Benefits of Horses series on Horse Owner Today

Hyracotherium vasacciensis skeleton, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C., USA. - Jeff Kubina / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 2.0
Hyracotherium (formerly Eohippus) skeleton – Jeff Kubina / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 2.0
I’m beginning an informal series on the benefits of horses to humans … Horse Owner Today magazine has posted the 1st one!
Excerpt


Watching Horses is part of being Human

To say mankind evolved watching horses is simply reporting evidence. Incredibly the sight of horses is older to humanity than the use of fire or tools. Horse-watching predates walking upright…

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How to Hunt a Horse

Sneaking around is the rule for horse-hunters… and it ain’t easy. As anyone who has spent time with horses knows, our silent partner is quite alert to potential lions in the flower-pots. The horse’s creed is “he who quickly runs away, lives to run another day,” and he instinctively knows his survival depends upon a good headstart.

Mostly, you don’t.  Horses are prey in the wild, but few predators dare confrontation with a healthy equine. You could call horses “extreme” prey.

stubbs, horse frightened by lion, 1770

The opening historical scene of Eclipsed by Shadow is set in prehistoric times, highlighting the earliest relationship between man and horse: hunter and hunted.

It was not our most enjoyable association, casting humans in the shabby role of trickster … and leaving the horses not too happy either.

The horse has few natural predators

Lions and wolf packs are the only major predators with horse on the menu, and they mostly avoid contact. As a horse’s kick can crush an adult lion’s skull — something we could call a ‘game-changer’ — the horse’s enemies remain on the lookout for immature, elderly or sick equines.

If hooves are the danger in horse-hunting, getting close to the animal is the difficulty. A horse may not have the sprinting take-off of a gazelle, but with a short headstart no predator on earth can catch him.

The horse’s anatomy is a balance between power and swiftness: his heavy body is balanced on thin, well-leveraged limbs that take a few strides to reach full speed but allow him to gallop for miles. The horse simply outclasses all predators at any real distance.

So sneaking around is the rule for horse-hunters … and it ain’t easy. As anyone who has spent time with horses knows, our silent partner is quite alert to potential lions in the flower-pots. The horse instinctively knows his survival depends upon a good headstart.
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Copyright © 2010  John Allen Royce, Jr.

Little Horse on the Prairie

The horse is prey and never forgets it: his motto is to ‘run away to live another day.’

The horse is prey and never forgets it: his motto is to ‘run away to live another day.’

Wild stallion Lazarus and part of his band in West Warm Springs HMA, OR | Bureau of Land Management, Office of Public Affairs / Wikimedia / Public DomainHorses are built for speed over distance, and with a good headstart he is safe from his natural predators.

The only hole in the equine’s survival program is the time it takes to reach top speed. To solve this problem horses come “fully-loaded” with highly advanced bio-technology to detect predators.

 

The Super-Human Horse

An equine’s sense of hearing and smell rivals that of a dog, with additions of swiveling ears and a canyon of a nose that sifts the wind with every breath. Their eyesight is much different than our own, featuring extreme motion-detection ability and a field of vision of almost 360 degrees, with only a few blank spots right behind and in front (which is why you never walk up behind a horse, and why jumping is such a challenge).

Equine abilities extend beyond the human experience. A horse’s legs serve as a sounding board to feel ground vibration, and can even recognize a person by their walk. Horses also have an amazing “photographic” memory and are able to see well at night.

Horses don’t see the world as humans see it

As you ride, the horse has mapped out the robin in the hedge 100 yards away, noted a freshly-painted mailbox and the spot where a dog barked seven years ago … even as feels the rumble of a distant train and responds to your cues.

We don’t share the outlook of horses, the same mind or same senses–we hardly share the same world. Yet somehow, implausibly, a close partnership was made … and is still kept.

Photo: Bureau of Land Management / Wikimedia / Public Domain

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Copyright © 2010  John Allen Royce, Jr.