Monday, October 24, 2011

An Amazing Thing

I have always been fascinated by animal behavior.  When I built a house a couple of years ago, I made sure to position it so that all the main windows look out over my pasture and barn so I can horse watch as much as I want.   Adding a donkey to my farm has added a whole new and delightful element to my equine behavioral studies.

The view from my living room window

Lately, the interaction between Emma and Tessa has become even more interesting.   first noticed Emma actually thinking about trying to nurse off of Tessa.  Tess wasn't thrilled with this idea but did not get overly upset either, she just gently said no and that was that.  I put this down to Emma's age (14 months) and missing her mom.  However, I think that like most things it is more complicated than that because now I see that Tessa is acting very much like Emma is her daughter not just her friend.  Tessa has become quite protective of Emma.

A few weeks ago there were some dogs roaming around in the pasture.  These dogs have been a minor annoyance since I bought the property.  They have never caused any harm but I can see them thinking about chasing the horses.  Tessa has seen these dogs before and has always just ignored them.  However the last time they showed up, Tessa took action and chased them out of the field away from Emma.  Good riddance to them!

Yesterday, a group of us went out for a trail ride and on the way home we passed by the lower field where Tessa and Emma are staying at the moment.  I was a little concerned about this as I didn't want Tessa getting overly excited but there was no other way around.  Tessa and Emma were intrigued of course but, I could see that Tessa felt threatened by all these new horses.  Rather than get excited and want to play as she would have a few months ago she led Emma up the hill and back to the barn as far away as they could go. Good riddance to us as well!

This afternoon, I witnessed an amazing thing.  I had been gone most of the day visiting with friends and when I came home it was pouring rain (again!!).  I wanted to make sure that the girls had plenty of hay in the barn so they would not feel like they had to be out in this miserable weather.  Smart equines that they are, they were waiting for me in the barn.  I threw some hay in the manger and then watched an incredible thing happen.  Tessa went to the manger and very carefully pulled out a flake of hay and very deliberately brought it over and put it on the floor in front of Emma.  She then very gently, fluffed the hay up with her foot and reached over and nuzzled Emma on the shoulder making a little wuffling noise that you would normally hear only from a mare with a newborn foal.  Emma reached up and returned the gesture with her own little noise then bent down and started eating the hay, Tessa turned back to the manger and started chewing on her own hay. 

I have had horses for 30 years and have seen them do amazing things but I have never watched a scene like this this one.  The thoughtful deliberation of Tessa's actions alone are astonishing.  I will leave it you you to ponder the implications of all of this.  I know I have to go think about it some more.

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