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*this* John W. Hays’ take on things and experiences

Teaching Manners

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This weekend I was blessed to witness a brief moment of unmistakable horse-communication between three members of our herd, and Hunter had me laughing out loud. If ever there was an occasion to read human intent on animal behavior, this seemed spot-on.

We have a pile of manure in the paddock, leftover from winter, that is a few feet from the fence. Even though it creates a constricted space, the horses rarely let that interfere in their direction of travel. When I turned my attention to the horses, Hunter was intently straining to reach grass under the fence as far as his contorted neck would allow.

DSCN4725eSuddenly, Legacy decided to pull rank and move in on that same spot. Hunter obediently walked away on command, but as I watched, he circled around the pile of manure and paused to review the situation. It seemed as though he made a decision to press on the boundaries of herd leadership, …or maybe he just really wanted back on that grass under the fence. Hunter walked around Legacy and began grazing just uphill from him, about a foot away from the spot which moments ago had been his.

Legacy didn’t get ruffled by this apparent challenge. He simply made a clear gesture that he was claiming the whole area, and Hunter needed to go, again. The youngster’s reaction seemed pretty obvious to me. Hunter obliged and stepped away, but this time he lifted his tail and let loose with a perfectly orchestrated reverberating fart toward Legacy while leaving.

Even though I laughed at how perfectly it seemed to communicate how he probably felt about the situation, I assumed it could have been a coincidental occurrence, until I saw what Cayenne did in response.

She immediately came from the far side, stepping between that pile and Legacy so she could get on Hunter’s flank, using her energy to push him away, and not just a little bit. She stayed on him for an extended time, keeping him moving well beyond where he would have chosen to stop. I was struck by her persistence. In fact, Hunter finally had to lift his leg in a gesture of preparing to kick, in order to get her to finally back off.

It was all quite a show for me. Cyndie said it is the mares who teach foals and geldings manners and appropriate behavior. I got the impression she was saving Hunter from unknowingly picking a fight with the leader over something that wasn’t worthy. It was as if she saw the pointed flatulence as so disrespectful that she needed to convey he wouldn’t want to receive what the gesture might invite.

Each individual act I witnessed was interesting, but in concert, it was fascinating and thoroughly entertaining display of the equine educational system in action.

And who knew they could use their flatulence with such obvious intent?

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Written by johnwhays

May 2, 2016 at 6:00 am

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