Rider Insider: Equine Mysteries

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Horse Friends

When you first get started in the equestrian world, everything is brand new and confusing. You might have been surprised to find out there were different kinds of saddles, subdivided beyond those familiar English and western designations. When you heard people talk about ringbone, navicular and laminitis, you were likely left with questions. And when your new barn friends started breaking out the horse-show lingo? Forget it.

But over time, we start to become immersed in our new equestrian culture. The vocabulary becomes second nature. While we may stick to our own discipline, we develop a working knowledge of some of the others. We might even learn what horse-show judges are looking for. Eventually.

Still, no matter how long you’ve worked with horses, some things undoubtedly remain a mystery. Why DO gray horses seem more likely to roll in the mud after a bath than brown horses? How does your horse seem to know when you’re coming to take him for a nice ride vs. when you’re heading out to administer dewormer? And why is it that everything in a barn that comes in even numbers—bell boots, polo wraps—will eventually turn up in odd numbers (where did that third spur come from?)

Tell us about the horse-world mysteries that keep you wondering, whether they’re about the individual equines in your barn or the horse world at large. Some of the editors’ favorite responses will appear in an upcoming issue of Horse Illustrated!

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31 COMMENTS

  1. I always wonder why my 4-year old one-eyed rescue mare sleeps blind-side up. She is clearly content at her barn…or severely lacks life-preservation skills!

  2. I braid my gelding’s long mane and tail before a show and will occasionally place his tail inside a tail bag. How he manages to successfully get his hair out of every single braid with ease, I have no idea. You’ll never find the rubber band again, and his mane will look like you never even had it brushed, cleaned, and in a braid. You would think he had opposable thumbs. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he commissioned his best buddy to help him out.

  3. My mystery is this; Why is the love between a horse and its rider so special? Why is it horses who install the sense of belonging and love and overall peace in us? Why can we forget about all the wrongs in life and yet never can the smell of horse leave us? Why is this special bond impossible to sever and even harder to forget? Why is it I go to the barn every day even after I retired my first horse, even after that bad fall, even after the worst days imaginable? Why is this love so strong? Honestly, though, I don’t think I need the answer.

  4. I’ve always wondered why the 2yr. old filly at our barn will only drink water on the other side of the fence. The water dispenser dispenses water at the same point on both sides of the fence, but the filly refuses to drink on her side of the fence. Does “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” apply to water dispensers too?

  5. It never ceases to amaze me how my horses come in from pasture with their halters completely on and yet their fly mask which goes on underneath the halter is missing. Although it can be annoying to search for the fly masks, I will never complain about the chance to ride bareback in the pasture searching for it.

  6. I have a gray horse, and yes, I do wonder why he rolls in the dirt after a bath. Almost seems a wasted effort to even bother giving him one!!!

  7. My pony always knew when she was in the show ring, she was perfect then. If we were schooling in the same ring the day before she was her normal mean self. I always was sad when we left the show!

  8. I’m bamboozled how my horse can always tell whether or not I have a hidden treat in my pocket every time I come walking across the field. Accidentally forget it back at the barn? It can be a long walk all the way out to get her.

  9. My son’s mare is a bay. In the 4 years we have owned her, she has had a white spot appear on her right side, just above the flank area. Then the spot moved to the left side, in the exact same location as it was in on the other side. The spot then moved to the top of her back, but was smaller in size. Now the spot has reappeared on the left side of her neck. None of the horsey people I have asked can explain this. I am now photo documenting the movement of the spot! The mare is suppose to have some paint in her, not sure if that has anything to do with it! Any ideas???

  10. My horse runs to the gate as soon as I start whistling for him. Then he follows me like a puppy while I catch the other horses. But as soon as I whip out his halter he hightails it to the other side of the field. leaving me astounded at his grace and tired.

  11. My horse runs to the gate as soon as I start whistling for him. Then he follows me like a puppy while I catch the other horses. But as soon as I whip out his halter he hightails it to the other side of the field. leaving me astounded at his grace and tired.

  12. My horse runs to the gate as soon as I start whistling for him. Then he follows me like a puppy while I catch the other horses. But as soon as I whip out his halter he hightails it to the other side of the field. leaving me astounded at his grace and tired.

  13. My horse runs to the gate as soon as I start whistling for him. Then he follows me like a puppy while I catch the other horses. But as soon as I whip out his halter he hightails it to the other side of the field. leaving me astounded at his grace and tired.

  14. Despite all the mysteries of the horse world, one just puzzles me to no end. All I want to know is this: What is so scary about a bucket, or even a butterfly? What is so frightening about a shovel that my horse spooks at, even when she sees it everyday? And how come a large, loud freight train is something not even worth pricking your ears for? Is something only scary after you’ve seen it for the hundredth time? Horses never cease to amaze me, and I don’t know if I’ll ever solve this mystery.

  15. Somethings that horses do amaze me sometimes, like how is your horse able to identify your voice in a loud crowd of people? Something I have learned from my miniature horse is that the only way you are ever going to get close to understanding the mysteries of the horse mind, is to go sit in the middle of a pasture filled with horses, and listen… Watch how your horse interacts with other horses and then you’ll begin to hear what they are saying… 🙂

  16. I had a friend whose horse, Jack, could escape from his winter blankets consistently. This would not be such a mystery except that his blanket would consistently still have all the straps fastened, even when it was a full-neck blanket or several layers of blankets! We couldn’t even assume someone else was helping him, since he lived in a paddock by himself!

  17. The most mysterious thing about my horse is that he always is the last one to gallop up to the gate, I’ve always known he loves to race but he always comes up last. I’ve never been able to figure it out.

  18. What is a mystery to me is that even when you are sick and your voice seems to change your horse still recognizes your voice. If I don’t go to the barn for a few weeks being sick and then come back they still recognize me and greet me with a whinny like an old friend. They also seem to know when you have a carrot or an apple hidden in a coat pocket or something.

  19. At my barn we have a field with only mares inside it, and during the summer their favorite thing to do is remove their fly masks and leave them in odd places where we’ll find them later. On one day we found ten fly masks just lying in the weeds and then a twelth that had been there so long grass had grown all through the mesh and we had to dig it up out of the ground. After this some of the mares began going out without fly masks so that they didn’t get ruined so quickly…

  20. I’m quite mystified when horse people refer to horses as “stupid” and “dumb”. If they have such stupid brains then tell me, How does he know he can get out of work by running away from you in the field when you go to catch him? How does he know you’re going to shove dewormer up his throat by merely glancing at that tube in your hand? Or how he figures out how to remove his coat from his 1000lb body that was strapped onto him with all sorts of buckles, straps, clips, and velcro? I guess I just won’t ever understand why people call horses stupid; from all I’ve experienced and seen, they seem quite intelligent animals to me.

  21. I’m mystified by a cute habit my horse, Merlin, has. When we first got him we would put him back in his stall but he would always press his muzzle through the bars, and just leave it there. After a while of him doing this I decided to kiss his muzzle when he’d put it through… sure enough as soon as I’d kiss it he’d pull it back and go on eating or whatever he was doing. I love this trick. (Especially since I don’t think anyone taught it to him) but now no matter who comes by he’ll stick out his nose and you’d better kiss it or else you’ll hurt his feelings 🙂

  22. One of my sisters and I look quite the same. We have the same build, hair color, and similar face. I wonder how my sweet Joy can tell the difference between us. Also, in the winter, I can be wearing a huge bulky coat, a weird hat and big gloves, and she can still recognize me. That is a sign of friendship. No matter how different I look with all the gear on, she still knows it’s me, and she doesn’t care about all the clothing. It’s what’s inside that matters. I hope, if I ever lose a horse somehow, and went searching for it, if I found the horse, I hope I would know for sure that it was mine. Know your horse!

  23. One of my sisters and I look quite the same. We have the same build, hair color, and similar face. I wonder how my sweet Joy can tell the difference between us. Also, in the winter, I can be wearing a huge bulky coat, a weird hat and big gloves, and she can still recognize me. That is a sign of friendship. No matter how different I look with all the gear on, she still knows it’s me, and she doesn’t care about all the clothing. It’s what’s inside that matters. I hope, if I ever lose a horse somehow, and went searching for it, if I found the horse, I hope I would know for sure that it was mine. Know your horse! Also, I wonder how horses know when you are having a bad day. It always seems that they are extra lovable on those days. They don’t give you any problems then, and just makes your whole day get better. That is a sign of love!

  24. Having grown up with horses I know pretty much everything about them. But, it is still a mystery to me why they go roll in the mud after you have just groomed them or they “drop a load” in a freshly cleaned stall. Even so, I love them to death and I would not have it any other way.

  25. I’ve only been a part of the “horse world” for about a year…but I’ve yet to figure out…just how do you complete a barrel pattern in under 20 seconds??? Obviously, it can be done, any by a lot of people, but just HOW is it done??? I sometimes think that it is something that is natural in you, and that it can’t be trained into you!

  26. My family and I bought a filly whom recently left her full sister who she was attached to she was put in with our other mare when we bought her and the first thing she did was try to nurse when they met for the first time is that weird?

  27. What IS he thinking? That is the mystery that puzzles me the most. Sometimes I can tell right away, but sometimes it’s harder. We’ve brought our wonderful Shadowfax through so much, from 105-degree temperatures through EPM, and oh, do we wish he could talk. Getting to know the early signs of discomfort or displeasure are mysteries that go way beyond the ears, and I know I’d be a better owner if I could see them. I do see happiness though ,when he wants to stay and play more with me, and I also see pride when he knows he’s done a good thing. Sheer pleasure for both of us!

  28. Why is it that my pony is afraid of her own shadow, yet she will jump ANY jump you put in front of her without much of a problem? (not that I’m complaining)

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