Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Horse Sensibilities

This blog post is less of an outpouring of excitedness about things and more of a bunch of questions I have about horses. I've found that the more I'm around horses the more questions I have!

Harry has questions too, but they're mostly about whether you're carrying food.

For example, Beth brought a big red exercise ball for the horses to play with and each horse had a different reaction to it. Some ran from it, some went up to it cautiously, some bit it, and some didn't care about it at all. I know some horses like to play with things more than others (Miles, for example, was definitely in the "biting it" category). But what about the ones who were running from it or the ones who had no interest? Is there a sliding scale from "I am terrified" to "who cares" with curiosity somewhere in the middle? If a horse is paying attention to something does it usually mean that it's worried about what that thing is going to do?

Aspen seems to follow the "Curious-to-afraid" sliding scale very closely. Anything he's paying attention to is something that could trigger fear if it were any louder, closer, or weirder. (The exception in all cases being food. They'll all pay attention to food.) He's inquisitive, but even if he's going up to something he's ready to jump backwards at a moment's notice. Whereas Miles will go up to something and push it or bite it to see what it will do. Is it just personality?

"Is it gonna eat me or feed me? I can't tell. Let me look closer."

Nadiya gave me a good example of this conundrum today. I had the red ball and was slowly kicking it around near her. I wanted her to come over and sniff it since she was one of the ones fleeing from it previously. She seemed to be in a "I'm going to follow you around" mood, so I kicked it slowly away from her and she followed me toward it but stopped several feet away. I went up to it and patted it a couple of times to show her it wasn't eating me. She stared at it, and while she was staring a robin flew up and sat on the fence also a few feet from her. Although the robin was something moving quickly and close by she didn't even turn an ear toward it, while I noticed it right away and looked at it. Do horses tune out anything that isn't going to harm them? Or do they only sometimes tune it out when there's something more immediately threatening going on? Or is this just a Nadiya reaction and others would have noticed the bird?

Is this why sometimes horses show absolutely no outward sign of being friendly with another horse but will just stand next to or follow another horse to show friendship? Because they don't display interest in things that are already "safe"? I'm so used to animals like dogs or cats showing affection by actively DOING things with a friend, like play-wrestling or licking. I guess sometimes I see the horses nipping at each other or chasing each other around but they seem to do this indiscriminately without regard to "liking" the horse they're chasing around more than the others. The closest hint to friendship I see is between Mia and Cyd or Chuck and Harry who just stand next to each other a lot. I rarely see one without the other. Maybe this is what horse friends do to show they are friends? These are my horsey questions for today. Hopefully I will be able to find answers to them!

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