Saturday, March 03, 2012

Horse barometers

Not to state the obvious, but horses sense changes with much more subtlety than we humans could ever dream of. My knee may ache when the weather is about to shift, but Bar seems to sense the change with his entire body--crackling with it some days. Where I may notice something off about someone, he is crystal clear about who makes him uncomfortable and who he trusts--even if he has never met them.

Weather changes make more sense, of course. Air pressure changes, wind carries new smells and distant sounds past flared nostrils and semaphore ears, some even say ions change polarity--something I'm sure horses can feel on their very skin.

But why do some people set horses off? In "Raja, Story of  a Racehorse," the equine protagonist always feels something off with the many unsavory characters that cross his path, sensing their bad juju even before they act it out.

Some of it is likely conditioning and how they were raised. Lena is quite convinced that everyone was put on the planet to worship her and will never do her harm. Except the vet. She is a little suspicious of the vet.

Calabar is very, very people oriented--even more than Lena, actually. The racetrack has a constant flow of humans, many of them there to tend to your bidding. He has been known to stuff his nose in people's faces on the trail (if I don't catch him first), assuming they will have treats for him. Oh, and I'm pretty sure he speaks Spanish, too. Still, there are people that make him tense up, wide-eyed and nervous--right before he hides behind me.

I haven't pinpointed any one thing, really. Loud kids running around tend to worry him, but that's somewhat understandable. Often it is someone who is tense themselves or humming under the skin with their own energy level. He reacts to voices when he can't see the person, too, though tone seems more a trigger than volume.

There was only once that I know of when Calabar and Lena were in perfect agreement about a person. The four of us were out on a trail ride and a guy on a bike came towards us. Both horses are really good about bikes and yet both spooked a little. Then, as we were finishing up the ride, both horses suddenly stopped in the middle of the trail--heads up and ears back. I heard a noise from behind us and here came the same guy. His energy and aura was so odd, dark even, that Steve and I both picked up on it, too.

Being herd animals, creatures who survive based on sensing movement and intent--indeed it is part and parcel of their physical make-up--it should not be surprising they can "feel" mood and energy from a human being. Bar certainly senses my mood, my distraction level, the buzz in my brain. He in fact has been a big part of my learning to control it and channel it to better things, much as I have worked to teach him the same tactic.

In the movie Avatar, the riders connected to their steeds with a biological link. Some days I really wish for that level of connection. Other days I realize figuring it all out is part of the dance.

In the meantime, the horsey-barometer continues to teach me about myself, other humans and what may be coming down the line in terms of weather.



Kelly Rainford said...

You are so right about their barometer! I think the horse as an animal of prey lives by the philosophy of run first, look second.

They are especially attuned to body language and their relationship with others around them. Sergio knows when a "herdmate" enters a busy warm up pen at a show - a feat that amazes me.

I often say that we humans "yell" at the horses with our body language. It makes me appreciate how much they put up with, allowing me in their life.

lmel said...

Just discovered your blog. It's great! Your journey with Calabar sounds very similar to mine with my OTTB Harley. Keep up the great posts.

Jessica Boyd said...

Totally agree, Kelly. I watched my daughter a couple months ago during a stressful incident at a clinic--she was totally yelling at her horse even though she didn't mean to!

And thanks, Imel! My journey has been awesome, if sometimes challenging!