How Smart Is Your Horse?

How Smart Is Your Horse?

How smart is your horse?

Whilst you probably spend as much time as you can around horses and helping to spread the word about a kinder, gentle way to be with them, my role in this community mainly takes place from behind a desk. Running the website, writing emails, connecting with people and doing interviews. It probably sounds like torture to you but I love it!

Anyway, my only regular interactions with animals comes in the form of our friendly neighbourhood cat, better known as Timeshare.

Fortunately for us, he has been spending rather a lot of time with us lately, which has been lovely. As a result, I’ve had the opportunity to observe his patterns of behaviour and it’s been fascinating.

The generally accepted wisdom amongst the general public is that animals are dumb creatures, however both you and I know that is simply not the case, is it?

Now not being a cat myself, I can’t speak about Timeshare’s feline abilities, although I did see him fall backwards off the bed once and land in an embarrassed heap on the floor. That incident apart though, he does seem to catch his fair share of mice in the garden, so I presume he’s up to snuff when it comes to cat intelligence.

No, what I’m talking about is his ability to function in the human world. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he can do crosswords and solve quadratic equations (who can?) but it’s his ability to coexist with us and still get what he wants. Let me give you some examples.

He's one smart catHe now regularly sleeps overnight on the end of our bed. In the morning, I’m the first to rise but he never stirs. However, as soon as the bathroom door opens again, I hear the telltale thump of him jumping off the bed and the next thing I know he’s accompanying me down the stairs.

In other words, he has learned that there is no point getting up when I do otherwise he’s just waiting around, so he simply stays in bed until he hears the bathroom door and then he knows it’s time to get up and go outside.

If he wants to go out before that, he jumps onto the floor comes round to my side of the bed, miaows and then walks to the door. If that doesn’t get any response, he repeats the process until I get up.

Here’s another example. We don’t have a cat flap in the house and so he waits outside the patio doors at the back of the house until we see him and let him in. Sometimes this is just to say hello, sometimes it’s to seek out somewhere warm to sleep, and sometimes it’s because he’s hungry. And when it’s the latter, he heads straight straight for the cellar door and waits outside it as he knows that where we keep his food.

And these kinds of incidents happen way too often to be a coincidence. I watch him closely and can tell you that he is far from dumb. There’s a German word ‘Schlaumeier,’ which according to the dictionary translates as smart alec, wise guy or smarty-pants. But this is doing him an injustice, he is simply one smart pussycat.

Horses are equally as smart, as we know.

For example, my Father used to be a farmer and when he first started out, they still used horses instead of tractors (yes, we are both that old!). He had 2 horses, an old mare and a young gelding called Captain, who was not what you might call a ‘work horse’.

Dad tells the story about having to ‘harrow in’ some wheat seed and hooking Captain up to the harrow in order to do the job. Now normally, Dad would walk behind the equipment and use the reins to steer but on this particular day, Captain had decided that he didn’t feel much like working. So instead of simply walking behind, my Dad ended up having to remove the reins and drag Captain up and down the field by the bridle.

That was up until they got to the very last part of the job, which was to go round the outside of the field to go over the areas they missed when turning round. At which point, Captain took off like a greyhound with my Dad in hot pursuit trying to keep up! Captain knew precisely how it all worked and as soon as the end was in site, he couldn’t wait to finish off and get home as quick as possible. Dad says he was one smart horse.

So having heard all about Timeshare’s abilities and Captain’s exploits, I’m sure examples are already springing to mind of your horse’s ability to do and get what he/she wants. Yes?

If so, do tell! What situations can you recall which illustrate that you share your life with an equine ‘Schlaumeier?’

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About the author


Mark is the founder and editor of HorseConscious, which provides a haven for those seeking a gentler, more equal way to be with horses that doesn't involve force or pressure. As well as building a community, where people can meet and exchange ideas, HorseConscious is also a focal point for education in these methods. The site is free for all and we are continually adding new articles and features and we'd love to hear of your experiences too!

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