Sunday, November 01, 2009


In "The Emotional Lives of Animals," I read that there is little evidence of fear for others except in mothers for their offspring. Then it gives many examples, bears and mountain goats. Horses are mentioned infrequently in this book. The authors seem to prefer wild animals.

Janow shows fear for me and has overcome that fear to take care of me. When he defended me from the tack box door, and when he defended me with toddler Joseph when the loose horse was galloping toward us.

In an earlier blog, I told the story of hand walking Janow twice a day when he had a tendon injury. I had toddler Joseph in a backpack. Another boarder, dog off leash in defiance of rules, called her dog so I would not see her breaking the rule. The dog ran off. She let go of her horse to chase the dog and the horse left his grass patch to start a squealing fight with another horse over the fence. She heard the squealing and turned to her horse, yelling and running to get it. Of course, the horse bolted. It was heading our way and I had to choose, let go and let Janow run away and re-injure the tendon, hang on and get pulled over, injuring Joseph. Before I could decide, Janow moved to place his body between the running horse, and me with Joseph turning his butt and hunkering down to kick out at it. The horse saw his hazard at the last instant and veered away.

A later time, squirrels had undermined the foundation to my plastic tack locker. The locker had shifted, the doors came loose and stuff was everywhere. I removed all the stuff and planned to tell the office when I rode past, then I tacked up. Before I got on, Jay rode by and I pointed to the locker. “Oh, those are easy, the doors just snap back in!” He dismounted and came over to snap it. When he wiggled it, the whole plastic door came loose and started falling toward me as I held Janow’s reins. Jay and I both expected Janow to bolt. Instead, he fired both hind legs and sent the whole door flying! Jay said “So much for that!” The door wasn’t really dangerous and people know that, but to a horse, it was a split second decision to protect me.

Everyone (well, many) has read or heard about Lipizzans being bred for dressage and performances and royal pageants. When the breeding program was begun over 400 years ago, the view was different. The Lipizzan was the latest and greatest battlefield technology. The goal was to gain advantage over then enemy during a military engagement. They were used for training and mounts for officers. Remember, officers had more than just military value, they were of noble birth, with advantages and alliances gained through their marriages, and they were the celebrities of their day. The Lipizzan was bred to carry them into battle and keep them safe.

There have been many times when I have Janow's emotions as if they were my own. In the beginning I mistook them for my own. I know better now, and I may write about that later. What I remember now is a time when I was riding around the ranch and we were going along Calaveras, a paved road that is a favorite of bicyclists. We were on the inside of the ranch fence, a nice dirt bridle path. A cyclist had stopped to rest under the trees, in the speckled shade. Janow knew she was there by the small movements of sipping a water bottle, but the wind was wrong and he didn’t know what it was. I said “Hi” and she waved back. Janow froze. I said “Say something so he knows you’re a person.” She did, and Janow relaxed right away. We walked up to her without a problem. She remarked how beautiful he was and that she was nothing to be afraid of. I explained to her that only part of what Janow did was based on simple fear, that he was also making sure that I was safe. It was a revelation for her. I knew Janow was concerned for me as well as himself. I knew it with the listening-heart that can feel what he feels.

He feels guilt as well as fear for me. In one of the few instances when I have come off and he was not intending it, we were (again) riding around the ranch when something unnerved him unexpectedly. I don’t know what, a sound, a smell, something visible. He spun so suddenly that I was just hanging in the air, fourteen hands and two inches off the ground. Of course, that didn’t last long. Janow did not run away but stood there looking at me with aprehension. I got back on immediately, to show not only that I was OK (really?) but that my trust was not broken. He felt terrible. He walked so carefully. I rode around a little bit more and finished up. The next day, he did not want to go past the same spot. I didn’t push it. I picked a different route for as long as he needed, which was only a few days. When we did go past again, the place he concentrated on was the place where I landed, not the place where whatever-it-was had been. After that, he was fine.


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Sounds as if you have a very special and close relationship with Janow. But of course, you have owned him for a very long time.
I'm not sure Baby Doll felt guilt when I fell, but I know she felt fear. In the past when I have come close to falling, she has seemed to sense it and correct her movements so I can get back on. But that last time, she kept on spooking and there wasn't anyway for me to regain my balance. Just as a friend should never leave you if you've fallen and been injured, I had hoped my mare would not have left me, but she did. She did look at me on the ground with wild eyes, though. When I finally found her afterwards, she had crushed herself up against the fence...not grazing and still visibly upset.

I'm not sure if it was because she was still scared of whatever spooked her, scared or guilty that she had dumped me, or worried that she might get in trouble for it.

But she was willing to let me get back on and ride her around for a few minutes and she did it calmly and without anymore problems.

The issue I have with her now, is that I don't trust her to keep me safe anymore. And I'm too fearful to even give her the opportunity. The stakes are just too high....


I'm in love with a mental Horse named Pyper!!!! said...

oh, i love this post, it is such a sweet story how he protected you!!! =D

Breathe said...

What an amazing series of stories. He is one incredible horse and your connection with him is simply incredible.

OnTheBit said...

What amazing stories. You had me crying because I knew exactly what you meant and it is really beautiful when you have another creature who is willing to risk harm so that you stay safe. I will have to write a post about how Gennyral has saved my butt someday.

d. moll, said...

What a great story and what a wonderful relationship you have with Janow. When I was a kid one of my fav books was the M. Henry book White Stallion (Misty could go take a hike for all I cared). It is sort of thrilling to know more about this breed up close and personal. He has such pretty eyes. The battle breeding is interesting too, the instinct is still there. My brothers Tibetan Mastiff is similar, bred, but not trained to protect her owner, Gypsy would defend N. to the death....

Fantastyk Voyager said...

That is all very interesting how Janow defends you considering that the Lippizans were bred for war horses and to defend their riders. Obviously, he knows his duty well!
What a wonderful companion and loyal friend you have in him!