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Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Horse, of Course.

On my way home from Green Chimneys today, my friend Tova (also my ride!) and I were discussing, among other things, the interesting fact that the children who attend the school tend to pick a favorite animal with whom they form a special relationship. For some kids, the goats have a certain appeal. For others, the chickens make them the happiest. Tova relates best to the pigs, and I, of course, adore the horses. I mentioned that it would be interesting to find out what it is in each animal that the child most identified with. I think that would provide a great deal of insight into these troubled children, and possibly aid in their treatment. Then, the discussion moved to what it is about our respective animals that appeals most to us. With some thought, I decided that what I relate to most about horses is their social nature.

People generally see horses being ridden by themselves, or out in a pasture grazing, maybe with some horses nearby, but that's about it. Unless you really know horses, and have spent some time around them, you wouldn't really get to see their intensely social lives. Even when it looks as though the horses are ignoring their neighbors in the paddock, they are keenly aware of every other horse; how she's feeling, what she's doing, and if she's feeling safe. Prey animals, such as horses, thrive in groups which offer protection. Horses were designed to flee at the first sign of danger, so the more eyes keeping a look out, the better. They are incredibly intuitive as a result, and not just about the needs of their herd mates. One of the reasons horses are so valuable as therapy animals is because they are quickly able to assess the moods of people and often react in a way that will help people identify their own emotions as reflected by the horse.

I often joke that I decided to study animal behavior because I'm not fond of people. That's only partially true. While I do get frustrated by mankind as a whole, I love my friends and family. I like the idea that I have a safety network- that, if I'm there for my 'herd', they will look out for me. I'm ok by myself, I'll go out and do things on my own, but I prefer to be in the company of those I love. So it's probably no wonder that I feel so close to horses- I understand their need to be surrounded by comfort and safety, and I do my best to provide that for them whenever I can. Is there an animal you relate to in a special way?
Dreamer, the love of my life.

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