Beka at The Owls Approve asks: What is your horse’s absolute favorite thing? Outside of riding! Are there treats that instantly convert your pony into an addict or liniments that leave him yawning and chewing? What does your horse just love to have?
Despite all evidence to the contrary, I do not consider my horses to be adorable. Well, not most of the time. Not always, anyway. They’re not pets, they’re partners. Well, apart from Thunder, and he made himself a pet.
Still, there’s few things cuter than a horse begging for what he likes best, so without further ado:
Arwen has a particular weakness for being sweet-talked. She is ordinarily a brisk, businesslike horse, so much so that her partnership with me can almost be described as “cold” from the point of view of an outsider, and responds well to a correspondingly brisk and businesslike voice, but if she doesn’t want to be caught or is being a jerk then I baby-talk her for all she’s worth and she melts into a puddle of mush. I accidentally taught her this behaviour by sweet-talking her repeatedly just before giving her a carrot, but now the sweet-talking itself appears to have grown on her. If you want to see Arwen make a total idiot of herself, just pitch your voice high and say, “Whosa pretty Narwie then? Are you a Narwie-warwie ponyfacey?” and she’ll do this:
Magic LOVES to run. Of course, most sound horses do. It’s in their very DNA. But he has a passion for movement that I’ve never seen before. He’s already seven years old and by then most working horses settle for just the occasional run when called or when it rains, but Magic will run for no apparent reason; he’ll just kick up his heels and take off like a shot, not going anywhere in particular, just running for the sheer wonderful enjoyment of it. He varies the running with leaping into the air with all four feet at once like a goat, rearing, bucking, falling over (he doesn’t always keep good track of his legs), trotting with the kind of floating elevation a Lipizzaner would be jealous of, and stopping dead to throw up his head and tail and stare into the distance as if he hears the horizon call his name. Of course, he occasionally gives me minor heart attacks when he wipes out full-speed and slides across the wet grass neighing loudly and waving his legs around in an attempt to get back up, and he frequently has little scrapes on his silly pasterns from over-reaching, but who am I to stop him? It makes him so happy.
Thunder is so in love with life that it’s surprising that I can pick out one thing he adores above all else, but really, it’s easy. Thun loves all living things. Horses, donkeys, dogs, geese, cows – he’ll run up to anything in an attempt to get it to play with him. But above all else, he loves humans of any shape, size or description. This can be very annoying when the vet is vaccinating horses and Thunder is following him around so close that his nose is almost bumping the vet’s back, going “Pick me! Pick me!” when the vet asks “Who’s next?” But most of the time, it’s pretty special to walk into the paddock and see those two little ears pricked up as he runs towards you. He is especially fond of the Mutterer’s two-year-old daughter, and the feeling is mutual; several times we have had to leap to the rescue as she toddles off almost under his feet. Once I was perched upon him when suddenly his head dropped down and when I peered down his neck the little girl had her arms around his nose and was hugging him and chanting “horsie”. And when the Mutterer plants her in the saddle in front of me and Thun and I take her for a spin, that big horse walks as carefully as if on eggshells, for all the world as if he’s entirely aware of his precious burden. Even when the precious burden flaps her legs and clicks her tongue loudly to him, he refrains from obeying her and sticks to a steady plod.
Skye’s favourite thing is obviously going on outrides, but apart from that, she loves foals with a fiercely protective passion, demonstrating this by lactating every single summer whether there are foals around or not. When she had Thunder, she never let another mare babysit him; she was always fussing over him, licking him, playing with him, following him around, calling to him. And when the other mares had foals, Skye was permanently babysitting them. Two mares grazing happy and alone at one end of the paddock, with Skye standing fiercely guard at the other end with two sleeping foals sprawled beside her, was an everyday sight. She has even adopted Exavior despite his being a yearling already, which he appreciates endlessly.
Exavior, like most colts, likes all types of attention but despite being very touch-sensitive, he loves to be touched. It took me a while to figure this out because he’s very picky – don’t tickle him, finger-comb his mane, scratch his withers, or run your fingertips down his coat. But rub him firmly with a flat hand or scratch his forehead with your knuckles, and he groans with pleasure. His all-time favourite is simply for you to stand next to him with your shoulder or back touching him. Something about it just makes him calm and relaxed. He doesn’t lean – I don’t need to be leant on by a potentially 17hh monster – just stands there in contact with you and loves it. I’ve seen him do it with Skye, as well; he stands right next to her, shoulder to her flank, leaning his little head on her ribs. Even if I’m standing a foot or so away from him and talking to him he likes to come up, lower his head and lean his forehead on my chest. He doesn’t rub his head on me, he just wants to stand there like that. Which is frankly too cute for words, a gesture of trust. At first he would pull away if I moved, but now he lets me very gently run my hands up his ears. I think it’s safe to say that this is one of my favourite things, too.
Glory to the King.