Several years ago, a colleague showed up to work limping. After I asked him about it, he revealed that he’d gotten kicked by a horse, each hind hoof connecting with a corresponding buttock, sending him flying headfirst into a snow drift.
It’s worth taking a moment to picture that, a mental image that is equal parts horrifying, rich with sympathy pains and hilarious. OK, mostly hilarious. (That is the sort of thing that happens to Yosemite Sam and Wile E. Coyote all the time, right?)
My friend was not amused. He was, in fact, offended. Choking back any hint of laughter — after an initial outburst of snorting — I agreed: There is no accounting for a horse’s sense of appropriate behavior.
Individually, their personalities are wide-ranging from sensitive to thick-skinned, sweet to obnoxious, smart to, hmmm, not so clever, willing to stubborn, lazy to hyper and so on and so forth to infinite.
They also collectively share traits, though how they developed some of these over the eons into instinctual behavior is beyond me.
They will blink, lick their lips and let their ears get relaxed and floppy when they’re content, even if they are content with work. Also, they will pass gas when you walk behind them, but only if they like you. But it seems rude.
If you buy something new, whether it’s a bucket, a saddle or a vehicle, they will chew on it. If you leave a gate open, they will run through it, even if they’re running into a corral, just so they can be where they haven’t been allowed.
As for feeding them, they live to eat but are notorious wasters of hay. They walk through their hay like its acres upon sections upon hectares of pasture, then refuse to eat the stuff their feet touched. They’ll also refuse to eat any hay that their poop has touched — now, call me a hygiene freak, but I do understand that — however, they’ll stand there and deliberately poop on their food and look at you like you are the one trying to kill them.
I spend a lot of time in winter picking up the manure they leave behind in their feeding area, a lot of time chipping the frozen stuff up from the cold, hard ground and hauling it to a compost pile. And, yes, if you are wondering, given an opportunity they will dig through and scatter the composting manure trying to figure out why it’s so special that it deserves to be in that fenced-off pile.
Despite all this puzzling behavior, what I really want to know is this:
Why is it there's always that one horse who is a major dead-head roadblock when you're trying to pick up manure? —
You rake around each of its legs and get the chunks on the far side by flinging the manure fork way under its belly. You use its hooves as backstops to get those last chunks scooted onto the manure fork. You bump into the horse, several times. You park the wheelbarrow under its nose and it just turns on its pest sensors so it knows just when and how far to barely twitch its head out of the way (without opening its eyes) as you basically fling loads of manure at it. You can't hardly beat it out of your way.
— And that horse is the same one who overreacts to a little too much leg pressure when you're riding like you just broke three Geneva Convention laws governing humane treatment of captive equines.
(Who can account for such behavior at firstname.lastname@example.org.)