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Horse sense

Tony VagneurAspen, CO Colorado

First thing every morning, I open my bedroom curtains to check out Mount Sopris. An early morning weather report, so to speak. Then, I turn up the shade at the foot of my bed, and, every time I do, the horses standing in the corral take notice. Their reaction isn’t a big thing, but a slight modification of their body language tells me they know I’m up, which translates into a Pavlovian reaction of sorts on their part. After they’ve been fed, I saunter into my office and throw up the window blinds, without provoking a stir from the corral. Or so it seems.Stationary horses can see almost 360 degrees around themselves and the corral sits about 20 yards from the house, so it isn’t a mystery as to whether the horses actually see the movement or simply “feel” my presence. A lot has been written about the relationship between man and horse and the intuitive ability of the equine species to understand man. Pure anthropomorphic pap, I believe, but it makes good reading, nonetheless. However, as blunt as that statement is, it still leaves room ideologically to give credence to certain abilities the horse has to communicate with others in his domain.I’ve had a lot of conversations with horses, and have come to believe that one of the endearing qualities of the horse is its refusal to speak any form of human language. That has enabled me to impart most of my philosophy of life to more than one horse, or repetitively to one horse, without getting a word of argument in return. Say what you want to a horse, but he won’t start pressuring you to take sides or further explain yourself, and he just seems to understand.I left my horse, Kiowa, alone at Tommy Moore’s ranch most of one summer, and along about August, found myself with a depressed Equus caballus on my hands. He needed someone to play with in his pasture, and late one evening, after our irrigation rounds, he let me in on his problem. He started at me from about 50 yards away, coming toward me in a full-on gallop, and as he passed by, he let fly with his hind legs in a playful sort of way. Not one to be intimidated, I waited for him to stop in the corner, then took the initiative in his direction, full bore (in a pair of hip waders, no less), and as I ran toward him, he started back with an eye for me again. As we passed in perambulating flight, flying kicks were exchanged and we both grunted. It was hard to run, breathe and laugh so hard all at the same time, but we kept it up for a good seven or eight minutes. As weird as it seems, I think that was one of “our” favorite memories.It may be possible to imagine the horse as more of an intuitive thinker than man, but only if we use our “scientific” and “inductive” minds to delineate the difference between a sixth sense and reason. Which, if we do, clearly leaves horses as the winners in the intuition department. They live connected to the earth, while we live thinking we’re somehow detached from the earth. Only when we forego our “intelligence” and let ourselves react naturally do we begin to communicate unaffectedly with the horse. In the dark of night, we give ourselves up to our dreams; so must we also give up ourselves to the natural world if we are to have meaningful communication.So, I head for the corral in the late afternoon, halter in hand, and my blue roan Drifter fixes a big, black eye on me, and I can instantaneously sense that he’s imperceptibly flexed his muscles up a bit, just getting ready for flight if he feels the need and, almost unperceivably, I adjust my steps and mental attitude accordingly. We communicate on a regular basis, he and I, and I find myself listening more often than not, anymore.Tony Vagneur likes horses. Read him here every Saturday and send comments to ajv@sopris.net.


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