Just For Horses, or Does the Entire Animal Kingdom Get To Play?

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There are studies online that describe how horses learn and how they communicate, but it seems to be mostly body language commentary, and there’s not much about how it actually works — I’ve written on the subject a number of times and there’s one specific aspect that remains unfinished, gathering dust on the shelf, waiting — remember the phenomenon about the lion and the wapiti? In case it’s new to you, or just sitting there with the rest of us, waiting, here’s a quick recap so we’re all on the same page. A predator — a lion, say — who lives on the African veldt has just fed himself and now wants to drink. He casually strolls through a herd of wapiti in that veldt to get to a water hole, and he gets ignored — nothing but a wary glance from all that tasty lunch meat lying about, followed by going back to sleep. Meanwhile, a mile away another predator (lion, to keep the concept on track), who hasn’t dined yet and is now on the hunt, comes upon another herd of wapiti — and apparently just his being nearby causes that herd to scatter! Odd, isn’t it? Why one but not the other? And a few months back we were discussing how a horse isn’t supposed to know when you’re carrying something to give him, like a bottle of fly spray to treat him and prevent flybites before they even start — because we know what to expect from the horse as soon as he knows it’s there. So, we attempt to hide it from him by holding it under our shirts. He CAN’T actually know it’s there — but he DOES because he’s outta there in a flash before we can even pull it out. Sorry, I still haven’t found an answer to where this apparent ESP comes from, though there is some speculation about another somewhat non-understood portion of our human brain known as the Limbic system that might have a role to play in this interesting mystery — but I never could unlock that door either. Maybe someday. Meantime, we go on kidding ourselves, thinking that they do not know what we’re thinking despite the evidence that strongly suggests that they do.

Why should we care about it, you may ask? Isn’t our intention for the fly spray quite a personal thing? Well, we should care, actually. For countless years a horse was primarily used as our personal beast of burden, put to work doing everything from carrying the groceries to carrying us into battle and then our farmwork in the meantime, plowing our fields, transportation, whatever we needed done that was too much for us to do ourselves. Fortunately, this magnificent beast can handle just about everything we throw at him and come back for more (but thank Heaven, no more riding into battle). Things have changed for horses — the groceries go into the trunk or back seat of our cars now, and well-armed riders sitting on their backs have been replaced by our ladies’ sunny Sunday afternoon rides as they all — horses included — enjoy the pleasure rides through the woods and over the fields. Let’s remember, too, that horses also make excellent teachers as long as we pay attention. And now we may have a clue about their apparent ESP capabilities . But wait — it’s one thing to be on the receiving end of an ESP transmission (how did they know about that fly spray bottle?), but will we ever be able to send one? Receiving a transmission is one thing — the easy part, because the necessary components must be already in place, as witness those “fearless” wapiti. Are we already enroute to developing “transmitters”? Let’s stop right here and point out that we’ve already been down this road, with phenomenal success — consider that radio and television work just this way, and have been doing it for decades. We had to invent and create the receivers and transmitters (or at least their design concepts), and without that technology we couldn’t exist. We have some work to do, but we have the background and the smarts. Thank God we are a civilization of tinkerers, because I think we’re gonna need them.

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