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.