Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Horses Never Forget Human Friends

That is the title of the article I came across today.  Click here.  It was especially interesting to me since my farrier and I had just had that exact same conversation when he was here yesterday morning.  He's been in the business for almost 40 years and grew up on a ranch in Montana, and out of all that experience he had these words:

With horses, less is really more.

I know others have said that, too, but coming from someone who gets under their feet every day, it has extra value.  After all, he's risking his life for that philosophy. 

He went on to say,

If I was to come in here and treat your horses bad, it would take me coming another 8 times, at least, and treating them good to undo the damage, and with some it might never get undone.

If you've been around horses at all, you know they have good memories.  I've seen my horses reunited with old members of their herd and witnessed them become ecstatic to greet their old friends.  I've seen them grieve a lost human buddy, too.  (Red's story). 

More and more I've come to believe less is much, much more as long as when you are with them it is quality time--you expect respect and you're fair, kind and clear.  If you're not going to be doing anything of value with them, in my opinion, they're best left with their herd. 

I don't believe horses need to be worked with every day.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say they need to be left alone for good chunks of time.  On the other hand, when you're really starting them under saddle and you want to get going on the trails, you do need more time....riding.

And that was the other thing he said.  He said they used to pull the young horses off the range, take them into the roundpen and train them for the saddle and bridle, ride them a bit in the roundpen and arena, and then get the heck out of there and onto a real job with cows.  He thinks that's the way their bodies and brains are meant to go: let them move out and give them a job.

I've been following that philosophy for the last few years and every time I go out with any of  my horses they take right up where we left off.  My farrier's last words to me before he left yesterday were these:

All of your horses are big sweethearts.

I will tell you, there is no greater compliment than that to me. 


  1. Yes, they need a job - not JUST riding around a coral. At least that is my way of thinking. My barn manager had his horse dragging a huge log behind him from the back field bringing it to the house. (he was chopping firewood) and his horse looked so proud and happy ... not to mention while getting a great butt workout! :)

  2. A job is the basic ingredient...ranch horses work all the time and do great. It's hard to find "jobs" for them around our house. I've often wished I had a cow or two to chase.

  3. Isn't that the truth with so much in life ... Dogs do better when they have a job, as do people. Time spent with a clear purpose is so rewarding, and I guess that translates to horses too?

  4. I have a mare and i truly think that she likes to work. Oh b/t/w, I am having a photo contest over at my blog, the theme is horses. Check it out:)

  5. Joanne--you're right, everyone likes a purpose--makes sense horses would, too.

    Neighgirl--I'll check out that photo contest. I haven't got any great photos of my horses lately, but that might inspire me to try harder.

  6. Pretty smart farrier you have. We've let our guys run wild on a mountain for five months at a time, trailered them home and climbed on them the minute they are out of the trailer .. and they haven't forgotten a thing! They don't even know what the inside of a roundpen looks like, because their whole life has been a job. It really makes you feel great when you get good comments like that from true horsemen. Enjoy.

  7. Juanita, you embody my philosophy of horsemanship. That says it all.

  8. Astute fellow, your farrier. I heartily agree that horses don't forget- when I reunited Gussie with my herd after a two year absence it was clear that she remembered Belle and Chickory. Also, it took her a couple of months to trust that I wasn't going to take her away from her friends every time I saddled her up- she got separation anxiety and I had to do a lot of advance and retreat work to help her understand that yes she really was coming back home every time she left.

  9. That's interesting, Shirley. Makes sense. Poor Gussie. I reunited Cowboy with part of his herd a while back and he was thrilled to see them and them him. They took right off where they left off, too. Red was super attached to his previous owner and she to him. When she dropped him off with us she cried so hard she had to run to her truck and drive away. He watched her drive up the road and then stood in that same location looking up the road for over a year (when he wasn't eating.)

  10. I couldn't agree more with you or your farrier. Less is more around here too and we usually try and have our horses do a job that will give them confidence. We also always treat them with respect and they treat us the same.

  11. Grey Horse Matters--I agree about mutual respect. I've also found that not overreacting to their initial excitement (if they haven't been out in a while) helps. If you're willing to let them bounce around a bit and keep yourself calm and keep directing their feet where you want them....and maybe ride out a little intial nervousness, but stay still in your saddle--they come around pretty quick.

  12. Hi – Will you please post a link to your Blog at The Mustang Horse Community? Our members will love it.
    Members include: Mustang Owners, Breeders, Trainers, Experts and Lovers
    It's easy just cut and paste the link and it automatically links back to your website… it’s a win win. You can also add Photos, Videos and Classifieds if you like. It’s free and easy.
    Email me if you need any help or would like me to do it for you.
    The Mustang Horse Community:
    James Kaufman, Editor


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.