The funny things that horses do.
By Terri Rocovich
I am always puzzled when people make the comment that horses are not very smart and even go as far as to say they are stupid. To me, these people have never spent time just observing horses and watching their complex social interaction and interpersonal relationships. I have a fairly small training barn that averages about 12 horses in residence and I love watching the interaction between each of the horses. I am a strong believer in letting a horse be a horse, even if they are a high priced dressage or event horse, they still need to have friends and be part of a herd. Because of this premise, we figure out which horses get along and every horse at my facility, with a few exceptions, has a turn out partner that they can get time to hang out with, graze together and often times play to their heart’s content.
One of my horses is a 20 year old thoroughbred named Pete. Pete is a precocious character whom has a sweet, kind nature but who also has a very high opinion of himself. Pete has had a good life, being the favored son and enjoying much success competitively but Pete has also had very complicated relationships with his fellow equines. When I first purchased Pete back in 1999, he fell madly in love with my mare Carrie. He was obsessed with her and she, being the ultimate equine cougar, exploited his attachment to maintain control and make herself feel younger. When Carrie passed away, Pete suffered through every stage of grieving and would not even consider accepting a relationship with another horse for several years.
Now 4 years later, he has developed an interesting friendship with one of my other horse’s Hank. Hank is a paint/pinto (I always get the definitions confused) who I took in as a rescue 3 years ago. I will tell you more about Hank’s amazing journey in another blog, but he has become both sibling rival and partner in crime to Pete and I think he is helping to keep Pete young. The other morning I got a kick out of watching the two of them taunt each other. Hank has been on a bit of a diet lately (I kind of went a bit overboard on the rescue him nutritionally thing) and he finishes his food before Pete. Their paddocks share a pipe fence (they have stalls with attached paddocks) and Pete, purposely pushes his feeder closer to the fence so Hank can see him slowly finish his food but Pete keeps his hay just far enough way that Hank is not able to grab any through the fence. Hank responded by taking his nose and sliding shut the door to Pete’s stall, essentially shutting the door in Pete’s face. Pete of course took his nose and slid the door open again which Hank in turn shut the door again and turned his butt to Pete’s corral.
Now you tell me that horses don’t think, don’t plan their actions and don’t have all the nuances to their relationships that we have to ours. Pete and Hank at various times compete with each other for my attention, they love each other, they hate each other, and they are each other’s playmates and rivals. They entertain each other by removing the other’s fly mask or bell boots and have become artful at redecorating each other’s blankets in the winter.
They are only one example on the many interesting interactions that happen daily around here. I love watching it all. It is always fascinating watching the changing dynamic when a new horse comes on the property. What kind of funny things do your horses do? Do they have a BFF? A rival? Do they get jealous of each other or a newcomer? Do you think your horse is smart? I know mine are, although we do have a few in the barn who ride the short bus. I’d love to hear your stories. Tell me if your horses play tricks on each other or have lovers quarrels or sibling tiffs. It is all so interesting and entertaining to me, certainly better than any soap opera or reality show that I have ever seen. Maybe that is it. Horse lovers need their own daytime drama – “As the stable turns”, or “All my Foals” or “The Stallion” or “Survivor – Pasture edition” what do you think?