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First let me state that the school I work for is weird. I can't really say the name of the school because, well, teaching here is some kind of top secret mission.
It was weird when I worked here before, and my hopes for things being better when I came back are... well, things are better. But the systemic issues that make me want to beat my head against a wall until I pass out are the same.
"Breath," I say to myself. "You have six months to go." And then a voice in my head weeps.
So, last week, T and I were working together on a PowerPoint for summer camp, a PPT she needed to present that day. She was asking for my help because I'm excellent not only at animating PPTs but also, knowing how to make complex ideas palatable for all levels of ESL learners whom may or may not know much English, but must teach or appear to teach for 40 minutes while avoiding any injury.
This is harder than you might think since half the time "sit down" is not understood or much else. Nevertheless, it's the path I've chosen. So T and I were hard at work when my boss of sorts wandered over. Either R. or D. sent her a message that they couldn't work. By work R. means watching birds and D. means, well I don't sit next to him, but he keeps saying this job is so easy and he has too much free time so I'm positive work does not mean the same thing it does to me or you.
Anyway, boss told us to stop working. I thought that she misunderstood because T and I have been guilty of having a warm up the day conversation with the neighboring teacher. When it happens its from 8:30 to 9:00 and then classes start at 9:20. Because D. and R. are such awesome coworkers and completely self-unaware, they complain about any noise they don't make. I can't remember if I wrote about the keyboard or not, but to illustrate this point, let me tell you about it...
One day I was typing madly-- mostly I do PPTs here so I don't usually have much cause to type madly. But this day required about 1000 words in a row. R. is always typing on chat rooms because, well, like many ESL teachers, he's not here to teach. He's here for an easy paycheck.
And in the public schools you can choose to work a little or a lot. This particular English Center located in yeongju-- if you can't figure it out, them I'm very good at keeping my place of employment top secret. So, in the schools attempt to cut down on free time, there is a lot of pointless paperwork that comes with this position. And during one of these paper work times, R. eaned over and said, "Can't you type more quietly?" He then gave me a rubber keyboard cover.
Add then went back to slamming on his uncovered keyboard. I politely told him he can't ask me to do be quieter than himself when typing, and I bet you can guess how bunched up his panties got.
So anyway, the two least industrious teachers demand silence and because sometimes life is 100% nonsensical, my boss asked my coworker and I stop talking.
"We really are working today," I said.
"I know," she said. "But you've been at it for forty minutes."
I have never renovated anything, not really, or been significantly involved with renovations. So I find myself suddenly tired of renovations. And with the excitement having worn thin, I'm often just annoyed. The rain didn't help. It rained everyday for about a week and the pasture became a mud pit. A combination of environmental factors led Thunder to get a blood clot in her hoof. Liz called the vet out from Seoul. As all things horse related in Korea, it's hard. There is only one equine veterinarian service in South Korea and while there are other large animal vets closer, many haven't handled a horse since college. They're just not that common. The vet in Seoul wouldn't even com two hours out to our farm if it wasn't for our feed dealer who put us in contact with him. My friend has to call him directly, otherwise the office staff will just say no.
The farm call fee is about $200.00 and with a two hour drive, four hours round trip assuming there is no traffic, toll fees, fuel and what not, this price is dirt cheep. The vets from the equine hospital are really good too. The blood clot was small, and because there is not a lot of information about this on the internet, I have no idea about the long term ramafications for Thunder had her hoof not been opened up.
But this lead to more renovations. Our pseudo stalls for feeding weren't enough to keep her in so Mr. O welded us some stalls. Had we been in the states we could have just bough some corral panels but here you buy the pipe and have someone do the welding. All three gates are on hinges and can be swung against the wall for when we don't need stalls. Mr. O also put a half door at the back of the barn. This allows us to take the wheelbarrow out and clean the run in.
Everything is actually being re-purposed from apple farm use to stables. So the barn was an equipment shed and the run in behind the barn housed two big water tanks. There are circular groves in the floor. One of the renovations is pouring concrete on top to level the space.
There is a lot going on behind the barn too. A long time a go, the village used to get their water from an underground spring. it was sealed off and the overflow run to a pond at the front of the property. Liz is opening it back up. She has installed a retaining wall and a small pond area. Water runs out in a small brook to a second pond before flowing out into a the ditch that runs the length of the farm road where it will eventually flow into the stream at the base of the mountain.
This means an endless supply of fresh water for the the horses and by putting things back to the way they where this had led to quite a few wild animals re-inhabiting the mountainside behind the barn. I've heard and see a very big, beautiful pheasant. Thor is terrified of him. There is also an owl, and some kind of larger cat. Not a big cat, but a wild cat of some sort. I've heard his or her cries and it's nothing like a tame cat. It's haunting and spine tingling.
Liz also took down the chicken house, so for now we don't have any chickens. If we do get more chickens, they'll be housed near the horses. A roadway is going through the old pond area. When finished happy horse will be a trail park. With limited space for trail riding in Korea... I mean, you can go out on the roads but its more dangerous than it ever was in the states. There are deep ditches everywhere and while none of our horses are afraid of cars, my misadventure on the roads last year taught me how unprepared people are to encounter a horse on the road.
The car was flying down the road and though he had time to see us, didn't and missed Super by a few centimeters... With the deep, concrete ditch on the side was no where for him to go. I probably need to photograph the unique obstacles in South Korea. Also, Super is a coward. He gets really worried about a patched pot hole or change in pavement color while, cars as far as he is concerned, are perfectly safe. He has a funny thing about wanting to follow white vehicles... he'll follow any vehicle as if it were a heard leader, but will practically chase after white ones.
Are you familiar with condition 15.4 (c) on your Paypal account? Me neither. But apparently if you die, you are rectifiable in breach of it and will receive a letter telling you so. But there is an easy solution. Simply add your address to your headstone before you die so the letter isn't delivered to grieving friends and family.
A one year-old appears before a judge to answer what inquiring minds what to know... does he understand the proceedings? Um.... But at least the judge was embarrassed. Not so for the 70 year old Toddler, Adolf Twitler .
American might be great again and Elon Musk builds a kid sized submarine, but is disappointed that the rescuers or the trapped Thai soccer team didn't want to begin rescuing the kids until his prototype was finished. Seriously, in order to use it, all the rescuers had to do was drag it through the cave system, haul it up behind them as they climbed and then ease it down the other side. Then squeeze it through a 14' gap where it would taken the rest of the way to the children kids, where divers could rescue them one per day for the next 13 days.
This is a horse post, but first, I want to thank everyone who has entered the emoticon contest. You guys are making it hard to choose a winner. Now, on to my three children with hooves.
I follow Warwick Schiller via his online subscription. I mentioned that before but I thought I'd mention it again, because if you American and living abroad or not American-- the United States and it's citizens love to block/ make impossible to access for international users-- he's a great resource. I also admire Vicki Wilson .
Animals do smile
Did you know horses can smile? Many clinicians and trainers talk about licking and chewing and lowered heads as signs of relaxation. There is a step beyond that and its a smile. Happy horses can even smile while being annoyed with you.
To me its a lot like human children. If you ever watch Supernanny, you'll see children smile even as rules they don't like rules are being laid out. That's because rules and consistency creates security. For a prey animal security is worth their life.
Before a horse will smile at you, he or she has to have a lot of trust and be able to relax around. Finally, they must like their life. Finally, they must feel that saying "no" is okay. Not that saying now will get them what they want, but that they can say it to you. If you watch a dominate horse drive a subordinate away, he or she leaves with a head toss or a kick. That's the equivalent to a human child stomping their foot and saying "fine!"
Horses do this by kicking out as you send them away, throwing the head as they move away, glaring while doing what you have asked of them and swishing their tails. Ears back however are more like eff- off.
Creating an environment where your equine companion isn't afraid to share his or her opinion but isn't allowed say "eff off" is like walking a knifes edge. There is a lot of grey area and requires the ability to read the most subtle cues. It may also be important to repeatedly until the desired behavior is performed without objection.
You might be familiar with “Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard.” Its the same thing. Obedience is a choice that the horse can make or not make, but the latter is hard and the former is easy. Warwick Schiller tells a story about some horse his former worker, Chewy, and a horse that runs back to the barn. In order to stop the horse from running back to the barn, he had to let the horse run back to the barn. But when got to be where he wanted, the horse had to work.
Not only must the trainer let the horse "win" but sometimes horses have bad days just like people. Allowing horses to have a bad day--letting go until the next day creates a bond of understand. This doesn't mean you induldge your horse.
For example, I used to have a mare who was unusually grumpy on her first day of heat. I could annoy her into behaving well. Or I could do whatever needed and let her alone for a day or two. She wasn't much of a talker when I got her, but seven years later she was always telling me things. She had a way of communicating when her cinch was pinching, she told me when she had a tick in her tail or something else was bothering her. Over time, I could tell the difference because just as I used the same body language to mean go, she learned to use the same hip drop and tail swish to mean tick.
I remember distinctly a little after I had moved her to a new farm. The owner came up to me and said, "Your horse is really smart. Her water trough was empty and she stood right by it nickering at me. At first I thought she thought I was feeding the other horses. But she kept doing it throughout the morning, but only when I had the water hose. That's when I realized she was talking to me, tell me she needed water. "
I recently read a study where they taught horse to touch symbols if they wanted their blankets on or didn’t want them on. By the end of the study, the researchers reported that some of the horses were running and neighing after their human trainers. What a great things to study. If horses could tell us what they wanted, would they. They answer is yes. But when the study was over, the trainers moved on to a new research project. I wonder what it must have felt like to those horses. Imagine that one day, you can no longer tell someone what you want and need.
When I sold my mare to come to South Korea, I turned away a lot of people. In the end, I chose a family for her. But a few months later they emailed me about her rearing and acting bad. I'd taught her to talk to me. She eventually did settle in with a horse person because she was trained well. But selling her is one of my great life regrets.
Well, below are some photos.
This is Thunder smiling. It's not the best photo, but it's really hard to get a good smile photo.
Thor was smiling too, but not as exaggerated as Thunder's. . We got Thunder from the racetrack in December and Thor at the beginning of April. So some of it has to do with the time.
Google search: horse smiling. Results, a lot of horses not smiling.
This horse is not smiling. He's chewing on the bit, or the rider is pulling on the reins, or he's pulling on the rider, or he doesn't' like the bit...based on his eye expression and ears, I suspect he's nearly pulling the rider out of the saddle, perhaps to get a bit of grass or perhaps because he's learned that pulling gets a release of pressure. .
Also, not a smile. Horse's wrinkle their nose and flip up their lip as a response to smells.It's called the flehmen response. This horse may well have been trained to smile... lots of people use this response to get horses to lift their upper lip. Humans associate showing teeth with smiles, but in horses, showing teeth isn't a smile.
In this case, the teeth mean, "I'm going to bite you." See the laid back ears, the white around the eye and the muscle tension in the entire body.
The horse in the background is either playful or telling the horse in the foreground. Notice the extension of the upper lip in the foreground horse. You'll see this in a lot of jumping photos, horses doing sliding stops... anything that requires full attention.
But Google does turn up one horse smiling. Not licking and chewing, or saying eff off, but a real smile. Notice the O between the upper and lower lips. If you had a shot of this from the side, it would be easy to see that the lower lip is more forward than the upper lip. Also nice the dreaminess in the eyes and the right ear slightly turned toward the person who, based on the hand position, is probably scratching this horses "it" spot. Whatever this horse has to put up with humans, he is getting much in return.
Mariel R. is an ESL teacher, horse trainer, writer, editor, sporadic blogger, and lover of beer. She lives in South Korea with two house cats, three horses, a German Shepherd and three barn cats .
Bear (Gom in Korean) then (above) now (below)
Geumbi (Goldy in English) R.I.P February, 23, 2018