Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sweet Talk

Horses aren't super vocal creatures. For the most part the horses I've owned and handled tend to call out when they are feeling isolated and nicker when they are excited for their dinner. I have also heard the occasional nicker exchanged between horses who have been separated and are happy to be together again, or horses who haven't met but are in the same general proximity.

I know some horses are a lot more verbal than others. Steen has never been much inclined to make noise. Back when I first got him, he would call for his herd when I was riding him, but he hasn't done that in years. The first winter I had him and I kept him in a stall to get some meat on his bones, he would nicker at me when I arrived at the barn. Mostly because he hated being in the stall and knew my presence meant escape.

For the last couple of years Steen will also sometimes nicker at me when I dismount. I must admit this usually has the effect of making me feel a bit bad. The nicker seems to communicate something like, "I am so happy you are getting off my back and aren't going to make me work anymore." This is not exactly the ideal sentiment for a saddle-horse.

The last two rides, Steen is talking to me even more. Yesterday when Brian and Bear were walking down the strip placing cones, I decided to make Steen do a little work on the mecate while I waited for a leg up. All I did was make him walk around me in a circle, but apparently he wasn't happy about it because when I asked for the disengage, he stopped, turned towards me and nickered. I let him come in for some pets, then made him go the other way. Same thing. He nickered when I stopped him.

Brian came back and I mounted and rode as usual. After the ride I got off and asked for a couple more circles. Again nickered at me each time I let him stop.

Today there was a huge truck hauling dirt from a ditch at the bottom of the strip to the new house at the top of the strip, so Brian and I rode in the outdoor arena. The outdoor arena is really more or a glorified run with a round-pen in it and bad footing, so it is never all that pleasant to ride in. Plus it was just insanely hot. We went from dreary cold days to the 90's overnight.

Steen was really good though. Everything except his stops were awesome. We worked on walking until asked to trot (he was much better about this than the last couple of rides), leg-yields and yielding the hindquarters under saddle. I'm trying to work on more minute control off Steen's trajectory, so this was good stuff to practice. In between exercises I would let him stand and rest, and sometimes I'd lean up and scratch his face and ears while we stood. Several times when I was petting him, he nickered at me again.

So I must admit I have no idea what the increased verbal communication means, but I can't really imagine that it's a bad thing. I'll be curious to see if it keeps up or if it's just a phase.

Horseback hours YTD: 22:15

1 comment:

  1. Tranikla is much more vocal with humans than Trekker is. He does the nicker when he thinks I'm done riding (he's usually right), and when he's getting particularly good scritches. He does this kinda nicker/whinny cross when he sees me at barn...although he knows he's getting a treat.

    Trekker doesn't really make noise to people (unless he expects a treat), but is much more likely to respond to another horse's whinny than Tranikla.

    I know dogs become more vocal when they live with people...supposedly because they recognize the importance we place on speaking and try to imitate. I don't know if this happens with horses, but they're observant so it might make sense.

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