Sometimes, it’s hard to love horses…
I adore my horses, I really do. I am far more their slave than they are mine. I like to believe we understand each other. We trust each other. I admire them, hugely, for their grace, power, beauty, gentleness, tolerance and intelligence. But sometimes, I do just wonder…
When I leave them piles of hay in the corners of their shelter in a totally waterlogged muddy field (all I have at present!) and they poo and wee all over the hay (NO, that’s what the ample bedding in the shelter is for, dufusses) and then stand there looking forlorn and hungry, making me feel guilty.
When they stand out in the driving rain BESIDE aforementioned (cosy dry) shelter, perfecting their ‘neglected horse’ expressions. I swear, it’s a good job telephone keypads are tiny, or they’d be straight on the phone to World Horse Welfare. Or Childline, perhaps.
When they poo in the water bucket overnight. I mean, honestly… I am going to entrust my LIFE, quite literally, to this animal’s split-second reactions and judgement on the cross-country, and it still hasn’t quite worked out the cause-and-effect of what/where its bum is hanging over when it poos…
When, as happened the other morning, one definitely old enough to know better (actually, does that ever apply to a horse? seriously?) had an “OOOOHHHH it’s breakfast time” moment, which involved squealing a lot and ‘throwing shapes’ around the stable, and inadvertently leapt into, and very rapidly out of, her water bucket. The terror with which she then eyed the ensuing lake couldn’t have been more convincing if Nessie (the Loch Ness Monster) herself had been peering hungrily out of it.
When they do something foot-perfect every single time, until the one time it matters. (When my trainer’s watching, when we’re at a competition, when I am about to die with shame… You get the picture.) I strongly suspect that horses have a really wicked sense of humour and timing. In fact, having consulted an animal communicator (which is a whole other story) I am positive that they do…
But then, the love comes back:
When they whicker at the sight of me, and follow me around, and nuzzle me gently (okay, it might be for polo mints, but maybe it’s for love? Humour me here.)
When they’re really well-behaved under saddle even though I can feel they want to be really naughty… It’s a very windy day (par for the course where I live), the tension builds up, all the ominous signs are there, but they somehow manage to keep a lid on it and be angelic. I hope I’ve made it clear that thinking Very Naughty Thoughts is one thing, but being downright evil and hitting the big Eject Button is quite something else… but, you know, they can still have their moments and all that. So, I really love and appreciate them when they try really really hard to be good.
When they do something for the very first time (first canter under saddle, first hack out alone, first round of jumping, etc) and do me proud. They stride out confidently and say “Yeah, got this, this is FUN.” This, to me, is as good a feeling as getting a red rosette.
When they permit me to give them a really lingering kiss on the side of their muzzle, and to revel in the warm velvetyness of it, and they never even think to bite me. I know I shouldn’t. I’ve heard all the horror stories about people having their lips ripped off by a horse they’d known for 30 years, yadda yadda. I do try to remember to cup the schnoz in my hands to have some warning in case my victim has a sudden “AksherlyIdon’twannabekissed” moment. But that bit of them, just on the side of the muzzle, so soft and utterly snoggable, like warm velvet… kissing that is one of my big pleasures in life. Yes, I really am THAT much of a Horse Junkie. It’s my ultimate fix – well, apart from riding xc… and this is a bit easier to access, every day.
So, my horses get quite a lot of schmoochies. Lucky them (or not!) When a stranger (often a Non Horsey Person) is at my place, and remarks on how the horses’ eyes never leave me, they are locked on to my every move. And when they go on to say that they’re usually scared of horses but mine are so gentle and nice that they can see the appeal now.
When they’re lying down and are relaxed enough to stay there and let me sit down with them, and we can have a long cuddle and a bit of a chat, albeit rather one-sided.
When they show Signs of Extreme Smartness, such as: My yearling, Jinni, was on box rest for a few months. There was always another horse in the barn with her. Bless her, she wasn’t fussy, didn’t say a word if her favourite neighbour was led away, made do with anything else equine.
There were 2 others in overnight, in adjacent stables to hers, and I could take either away without her making a noise, or bring another in and make a substitution, no problem. But if I took a headcollar towards the only one left in beside her (just to tie it up in the corridor while I mucked out its stable), Jinni gave a little anxious whinny. Every single time. She knew that me walking towards a stable with a headcollar (she didn’t ‘say’ anything if I didn’t have a headcollar in my hand) meant I was about to lead that horse out. I’m seriously impressed by that. That shows understanding of what is going to happen, no? Cause and effect. Comprehension of future consequences.
Also, this one hasn’t pooed in her water bucket yet.
I have a little Intelligence Test for my horses. It involves bowling an apple across their paddocks, just past them. It mustn’t be going too fast or they don’t track it, but it’s interesting to see how they react to it. The smart & brave ones notice, and go towards it instantly to check it out. The wussy ones are spooked by it, but then check it out when it’s not moved for 20 seconds, kind of thing. When they’ve had it done a few times they get smart, they realise it’s an apple, and some even go on an intercept course.
I bowled one to Daisy the other day, short distance, pretty speedily… and she reacted so fast, she struck out with a front leg to stop it from going past her, like the Karate Kid or something. Wow.
Perhaps this means she is a genius! I can only hope…
STOP PRESS. Late this morning, she used the only poo in an immaculately clean stable as a pillow. WHAT is that about? Seriously. Ewwwww. Her Equine Einstein status is currently in doubt…