Oakley Diaries - 11: He Does Confound Me Some....

Out on the trail, bushwhacking through woods too thick to walk through on foot, we come across a fallen tree, branches everywhere, and pine trees on the other side. Vinnie is behind us, following. I ask Oakley to approach so I can see if there is a way around. While I'm looking around, he keeps walking up to the tree, looks down at the trunk as if to say "oh, this up to my chest. I can't step over this... I'll have to jump..." and lightly hops over, broken dead branches flying all about, in between two pine trees. So gently that I almost didn't rise out of the saddle... Emboldened, Vinnie followed along, stepping over a bit further down, like nothing.

Next day, back in the arena, he goes completely crazy and absolutely refuses to step over three trot poles piled together. (As usual, I won the argument and he did... under protest the first three or four times, until it was nothing.)

Out on the trail, in company of other horses, if I didn't know better, I'd say he was bombproof; certainly compared to many other skittish horses we've come across. Ducks taking off? He startles and walks a bit faster, while the horse behind jumps in a panic. Squirrels leaping from the tree? Meh. Other riders and horses? Oh, boy, new friends!

Out on the trails alone, he slows (but doesn't change gait) to check the fallen cornstalks carefully before going over them and is rock-steady as I prune and hack away at another overhanging tree or bush... except for munching on leaves he's not supposed to eat. (Tree leaves are definitely NOT listed on a horses diet! I checked. He doesn't believe me.)

Back in the arena, (and only some days, not every day!) for no apparent reason, the blue plastic thingy in the corner suddenly scares the bejeezus out of him. Or the gate. Or the flower-box. And always, after a just a few minutes of hard work, he no longer cares about any of that stuff; he just hunkers down and does his flatwork like a trooper.

So all I can do at the end of the day is rub his forehead, give him a carrot and wonder just what goes on in that head?

Horses... go figure...

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Comment by Marlene Thoms on October 12, 2012 at 9:22pm

My guy is much braver with natural obstacles (though certainly not a jumper, and reserves the right to snort at big rocks newly covered by fall leaves). But man made obstacles, even six or eight inches high are not to be trusted.With a great deal of work and time, and quite a few carrot pieces he begrudingly learned to step over. He is generally far more trusting than he was when I got him, he'll take a rain sheet now without batting an eye,and actually uses his run in for rain and sleet now, but was afraid to enter even in nice weather when I got him. So some things have improved quite a bit, but he can still pull a spook occasionally, like if a deer or bear suddenly appears when we weren't expecting it. So I hesitate to dismount when on the trail, if he does take off  from a bear, I'd rather be on him than be left standing on the trail alone!

Comment by Barbara F. on October 9, 2012 at 10:16pm

My last horse was like a boy scout in the woods. You couldn't imagine a better hack horse. But get him beside a parked car and forget it! He was forever afraid of parked cars. Not moving cars - just parked cars! Who knows why?!!

Comment by B. G. Hearns on October 9, 2012 at 8:58pm

Interesting, thanks, Jackie. My guess he is just munching on whatever he can get at: corn stalks, bushes, grass, although he is pretty picky about weeds, now that I think of it.

Comment by Jackie Cochran on October 9, 2012 at 6:14pm

Horses DO eat tree leaves on occasion, usually some trees when they first come out.  Yummy!

When my horses seemed a little sick I would lead them into the woods and verges and they would zero in on particular tree leaves that they usually ignored, sometimes just one type of tree, sometimes other trees and weeds too.  They can self medicate.

Long, long ago three toed horses were browsers, there was no grass.  The horses remember!  Some horses I've had ate so much wood that I wondered if they had termites in their ancestry.

As for what goes on in their heads, well some horses are practical jokers, around the level of a two or three year old child.  You can "hear" their snickers if you listen closely.

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