When I was a little girl, whenever I would get sassy, my Mother would say, "You mind your manners young lady!"...actually, now that I think about it I think she said something to that effect last week...but that's neither here nor there...the point is that I hear myself saying all sorts of things to my Hola that are irrefutably the same words and tone of voice that I once heard as a child. Especially when it comes to discipline! I am very lucky that the person who handles Hola most often (turning her in and out daily) is awesome at enforcing "rules", between the two of us she has had a consistent environment and as such has a healthy respect for people... however, being young, a mare and a smart little whipper snapper she has to ask the question every so often....
"Really? You think you are the boss? Are you sure about that?"
Obviously my job is to ensure that I answer that question every. single. time. with a resounding, "Oh I'm the boss alright! As a matter of fact I want to move your feet and and be snapping about it! Now you can move your shoulder left and right, and now you can backup and you can move your hip left and right and now you can step around me to right and to the left and now you can back up ten steps. What was that you asked? *cup hand to ear* I cant hear you... Care to ask me again?"
The hardest part of training a young horse is not answering the question. The hardest part is recognizing that the question has been asked. And the second hardest part is not choosing to ignore it because you are distracted, impatient, not in the mood or out of time.
I think I'm pretty fluent in equine body language. I would rather answer a very lightly whispered question than wait for that question to become a shout (a kick or bite.) Those small questions are harder to recognize... ie-a slight inward (towards me) bow in the rib cage, taking that extra half step after I've stopped (when leading), lightly brushing my jacket with their muzzle as they turn their head, any seemingly inadvertent touch, even the way a horse will turn and look over their opposite shoulder to where you are standing. The problem is that most of us, including myself, avoid taking action until that question becomes obviously rude and pointed. It is just so easy to get distracted with something or caught up in a conversation and miss those little nudges that become pokes that become a push. But it is when we are distracted and not totally engaged in our horses that it is most important that we do stop and correct those initial naughty little behaviors. It sound evil but I love when I get to bop Hola when she is totally unaware that I'm paying attention. I will be standing talking and she will be sniffing my jacket, not touching but really intent and then I will feel the barest hint of a brush but I'm busy yakking so I ignore it and then out of the corner of my eye I see she has my jacket between her lips and in a split second my hand comes out and up and bop! right on the lip! Her eyes get huge and she jumps backwards and looks so startled... and then she gets to lickin' and chewin' like crazy. I love it. Hola being Hola she usually comes back to ask just one more time, just to make sure it wasnt a fluke. At which time I fix her with a hard stare and make that gesture like in Meet the Faulkers... I've got my eyes on you so "Mind your manners young lady!"