Saturday, October 3, 2009

Emotions and Horses

Do horses have emotions?

I'm pretty sure John would not have generously donated this basket of apples to his "friends" at the barn, but for some cutesy reason I was moved to make it look like his idea.

If I'd asked him, he probably would have replied something like OH HELL NO I'M NOT GIVING THEM MY FRICKIN APPLES. Kindness and generosity with treats...those are not in the horsey emotional bag I am thinking.

However the whole issue of horses and emotion has been on my mind lately. With my thoroughbred Montana (now with a new owner but I will say something more about that in a sec here) I developed the theory of Horse EmotionMix. As in: he would sometimes seem to feel:

Anxiety+Naughtiness+Cheerfulness = A Spook but Not Too Bad of a One.

Maybe the Germans have a word for this emotion. They win the prize for emotion names due to their great word Schadenfreude, which means "the little pulse of joy you feel upon hearing of someone else's misfortune".

How honest. English pretends there is no such feeling; yet English speakers must feel it all the time: someone comes up to you and says, "OMG my son is in jail again!" and you say "How awful!" but you are thinking "Party in my head because my sons are not in jail, even though they could well have been on numerous occasions..."

I do think horses are emotionally intelligent to a high degree, as they seem to pick up on human emotions faster than humans themselves.

Then there is the category of emotions we feel about horses. I have a weird one to describe:

"Emotion Felt Upon Cleaning the Sheath of Your Former Horse".

I don't think even the Germans have a word for this one. I experienced it last week. There really are no words.

His new owner asked me to help her with this task for the first time as she had not done it for years. When I first got him, I worked on this a lot. he was jumpy about it and I had to show him that it was not going to hurt and that copious treats would be involved. I became (modestly I say this about myself) kind of a sheath-cleaning pro. Yes I am good at this! Bragging about this is sort of like showing off about being a great lap-dancer. People are more embarrassed than impressed.

Anyway: Going back to the old barn, talking to and handling my ex-horse, and cleaning his privates gave me quite the emotion hangover.

At one point he placed his nose ever so softly against my hand which was resting on the rail. He just kept it there, snuffling gently and slowly batting his big brown eyes. WTF? Is my heart made of stone? Was this hello? Goodbye? Where have you been? Thank God you left? Where's my treat? I like this new lady? Or just: your hand and my nose and the warm sun = something to enjoy.


sue said...

I think he was saying "thank you... you found the most wonderful new person for my life... you made sure I stayed in good hands, and I am very grateful.. you are a wonderful Mommy and even though I still love you... I love my new person as well".... and then the fact that you went to be sure that he was taken care of properly.. well that is true love!!!!!

Flying Lily said...

Sue, thank you for the lovely translation.. and I hope to heaven you are right. I cried so many tears after that visit, and I know horses don't like humans to cry.

eventer79 said...

Awww. Well, that is nicer than mine -- I thought maybe he just said "Whew, thanks for cleaning my weiner!" I'm sure it was a hard visit, but there is much to be said for knowing he is safe with someone who loves him!

c2b said...

Of course we have emotions...silly. Humans don't have the monopoly on emotions just because you don't speak horse doesn't mean we don't understand human.

Breathe said...

I'm in a particularly lost place on this very issue these days. Can't sort it out, but thanks for writing about it. Gives me something to mull...

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

So glad to see you back! Was starting to think we had lost yet another great blogger.

I'm sure you found Montana a great home.

cdncowgirl said...

Maybe Montana was thinking "I love you and I know you love me, we were just not meant to continue on the same path. Thank you for caring enough to find me another good owner"

or perhaps it was a simple as "thank goodness your hands aren't cold!"

Amy said...

do you think he is being taken care of? is the new owner good to him? does he look taken care of? i cant ever let go of my animals, even if they are sob's bec i couldnt handle it if they were mistreated or went downhill after i 'gave up' on them. cause im sure we've seen it when its not good. this is no indictment of you, maybe of me? its one of those emotional issues that is not easily resolved and if you care about them, really care, then that worry is in the mind somewhere.

Flying Lily said...

Eventer: You are probably right!!

c2b: well said.

Breathe: I am following your story closely and you are a terrific writer!

BrownEyedCowgirls: Thanks lady!!

CdnCowgirl: I like both of those messages!!

Amy: There you have asked the hard question. He looked...OK. She loves him and is very physically affectionate, and he genuinely likes that & finds it relaxing. He runs to being thin and quiet, and he is both those things. I've seen his eye happier but I've also seen him toss me into the shrubbery so...he can be more upbeat and also too hard to handle. I will worry about him forever but I am reasonably certain he is content and in good health..

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