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Thoughts on Horses Mimicking Humans

By Denise May

Yesterday, I went out to see Titan and Montana and noticed that the food bin had been moved a considerable distance and "played with". This is no small feat considering the bins are built for cows and extremely large and heavy...it could have only been Titan again. I had been out of town for a day and didn't see it happen.

It made me rethink my first take on the first incident when he stood on the bin. It also made me think how we humans often see things in a light reflected on ourselves and not on the horse when it comes to analyzing their behavior correctly.
I think that the mimickry (or perhaps just a coincidence timed with my climbing on the fence) was a result of boredom on Titan's part....and perhaps his wanting to communicate his need to play or for some purposeful action or interaction with me. It is true that I have been very busy lately and haven't had time to work with them or take them places. Titan seems to especially enjoy learning new things and going new places. Also....because some guys were working in the big pasture, Titan was confined to a somewhat smaller area than previously.

What I've learned from this is: Horses usually have a reason for their behavior and it's usually based on some sort of need. Before I attribute the behavior to some human emotion or agenda, I need to think of what the horse may be trying to tell me regarding his need...a real purpose for his action. I feel somewhat badly that I dismissed his need or didn't take a good hard look at his situation from his viewpoint before I was simply amused by his actions. To think he was simply mimicking me was a little egotistic on my part. When children imitate us as parents, it's their need to connect with us and get our attention, and to learn. As "The Great Parent" I'm going to look at mimicky this same way. Also...I didn't even think how dangerous it would be if his feet went through the metal bins! I have taken the bins away, am putting some suitable toys in the paddock, and scheduling some time with my boys that's stimulating and rewarding.

I'm always reminding myself that horses have few ways to communicate with us...no hands, little voice, few facial expressions. We need to pay very close attention because understanding is often the first step to trust and the most important step in keeping it.