About Horses

A little insight on how herd animals think.

Horses at Howard MesaHorses are herd animals. That means they like to be together. When the lead horse moves, the rest of the herd follows. My horses follow that rule. I only have two of them: Jake, a sorrel Quarter Horse, and Cherokee, a Paint Quarter Horse. Jake is generally the boss, but they’re good buddies and they’re always within sight of each other, if not right next to each other.

They’re with me now at Howard Mesa. The 40 acres is completely fenced in and they’ve been wandering throughout the entire place, looking for the best grazing spot. They come up to their round pen to drink or for dinner — I toss them some alfalfa to supplement their grass diet — but otherwise, they can be anywhere inside the fence. Sometimes I’ll see them far down in the west corner. Sometimes they’re on the east side. But they’re always together. So imagine my surprise when Cherokee returned to the round pen without Jake. Jake wasn’t far away — only 50 yards or so — but Cherokee trotted up as if he’d been spooked by something and decided to hang out in the round pen for a while. He nibbled on what was left of the alfalfa, then went for a drink. Then he seemed to doze off, standing by the water trough.

Meanwhile, Jake wandered off.

I watched from my seat at the picnic table, where I was writing another blog entry. It was very interesting to me. I couldn’t see Jake anymore but I assumed Cherokee could. I thought I heard a car on the road, and got up to take a look. (Nah.) When I came back, Cherokee was awake, looking at me. And I think he realized that Jake wasn’t around. He decided to go find him. I watched him leave the round pen and walk purposefully toward where we’d last seen Jake. His head turned one way and then the other. He was looking. He had no idea where Jake was. And then he whinnied — loudly.

I could see him starting to panic as he trotted around, whinnying his distress call. But it was windy and with the sound of the wind in the trees and grass, I didn’t think his voice would carry very far. He came back to the round pen, looking very upset, then trotted out again, looking. I decided I’d better find Jake.

Horses at Howard MesaIt took some doing, but I finally found Jake about a third of the way down the hill, at least a quarter mile away. I called him, but even if he heard me (which I doubt), I knew he wouldn’t come. (Jake is not like a dog. He’s more like a cat.) So I called Cherokee. At least he indicated that he heard me. But he was too panicky to even think of why I might be calling him. Long story not as long: I went back to the round pen, put the lead rope on Cherokee, and led him down toward Jake. When I had a good view of him, I pointed him out. But horses don’t understand pointing fingers. He looked everywhere except where I was pointing. Then Jake saw us. He let out a loud whinny that seemed to say, “What the hell are you doing up there?” Cherokee whinnied back. I took off the lead rope and he trotted down to his buddy.

A few minutes later, they returned together to the round pen. The two of them stood over the water trough — Jake’s favorite place to stand — and took a nap.

3 thoughts on “About Horses

  1. Hi there!

    First of all, I have a distant dream of being a helicopter pilot, flying in paramedic service, and a not so distant dream of being a writer. :) So you can be my idol for a little while if you want to.

    I am a 20 year old girl who, despite what it might look like, does not know what to do with my life. For the time being. I want to study and be jorunalist and photografer, but(!) not yet. And I want more than anything to work with horses (for a year or so), but I dont quite know how to get this ball rolling. So if you have any ideas that might help me, I would be so pleased and grateful if you spent a few seconds on this. If not, I completely understand. This is a long shot, I know. :)

    Thanks anyway, K.

  2. That’s easy. Go someplace where there are horses and volunteer your time helping out around the stable or corral. Be prepared to shovel horse poop for a while. (It’s not as gross as it sounds and I think it’s good exercise.) As you get to know the people there, they’ll give you more responsibilities and teach you about the horses. Soon you’ll be brushing them, scraping the poop and rocks out of their hooves, bathing them, saddling them, and maybe even riding them. And maybe, if you show just how hard you work and how dedicated you are they might start paying you.

    My first real experience with horses was when I first moved to Wickenburg. I used to pay a woman $20 twice a week to go riding with her. (She had a trail riding business, but I think I was her only business.) I insisted that she teach me how to prepare my horse for the rides, so I learned how to brush, scrape hooves, and saddle up within a week. Scooping horse poop didn’t come until about a year later, when I bought my own horse.

    The best way to get ahead in any endeavor is to apply yourself. Good luck!

  3. You are really lucky to be able to watch horses at liberty. Very few people get to do this, and it’s a shame. We learned so much about horses when we had a group of five running free on a small property. IMHO you can’t really understand a lot about how a horse thinks without this. Being able to allow this kind of freedom to the horses is also key, I think, to reclaiming horses off the track. Give them a year off to play with other horses and you save yourself 90% of the problems you would otherwise encounter.

    Glenn Palmer´s last blog post: Wild Horse Redemption Review

What do you think?