Three Smart Mares

However, they don't always put their brains to go use.

Is your horse smart? Mine are. Sometimes they’re a little too smart, though.

I love Kelsey, the Quarter Horse mare. She knows when I holler to come up that treats await! She brings the more unwilling up to the barn, even if she has to herd them in herself.And I reward her greatly for that. She then walks right into her stall like a lady.

Paz, the Saddlebred mare, knows what she’s supposed to do, too. She sees me, and usually joins Kelsey in the mad dash for carrots. But after that it seems to depend upon her mood. Sometimes she’ll avoid going into her stall by simply standing in the aisle, seemingly stuck in place. That said, she earns my highest respect in that it’s virtually impossible to spook that mare. If Paz begins to shy or act silly, something is definitely wrong and warrants an inspection of the premises. Otherwise, a bomb could go off and Paz would demonstrate a picture-perfect spook in place. Head high. Ears pricked forward. Wide eyes. But not even a swish of the tail.

And Sally, the Morgan. Well . . . words escape me when it comes to that mare’s brainpower. If only I could get her to put it to good use! Sally looks for trouble and excuses to be a brat.

Early on, once she figured out that I stand on the mounting block to mount up, she made the leap in judgment to decide that the green box was for climbing. So she did. Right up to the third step. We cannot leave it in the turnout area unattended.So far, it’s held her weight when she’s gotten away with it, but I worry if it one day collapsed.

And when Sally enters the barn, she trots all the way to the far end to look out the door (her stall is actually first on the right). She gazes out the window as if she were seeing a new view for the first time. All the while, I know she’s keeping an eye on what her stablemates are doing, because I see her ears moving about, looking for a reason to play.

She loves toys. It’s nothing to see her pick up an orange cone and toss it around.She will pay tug-of-war, like a dog, with the lead rope and does carrot tricks as well as any circus horse. Her bow is simply beautiful (she was the fastest learner ever).

But not everyone enjoys her antics. On nights I can’t put the horses in the barn my retired-farrier husband takes care of things.And he believes the mares should enter their stalls like angels with manes and tails. The “girls,” however, know that is ridiculous.

Last week, Sally apparently decided he wasn’t as generous with treats as “Mom,” so she not only opened the treat container (a plastic 50-lb. pet-food bin) to sneak a few more, she picked the whole thing up, ripping the top in half. She then shook it and tossed treats all over the barn—all before she could be stopped. Her popularity among her barn mates skyrocketed, of course, but now the duct-taped treat container must sit in the tack room.

I am interested to read in the animal-intelligence book Dr. Deb Eldredge is reading now (see her blog). She’ll do a full review in an upcoming issue of Horse Journal, but clearly she’s enjoying the information it contains.

I did a quick Internet search to see where horses are ranked for brains among animals, and I was rather disappointed. The best I could find was a ranking of 15th.The most cited smarter animals, not necessarily in order, include chimps, squirrels, crows, elephants, sheep, dogs, pigs, and dolphins. I guess those researchers haven’t been to my barn yet.

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