Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Horses and Contradictions

(Click on the thumbnail for the bigger, better version)

Yesterday at 5 PM, we had sleet along with an 18 to 20 MPH wind. One thing I have noticed is that precipitation here frequently comes at us on a diagonal—rarely straight down. Temperatures in the 30s, wind, sleet. So much for the imminent arrival of spring. Well, I can’t say that I hadn’t been amply warned.

At any rate, this weather proves that Lancer is a pretty smart horse. Lancer grew a heavy furry coat this winter and he hasn’t yet begun to shed. I guess he is getting the last laugh. Night, on the other hand, never grew as heavy a coat.

I think that I know some of the reasons for the discrepancy. (Mind you, this is not a scientific article.) First, Night was born in Idaho and lived there for the first couple of years of his life. Lancer had never lived anyplace other than balmy southern California. I am guessing that Lancer realized he was in for something early on with the first cold spell up here and his body went a bit nuts with the fur coat idea. The second thing is that Lancer is always a tad underweight. There is nothing wrong with him—well, nothing physical, at least—he is just hyper, even for an Arabian. He stays pretty much on the move. If he is penned up in his corral (currently a 24’ x 24’ space), he spends an inordinate amount of time weaving (shifting his weight rapidly from one front leg to the other). All he accomplishes is burning tons of calories, but he doesn’t see it that way. Still, it means that he doesn’t have much of a layer of fat to help keep him warm.

I have already mentioned that Lancer is from racing stock. While he has never seen a race track, his sire had quite a racing career. The result of the breeding is that while The Husband enjoys participating in endurance races, Lancer only gets the race part of that concept. His idea is to take off as soon a possible and cover ground as quickly as possibly. The endurance part means nothing to him. Because endurance rides are interchangeably known as endurance races, I suppose we can see where he gets confused. However, since the rides/races cover anywhere from twenty-five to one hundred miles, it is obvious that a horse who doesn’t “take care of himself” does not have the make-up for endurance. Lancer isn’t an endurance horse.

Night, on the other hand, is atypically lazy for the breed. Take note of that final qualifier. The gray would never be taken for a Quarter Horse, but compared to the chestnut he’s down right calm. He, by the way, is fine with endurance rides and sees no point in racing unless urged.

All this rambling leads me to my point about the photo above. When The Husband recently took Night out for a ride, leaving Lancer behind, I wondered what the show would be like. I was a bit surprised. While Night had remained agitated almost the entire time Lancer was gone, Lancer got over his abandonment issues fairly soon. He charged about madly for a bit, calling out to his buddy, and making a big fuss. But, before long, he began to notice that there was quite a lot of uneaten grass and after a bit, he would charge once around the pasture, pause to nicker plaintively, then take some time out from missing Night to nibble. Horses are a mass of contradictions.


  1. I know just enough about horses to know they have a mind of their own and very individual personalities.

    As a young boy I had a horse which when riding away from home would move like molasses on a cold winter morning. Turn him back toward home and he'd take off like the devil was nipping at his heels. I wasn't old enough, strong enough or at that point stubborn enough to control him. Because of my growing fear from these experiences I rode less and less and eventually we sold him to a gentleman who was able to handle him.

    So now I take pride in my daughter being an experienced equestrian.

    Interesting story and photo.

  2. Earl - Hi. I'm delighted that this story resonated with you. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    Horses (like most animals) are fascinating, aren't they? So much of their behavior can be directly traced to the fact that they are prey animals. Their instincts tell them not to get separated from the herd. It takes training for them to overcome those urges and an enormous amount of trust in their rider who becomes the leader.

    You sound so proud of your daughter. That is terribly sweet and touching. Another of those girls who hasn't outgrown being horse crazy I take it. In what discipline does she specialize? Does she do the horse show circuit? I only ever rode strictly for pleasure—no types of competition or specilities, but I certainly admire the skill and discipline of those who are serious about the sport.

  3. I'm pretty sure that I left a comment on this post, and you are very prompt in approving them, so it must not have gone through and went on to something else ... so here goes again. :-)

    I lived in the city all of my life so I never had a horse. Of course, like most little boys, I wanted one. After all, who didn't want to be cowboy? :-)

    Your horses certainly have personality! They seem like quite the pair, an odd couple if you will. I don't know horses, as far as breeds are concerned, nor their temperaments. To me, all horses are Mr. Ed! LOL! Gentle, genial beasts. But, then again, I've told you how romantic I am, so I know that this is merely my personification of a horse. I must say, though, that I never miss an opportunity to scratch one on the nose or behind the ears. In that respect, they are a bit like dogs. Who doesn't like a good ear scratch?! I certainly do!

    I'd have to agree with Night. What's the rush!

  4. Paul - You are correct in your suspicion that I didn't see your comment on this post. It must have gone to cyber-heaven. As for the prompt part, I blew that because I was away most of the day running errands in Bakersfield.

    Your Mr. Ed comment cracked me up. That's a wonderful image. Actually, I have never met any two horses who were alike. They have personalities as unique as people. A great number of them do indeed enjoy a scratch behind the ear, but there isn't universal agreement even on that.

    Night would think you are indeed a wise man.

  5. Anita - my daughter took Dressage lessons for a number of years. She never seems to care about competing, except with herself. I was always amazed at what she could do.

  6. Earl - I love watching Dressage. What a demanding discipline. It's an acquired taste as a spectator sport, but I enjoy it. When done well, it's a bit like ballet. What a joy to have a family member who can put a horse through those moves. I'm sure you enjoy watching your daughter apply her skills.


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