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Rubber Bucket Belly Bumper
Haflingers do have a variety of
creative techniques for attracting attention to themselves when someone walks in the
barn, especially around feeding time. Over the years, we've had the gamut: the noisy neigher, the mane tosser, the foot stomper, the stall
door striker, the play with your lips in the water and splash everything, and most irritating of all, the teeth raked across the woven wire
front of the stall. Some Haflingers wait patiently for their turn for attention, without fussing or furor, sometimes nickering a low
"huhuhuhuhuh" of greeting. That is truly blissful in comparison.
Most creative of all, however, is my two year old filly, Nuance, who does not live up to her name in any way. She is the
least "nuanced" Haflinger we've owned. Her chosen method of bringing attention to
herself is to bump her belly up against her rubber water buckets that
hang in the stall, making them bounce wildly about, spraying water
everywhere, drenching her, and her stall in the process. She loves it.
It is sport for her to see if she can tip the buckets to the point of
emptying them and then knock them off their hooks so she can boot them
around the stall, destroying a few in the process. Nothing can make
this filly happier. When she has occasion to share a big stall space
with one of her half-siblings, she's found that the bucket bouncing
technique is very effective at keeping her brothers away, as they have
no desire to be drenched and they don't find noisy bucket bumping very
attractive. So her hay pile is hers alone--very clever thinking.
This is not unlike a wild chimpanzee that I knew at Gombe in Tanzania,
named "Mike" by Jane Goodall, who found an ingenious way of rising to
alpha male status by incorporating empty oil drums in his "displays" of
aggression, pounding on them and rolling them down hills to take
advantage of their noise and completely intimidating effect on the other
male chimpanzees. Mike was on the small side, and a bit old to be alpha
male, but assumed the position in spite of his limitations through use
of his oil drum displays. So Nuance, my noise and water splashing
filly, has become alpha over her peers.
We humans have our various ways of attracting attention too. Some of us
talk too much, even if we have nothing much to say, some of us strut our
physical beauty and toss our hair, while some of us are pushy to the
point of obnoxiousness. And some of us are real bluffers, making a
whole lot more noise and fuss than is warranted, but enjoying the chaos
that ensues. Meanwhile we may leave a wake of destruction behind
us--not unlike my filly with her soaked stall, and mangled buckets--all
done to make sure someone notices.
I've learned I need to quit stomping, quit knocking the door in my
impatience, quit yelling when a quiet greeting is far more welcome. And
I need to quit soaking everyone else with my water--after all, it yields
me nothing more than empty buckets, and eventually I get very thirsty
and wish I hadn't been so foolish. As my horses are trainable to have
better manners, so am I. And I am trying.