Horses definitely come in many shapes and sizes.
While all equine breeds share traits such as hooves, tails and manes, many have physical attributes that differ greatly from those of other members of the species. Put a Shetland pony next to a Percheron, for example, and that becomes pretty obvious.
But big or little, tall or short, thick or thin, all horses are prone to horse-like behavior. Whatever their ancestry, bloodlines or background, horses can be counted on to do certain things, like eat a lot of grass, expel a lot of digested grass, and chomp a lot more grass.
While they aren’t by any means 100-percent predictable, horses can and will do what horses do and act as horses act. And it’s probably safe to say that what horses do and how horses act more often than not stems from self-oriented motivation related to gratification, satisfaction, preservation and propagation.
Driven by such factors, horses typically have no problem letting nearby humans know how they’re feeling and usually won’t suppress what comes naturally to them.
I recently had two interesting experiences involving horses being horses.
Covering serious real estate in a hurry
Early one day last weekend, before the temperature and heat index got out of hand, my wife and I went for a walk along the dirt road that leads to our remote outpost.
After we had gotten down the road a piece, a neighbor (she lives about a mile-and-a-half away) drove up in her truck and asked if we had seen a stray horse.
“I got a new horse yesterday and it’s gotten loose,” she said.
We told her we hadn’t, but we would be on the lookout for the four-legged fugitive.
When we got back to the house, there was a message on the answering machine from another neighbor (a couple of miles in the other direction) who wondered if we were missing a horse.
“We saw this horse running up the highway,” she said. “A couple of young men caught it and we have it tied to a tree in our yard.”
My wife called to let her know we knew where the horse belonged and we climbed in the truck to go find its owner. We found her back at her home, and she said she had given up the search and was hoping someone would find the horse, a buckskin mare named Zizzy.
When we told her it had been captured almost four miles away, she was amazed.
“I can’t believe she made it that far that fast.”
After retrieving Zizzy, her owner and my wife made the trip back sitting on the open tailgate while the formerly escaped equine followed at the end of a lead rope.
On the way, the women changed Zizzy’s name to Goldie, which works considering her golden coat and blonde mane. Her owner explained that Goldie had been acquired from some folks in Potosi and had been separated from a young offspring.
Later that day, another neighbor who has lots of horse wisdom said Goldie might have run off in an effort to head back to Potosi to be reunited with her youngster. Maybe mothering instinct had indeed inspired the attempted getaway, but if so, Goldie’s GPS needed to recalculate because she was going south on the paved road when Potosi lies to the north.
Still, it was pretty neat driving slowly but surely back to our neighbor’s property while ‘ol Ziz did such a great job of tagging along. She sped up once or twice to where she was trotting alongside the truck rather than trailing, and she made sure we halted a couple of times so she could chomp some local greens.
You’re doing this all wrong
I was putting together a story recently about the ambitious project taken on by a local woman and a few volunteers to use the huge indoor rodeo arena that stands sort of in the middle of nowhere in southeastern Texas County as a facility that offers free equine therapy to disabled children. While working on the story, I not only met some of the people involved, but one of the horses, too.
As a gracious gift to help get things going, the parent organization’s founder donated a 14-year-old white quarterhorse mare named Jasmine. Jasmine is an accomplished competition horse, and has logged many an hour in teaching and therapy sessions.
She has no qualms about having people on her back, adult or child.
So to get some photos to go with the article, we decided to place one of the local director’s autistic boys on Jasmine and get a shot or two. Piece of cake – the boy was not new to being on a horse and Jasmine was anything but new to the concept.
But at that particular time, that particular mare had other ideas.
While she was being saddled, she made it clear with a couple of strategic head and shoulder moves that she was unhappy with the situation. Since she outweighed each of the humans around her by many hundreds of pounds, the decision was made (wisely, I might add) to scrap the kid-on-back photo shoot.
We still got our pictures – showing people on the ground next to a happy horse.
In Jasmine’s defense, I should point out that knowing her background, I wouldn’t hesitate to put any child on her for teaching or any other reason. I think what we were dealing with was a very smart animal trying to indicate that several things were out of order.
First, the temperature was well up in the 80s, and the wind was blowing extremely hard to boot.
Second, Jasmine was accustomed to going through a fairly specific series of steps in preparation for a therapy session. Going through those motions lets her know it’s time to go to work. To accommodate my request for pictures, most of those steps were bypassed.
Third, there was this big ugly guy standing there with a camera acting as if what he wanted mattered.
While the third reason may or may not have been affecting Jasmine’s moment, I’m quite sure the first two were.
If she could talk, she would probably have said, “I don’t work when it’s a thousand degrees and windy, I don’t work when I haven’t gone through my pre-session routine, and I don’t do windows.”
But she didn’t need to speak. She got her message across, the horse way.
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer, copy editor and advertising representative for the Houston Herald. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.