My home office looks out on our backyard. I have an unobstructed view of our two horses all day long. They can also see me. In fact, some days they get as close as they can and just stare at me for what seems like hours. If it’s feeding time, I get the message. But this also happens at other times. I say “they” but, to be honest, I’m really talking about my Quarter Horse mare, Candy. Fidla, our Icelandic mare, has such a massive forelock and phlegmatic personality that you can hardly tell if she’s awake or asleep, let alone what’s going on in her brain. Not that there’s anything wrong with that …
Candy, on the other hand, is somewhat transparent. You can really tell when the wheels are turning. She watches me with bright eyes, ears forward, and head slightly lowered, even if I’m just typing on my computer. So, what’s going on here? Slow day in Horseville? Actually, I think that, for whatever reason, her curiosity is piqued.
In one of our first radio interviews many years ago, Pat Parelli told me that curiosity and fear are mutually exclusive states in a horse. If Candy is curious, she can’t be afraid. As Clinton Anderson would say, she’s in the thinking side of her brain. It’s a good state for a horse. I want my horse spending as much time as possible being calm, confident, and comfortable, thinking rather than reacting. Then when I inject myself into the situation, I just try to maintain that. There may be some health benefits, too. About 60% of domestic horses (and nearly all race horses) have ulcers and experts tell me that stress is the biggest cause. When curious, a horse is not feeling the harmful effects of stress.
I used to feel that I needed to do something when Candy was staring at me. Feed her, pet her, entertain her. Something. I don’t think that way anymore. A difficult lesson for most of us to learn is that smart horsekeeping often demands that we do nothing at all. Simply leave the horse alone. For me, this is one of those times. I’ll keep doing what I do at my desk and hopefully, Candy will continue to find that curious.
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