Horses are like men.

Sometimes, horses are like men. no, actually, MOST of the time,  horses are like men. Or perhaps it’s the opposite: horses are merely four legged men you can ride.

After you’ve been married a while, you know that your husband loves you but that there are times when he is focused on things more important than you parading past him wearing nothing but a come hither look. Times like: watching the football game. If you are realistic, you understand that he still loves you, as much as he is capable of, but that you are not tied up in the fourth quarter, fourth and ten at the two minute warning.

And please, if I screwed that up, I apologize. About the only thing I know of football is that the team wearing the white pants are the ones to watch. When they bend over in a huddle, sometimes you’ll see that the men aren’t wearing underwear.  That’s a lot more than what I know of any other sport played with a ball, including polo.

I’m just parroting football phrases that evoke huge reactions from men. These phrases assume an awesome importance, a level so high that it causes every man in the vicinity of a TV to put down their beer in order to watch.

Learning a couple of sports (or automotive) related phrases gives a woman a huge advantage when dealing with men.  If some man tells me he’s rebuilding a seventies era Chevy muscle car, all I need do is ask, “is it a two bolt or a four bolt main?” to immediately gain an enormous amount of awe and respect from him. Let’s never mind that I no longer remember quite what it was in regards to, merely that it’s got something to do with the drivetrain, and that four bolts was better than two. Repeating that phrase was  like saying Open Sez Me at the gates into Manlihood. I was allowed into the inner sanctum of a portion of Man Land. I was a Woman who Understood Engines.

( to be honest, I DO understand engines, up to and including turbines. But this is a horse blog.)

Horses are like men. I should amend that, geldings are a lot like men. I say that only because I’ve only ridden mares on a few occasions. Mares are just like women, and I surely understand that. Stallions are too few and far between in my experiences to really address. So I confine my remarks to geldings.

Most geldings understand that we female humans love them. Like your typical guy, though, that doesn’t mean much to them. We lavish them with love, attention, treats, blankets that compliment their color, saddle pads with fancy piping, saddles that fit them and not us, high priced foods like alfalfa and crimped oats, etc. They don’t give a rip. They’re like the boyfriend you’re trying (without admitting that it’s in desperation) to impress by cooking a five course dinner, with fine china, crystal glass ware and candles, and he says, “Can we order a pizza?” At which you stick the fine meal in the fridge and call for the meat lover’s pizza and a ice cold beer.

Geldings don’t care that you love them. Like a controlling spouse, if they obey you one time out of ten, don’t kick, bite or step on you, and at least acknowledge that they recognize you, we women will accept it. we will respond with all the things he appreciates: grooming, food, attention.  We don’t let our dogs get away with that, a dog will actually, honestly and outright love you and show it. Horses don’t give a rip.

It’s that way with my horse, Trooper. I’ve been leasing him for about eight months now. I stop by the barn every day and feed him treats. I tell him I’m not always there to make him work, that this is just an I love you visit.  I groom him, tidy up his stall, whisper loving things to him. I spent umptybump dollars on a saddle fitter to fit a saddle to him, one that, while it’s a lovely saddle, doesn’t quite suit me. I’ll accept it, because it’s his back that I worry about. If mine aches after a ride, I can deal with it. I pretend it will strengthen my lumbar region, hoping that stressing it will result in more calcium deposition and raising my bone scan levels from the dismal -3 it is now.

Trooper takes it all in as if it his due. He doesn’t respond with a loving look in his eye.  He doesn’t hug me like a good boyfriend, or roll over and beg me for a belly rub like a dog does. He merely accepts my servitude with a calm air, knowing that I am a sucker for a pretty bay.

Like the controlling spouse, though, he does know how to manipulate me. I know that now.

Yesterday, I stopped by the barn, even though I had a million things to do before Thanksgiving. I’d cut up a fresh carrot before I left the house. I had hoped to have time to take his blanket off and give him a good grooming, but I ran out of time.

As I drove through the downpour, I saw Trooper and Penny, the Alpha Mare, grazing in the pasture furthest from the barn.

I stopped, and called Trooper. He raised his head, obviously recognizing me. But he was hanging with the Mare, you know, he can’t be seen as actually honoring me with anything more than bland recognizance. Oh. It’s you. The ape who rides me. You’re not going to saddle me up today, are you? No? Good.

But I had a secret weapon, actually, two. Penny is the mare, and she knows that I usually arrive bearing treats. I have only ridden her once, so she knows that when I call, it’s to give treats and nothing more. And she is greedy.

To remind Trooper who I was, I  began singing the carrot song: “Who wants carrot? Carrot, carrot, carrot? Who?” Penny, being a Mare, is a lot smarter. She immediately began trotting over to the fence. Only then did Trooper drop the Cool Posture and follow Penny. He did so only because he saw that I wasn’t going to walk into the soaking wet, knee high grass in my street shoes in order to give him a treat. Trooper hurried after Penny so that he could get his share of the carrots.

The rain was just pouring down, so I hurriedly doled out the carrot pieces, told them they were good horses, and got back into my truck.The horses went back to grazing.  I drove up to the barn, because I wanted some fresh eggs, still warm from the hens.  Even the chickens know me as a Bearer of Treats and respond. When I drive up they come running, knowing I’ll throw some scratch to them. Of course, they’re smart. They’re hens.

I got four eggs, and began to get back into the truck, already planning on using the eggs for lemon pie.

That’s when I heard thundering hooves.

It was Trooper. He came racing up from the back pasture, flagging, his head high and noble. He looked like The King of The Wind in a pretty blue blanket.  He WHINNIED at me. He came right up to the fence, nickering, begging me for another treat.

I felt like the homely freshman being noticed by the handsome Senior Class president. Trooper actually came running to me. He actually whinnied to me and nickered. He Cares. I don’t care what the realist in my mind says, that horses are merely stomachs with feet. My heart said, “he cares. He loves me.”

I know better. He’s merely a manipulator, a controller, doling out little bits of acknowledgement so that he gets carrots and peppermints and cookies. I went into the feed room, got a handful of horse cookies, and went back out into the rain, to feed them to him and Penny, who’d come up, too.

It makes no damn difference to me. My Little Pony Loves Me.

I wonder if I can find those fancy imported oats?




About subodai213

Retired U.N.C.L.E agent. Living in Laurasia.
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6 Responses to Horses are like men.

  1. rontuaru says:

    I’ve had some pretty sweet quarter horses … really on par with the Arabians I’ve owned. Thing is, I’ve known some really nasty Arabs too. So I’m not so sure sweetness is a breed thing. I do think there’s a lot of genetic influence … particularly from the dam as far as temperament goes … as well as the kind of early handling they do or don’t get. I do think the Arabs can be unusually quirky and that I think is a breed specific thing. Quarter horses I tend to find are Steady Eddie for the most part. Sure, there are some quirky individuals, but I don’t see the huge range in their personalities like I see with the Arabians. Not that that’s a bad thing, but I’m not sure why? Maybe it’s because of the tight breeding practices of some breeds? What do you think?

    • ptigris213 says:

      I’ve seen all kinds. I used to work at a QH breeding farm and saw QH’s that you couldn’t handle or go near without watching for a bite or a kick. On the other hand they had a breeding stallion who was gentle as a lamb, who could be collected wearing only a halter.

      I don’t believe I’ve ever met a mean Arabian, although I’ve met very intense ones. I’ve worked endurance rides, and there you will meet Arabs who are very focused, very intent on competing, and aren’t interested in a stranger.

      And I”ve had an Arabian come hobbling up to me in the forest, where he’d been dumped. His halter was so small that the flesh had grown over it, he had barbed wire wrapped so tightly around a pastern that it was swollen up like a football. His feet were so neglected he could barely walk and you could count his ribs. Yet this horse was still so trusting of people that he staggered out of the little copse he’d found shelter in and came up to strangers.

      Most of my experience has been with Arabs and TB’s. I don’t think I’ve ever found one that didn’t need a spook a day, but I think they do it out of fun…like yelling ‘boo!” and pretending they are frightened. I do believe you are correct, it’s a breed thing. In fact, the joke goes: what do you call an “endurance ride”? A fifty mile bolt through the forest.

      But then again, with the show horse breeders striving to get that deer like look in Arabs, the breed suffered in the temperament part. I like the old fashioned, Crabbet style horse, the short little cobby looking ones. They’re not popular with the show people. Don’t start me on Arabian shows……….I can’t tolerate the abuse. That is, I’m sure, where a lot of the meanness comes into play.

      And you are dead on correct: The foal reflects the temper (and the social standing) of the mare. If the mare is a witch, the foal will be, too, unless there’s a lot of intervention and socializing.

      And, oh my god, if you ever saw how a professional Thoroughbred breeding operation is run: i.e. the big farms in Kentucky, etc, you can understand why some TB’s are almost unworkable. Jeez.


  2. rontuaru says:

    Our boys have always been quite smitten with us. My husband’s Arab would literally follow him around like a puppy dog and we’re pretty certain he would gladly have joined us in the evening to watch a little TV if only we’d invite him in. For 23 years every time we stepped out the door his head would go up and he’d whinny a cheerful greeting. You couldn’t find a more personable, engaging fellow if you tried. The other gelding, Bullet, is super people friendly. He doesn’t discriminate …. he likes everyone! In fact, he can be such a leech that if you’re not paying attention you’ll turn around and bump right into him. He’s less vocal, but he’s always happy to see us and no paddock chore is complete without giving him a little rub and hello first. My Arab mare Dharla, is also very cheerful and personable and seems to enjoy the company of humans. She too, whinnies every time I step out the door and follows me around the barnyard when I do chores. And I never give my horses treats because I don’t believe horses understand the connection between food and “rewards” and I think it too easily creates a pushy, expectant attitude in equines.

    My previous Arab mare was more aloof. Not indifferent, just less interested in human company. As she grew older she’d sometimes come over and nudge you with her head, but that was about as affectionate as she ever got. I don’t know for sure because I got her at age 6, but my guess is that she didn’t get a lot of handling as a weanling and her only association with humans was to “work.” That wasn’t the case the 20+ years I had her and eventually she warmed up, but she was never what I would call outwardly affectionate in the way some horses are. You had to look deeper, look for the smaller signs to see her affection, and perhaps that’s why those little things meant so much when I did see them. Oddly, I miss my aloof girl just as much as I miss our charismatic boy, which only goes to show that accepting them for the personality they have is probably more important than trying to get them to be what we think they ought to be!

    • ptigris213 says:

      Trooper is my leased horse, I don’t have him here (at home) with me. My wonderful grey Arab, Jordan, DID live with me here, and he was exactly like your husband’s horse. Jordan thought he was a dog. He would have liked to curl up in the living room with us, and he was pretty well housetrained (he’d poop in one corner of the paddock). He was loving and affectionate and always had a nicker for me. My neighbor across the road said she could always tell where I was in the house, because Jordan would be loafing by the window closest to his pastures. I would not only ride Jordan, but take him for walks, like a dog. He loved that.
      I know, a lot of folks don’t ‘treat’ their horses. You are right, it leads them to be pushy and expectant. That is a crime I will plead guilty too. However, each horse, I believe, is different. I don’t treat Trooper when I’m riding except after he lets me get aboard. I know, it’s bribery for good behavior, but he IS well behaved, save for that one little pecadillo of moving off before I tell him to. But when I’m handling him, grooming him? Yeah, I give him treats.
      There’s just something about Arabs in general. Maybe it’s because the breed developed partially for their personality, and were housed in the same tent as their owners. I have no idea, but the breed is just more affectionate, loving, personable and friendly than any other I’ve dealt with. The only problem I have with Arabs is they’re usually pretty short…Jordan was 14.3 and Trooper is 15.1. And I’m tall. Consequently, my heels usually are ways under their bellies…not easy to put a heel on a horse when it’s in the air! 😉

  3. Great post, M, I agree with you all the way, but even cupboard love is well worth having … if my horses were men they would be way out of my league!

  4. Erin says:

    Aw, that’s nice. I’m so happy for you. If I had a horse and he did that, I’m sure that would be the best moment on my life. I hope it happens more for you from now on.

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