspring have reputations for being stubborn and difficult to deal with, I see their intense consciousness for their own safety and wellbeing as a positive characteristic that we should all emulate.
A while back I was riding Fat Ass on a trail ride and we came around a bend and he saw something new to him and stopped to examine it before proceeding. It was a bright shiny new white fence, in contrast to the barbed wire fences he was familiar with. He observed and sniffed this fence from a safe distance until he decided it was harmless and then proceeded. If I had tried to force him to proceed before he was ready to proceed, he would never have gone. His attention would have been diverted from examining the potential danger to resisting my forcing him. I could have beaten him with an iron rod and he would never have moved. A horse, on the other hand would have said., in essence, “Okay, if you think it is safe and you are going to hit me, I will go on.” Not an ass. They have minds of their own and their own safety is uppermost in their minds, as it should be in ours.
Like a horse, I have left my own safety in the hands of others. I have let them force me into places that were not safe, because of the punishment they inflicted on me if I did not do their will. Instead of keeping my own safety uppermost in my mind, I allowed others to “rein me in” and “spur me on” into unknown dangers. I abdicated my own good sense and let someone else take over the reins.
When I panicked, when I finally did see the danger that I had allowed someone else to lead me into, I “rode off in all directions at once” like a panicked horse, running blindly, sometimes right into the danger itself. I fled sometimes when I should have stood and fought, and fought sometimes when I should have fled, because in my panic I didn’t take time to assess the situation and come to a reasonable decision about what I should do.
When I was injured, I concentrated on the injury itself, rather than taking myself out of danger of further injury as an ass would have done. I begged my abusers to stop beating me. I gave in to their demands that I do something I wasn’t sure about.
If a horse has been injured or mistreated, it may remain in a hyper-vigilant state of high stress and never be able to relax. It may become nervous and anxious all the time if it has been hurt or stalked. After my injuries by the psychopaths, I became the nervous horse, seeing danger behind every tree. Living in stressful terror and “waiting for the other shoe to fall.”
The ass however, does not live in a hyper-vigilant state. The ass is continually alert for danger, but not anxious. He doesn’t blow and snort and dance the way an anxious or nervous horse does. He has confidence in the best protector of his safety, himself.
Yea, I’m working on becoming an A.S.S.—-Assertive Survivor of a Sociopath!