Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Harvey mysteries, and the inner life of horses

I go  to the barn late this evening -- Harv is tucked into his stall, with plenty of everything. I give him his night check grain and start putting together stuff I need to clean and re-wrap his legs. I look up. Wait. Harv isn't eating his grain -- he's hanging his head out of his Dutch door, looking at me, expectantly.

Harvey not eating is a sign of the apocalypse. I walk over to him. "Are you okay?"

He nuzzles me and shakes his head.  It's almost like he wants to draw my attention to something. I try to feel under his blanket but he pulls away, then circles his stall, comes back, and nuzzles me again. He's expecting something -- but I can't figure out what. I open the stall door and step in.  He's not hot under his blanket. He's not injured. No physical distress. 

 "What is it Harvey?"

I rub his ears, scratching the old surgical scar on his face. Finally, I scratch under his chin and throatlatch. Ah, the sweet spot. His eye is softer, and he relaxes. Okay, Harv.

I scratch him for a few minutes. It still worries me that over in the stall corner is grain that does not interest him.

I take a seat on the tack trunk in front of his stall. He's now  relaxed, but still attentive to me. He leans his head toward me and touches me on the shoulder. We have a few minutes of companionship, and I tell him what a good boy he is, how smart, and how handsome and wise he is. After a bit he walks over to his feed bucket and starts eating, slowly.

I have a hard time leaving the barn. Changes in behavior, especially appetite, are a bad sign with horses -- and Harv is old, and winter is coming on, and -- plenty of reasons to worry.  But eventually I get in my car and drive home. I tell Bob about Harv's his indifference to the grain, and the comfort-seeking behavior. We ponder what was going on his Harv's head.

How often have I wished my horses could talk! But I can only guess at their inner life.  Bob and I speculate about Harv's behavior that night, and come up with three possibilities: Discomfort, loneliness,  gratitude. I thought about the look in his eyes.Maybe he was feeling old and ache-y, or maybe he was lonely. I know he was glad for my company.

And, almost certainly, he was not very hungry.


  1. I know that feeling all too well. I have a mare that is prone to ulcers, and when she is off her feed I lose sleep. If only I had a closed-circuit camera so I could watch her mull about all night. The other day, she just wanted belly and tail scratches before touching her dinner, but, when the massage was over, she ate like a champ. Stressful, still.


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