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  • Writer's pictureNondiarist

Thoughts on horses

Updated: Sep 3, 2022

Horses are unbelievably tolerant of us and of our aspirations for them.

Author training young horse in Zimbabwe
Author's photo. Riding Sun of Gold in Zimbabwe

Deep down, every single one – even old, trustworthy, Child-and-Bomb-Proof Dobbin – has the hard-wired instincts of a creature that’s potentially someone else’s lunch. If you’re a small animal, you can stay off the menu by not straying too far from your burrow and being highly adept at getting down it when a hungry predator starts acting interested. If, however, you’re the size of a horse and you eat what an open plain has to offer and you have long legs ending in a long single toe, then your default programme for avoiding being eaten should be run-first-and-ask-questions-later.

All horses are born knowing that their lives depend on the ability to run and no human can ever completely convince them otherwise. Predators are cunning and have a habit of creeping up on you, so why would you not take off like greased lightning when there’s a rustling sound behind that hedge or a green sack-thing that wasn’t there yesterday is crouching in that long grass on the side of the road? It’s only training and ultimately trust in the two legged creature sitting on your back that turns the get-the-hell-outta-here into a few silly side steps or a passable impression of a banana round the thing that might be a lion/wolf/dragon.

If your life depends on having the ability to run, you don’t allow yourself to get trapped in a small, confined space you can’t see out of, and yet horses learn to live in stables and also to be bolted into trailers and lorries and then subjected to a series of inexplicable sensations that, for all they know, may be deliberate attempts to throw them off balance.

If your life depends on having the ability to run, you don’t allow yourself to be firmly attached to an immovable object, and yet we tie them to walls and to the vehicles and expect them to accept the restraint. We do usually concede to give them a get-out clause on this one though, by inserting something breakable between the horse and the immovable object. Most of them probably never even realise this. They just stay put.

They’ve put up with working for us and now, thankfully, they mostly work with us to give us enjoyment and accolades. They seem to be infinitely capable of forgiving us for trying to eradicate all their instincts with “It’s just a bloody plastic bag you idiot!”. They trust us on the whole. It’s just a pity that over the ages we’ve seen the need to drag them into our petty wars to die for us.

‘The Noble Horse’, we salute you.

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