Monday, February 15, 2010

In Protest

My horse injured himself in pasture over the weekend (no worries, inconvenient but not overly traumatic) and while I bandaged him up and readied a stall for his convalescence I had plenty of time for my mind to wander. And so I decided to compose this little post regarding a pet peeve of mine that crops up A LOT in books that feature horses.

Except in very rare occasions - so rare, mind you, that I haven't actually ever witnessed one of these hypothetical occasions - horses do not neigh or snort "in protest" to a human action like, say, shifting your weight in the saddle or other such things I read in books that occur to make a horse neigh or snort in protest.

List of horse breeds I am around on an almost daily basis:
quarter horses

List of actions that have elicited neighs:
separation from herd or buddy
greeting herd or buddy
food is on the way (even this is more often a nicker)
human buddy arrives (except for some overly "chatty" horses this too is fairly rare)

List of actions that have elicited snorts:
a surprise (like, whoa-nelly I didn't notice there was a potbelly pig over there - snort, snort)
exercise (deep exhalations often sound like snorts)

Horses communicate with their bodies not their mouths. To protest, horses pin their ears, toss their heads, kick out, swish their tales, strike, pull back, buck, rear, freeze, bolt and any number of other actions but it's almost always with their bodies not their voices.

As a little illustration my horse that I have owned for 5 years has neighed at me twice, once for food and once for a greeting (though he probably knew he would soon get food so maybe it wasn't a greeting). Not once has he neighed or snorted in protest though he has tossed his head, swished his tail and bucked in protest. Of course, I try not to give him anything to protest about but it still happens from time to time and he's smart enough to let me know when I've done something wrong. But always with his body.

So please, authors, spend a little time with horses if you are going to put them in your books. Just a little time and then you'll see how efficient these beautiful creatures are. They don't waste their breath because they know just the right look is protest enough.

And since I manufactured an excuse for cute pet pics yesterday I certainly can't waste this excuse to post a piccy of my equine sweetie. This is from a couple years ago when we still lived where it snows. (trust me, we are loving winters that feature sunshine-filled days with highs in the upper 60s - this weekend was gorgeous)


  1. In that same vein, I hate watching horse movies where the horses are whinnying ALL the time. (Apparently we need aural confirmation that those are whinnying horses, not baaing sheep, we see.)

    And usually the horses on screen have their mouths closed (hint number 1) and have their ears in a relaxed position (hint number 2).

    Cars don't honk their horns in movies every time they appear on screen, and appliances don't turn on the moment the main character walks into the kitchen, but horses always whinny. Makes me batty.

  2. I blame Mr. Ed. (The show, not the horse-actor.)

    In unrelated news, your dog is freaking ADORABLE.

  3. I think we should all snort in protest.

  4. Suisan, I totally know what you mean and great analogy on the cars honking!

    Beth, thanks! I think she practices those wide-eyed "love me" looks when I'm not home.

    (consider it done, Brooke:)