Monday, January 25, 2010



I’ve been wondering lately how much our horses’ behavior might be an extension of our own personalities.  It may be our error to give them human traits, but very often they seem to mirror our own mental state, it seems more than a coincidence. We all know horses have their own distinct personalities yet I wonder, do they take on some of our feelings, thoughts and personality quirks?  I feel that to some extent they do.  We are told that horses live in the moment and, to a certain degree; I believe this to be true.  Then again, it is hard for me to believe it fully when dealing with an eight-horse herd at present and having been associated with many horses in the past.
I believe that our horses can sense when we are fearful, happy, and indecisive or even if we don’t particularly like another person or horse that is near us.  A short incident comes to mind: Years ago we took in a chestnut OTTB because he had a broken ankle/torn suspensory with a cast on it.  I’m afraid they would have sent him to auction if we didn’t take over his care.  After months of nursing him back to health, my daughter started to ride him a little to get him in shape; even though he couldn’t jump or do strenuous work, he would make a perfect trail horse for someone.  Our job was to get him rehabbed and ready to go to a new home.
We boarded our horses at the time and a schooling show was in progress.  Enter “Critter” and my daughter; she was sitting on him by the fence in the schooling ring and the young adult male whose mom ran the farm walked over and stood in front of Critter, boasting to his friend about some nonsense.  I should mention that everyone at the farm, except his mother, despised this kid because of his abusive behavior towards the horses and people.  As he stood in front of the fence, Critter opened his jaws wide and lunged at him in an attempt to bite his head off.  Lucky for him his friend shoved him out of the way in time or I don’t know what could have happened.  So, did Critter do that because he sensed a callous, selfish and cruel personality antagonistic toward horses, or was it because my daughter sent out a vibe that she didn’t like him?  I think it may have been the latter because Critter was one of the sweetest horses we ever met and didn’t have an aggressive bone in his body.  That was the only time he ever pulled a stunt like that. 
I’ve seen this happen more than once with different horses.  Mellon has taken exception to people or horses my daughter didn’t care for much in the past also.  Lifeguard has too. So back to the question: do our horses become an extension of our personalities and likes and dislikes? 
I think they take on our fears, and I feel sorry for the horses unjustly labeled as dangerous when it is usually the riders’ fault for throwing their fears onto the horse. These people will keep going through horses until they face their fears and find their own inner peace.  This is just my opinion, of course. I think horses are unfairly blamed for many behaviors that are not exclusively their fault, and perhaps they are reacting to the emotions of their handlers.
Case in point, my horse Erik was a wonderful happy three year old when I got him. I let a trainer take him over to get him started because I didn’t trust myself to start him correctly.  After a few years, my poor horse was a shivering jumble of nerves.  I believe it was because the trainer himself was nervous and afraid and he threw that burden onto my poor horses back.  My daughter by this time was a wonderful trainer with lots of patience and expertise; she worked with him to find the confidence in himself that he had lost with his incapable previous trainer.  Erik came into his own and even found he enjoyed foxhunting and dressage shows.  Previously he was strictly a show hunter who competed at many shows, which he never really enjoyed.
These are a few of the examples that have me wondering if horses don’t in fact identify with our personalities from time to time and become extensions of ourselves in their own way.
What do you think?
Until next time
Quote for Today
When to see a horse you think low intelligence, to see a man high intelligence, but to mix to make a friendship you seem to get greater intelligence

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