Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Horse Perception

Sorry about having two posts in one day.  I had an interesting thing happen with Gabbrielle and wanted to mention it while I have time.  She a very affectionate mare, always looking for hugs and kisses.  I went in for a hug, and she startled me by snorting and jumping away from me.  I figured the annoying neighbors were around and did something to spook her, so I tried to hug her again, and she spun to get away from me.  I reached out to pet her face and she ran backwards.  She was clearly afraid of me.

I figured I had cleaning fluid on my hands and the smell was bothering her.  I didn't think much about it until I went outside later and got the same bug-eyed, terrified reaction from her.  This time I was wearing gloves, so I didn't think it was a scent on my hands that was causing the problem.  I started cleaning stalls and noticed that Gabbrielle was sticking her head in each stall watching me with fascination.  Each time I reached out to pet her, she snorted and backed away.

I realized that she was looking at my Christmas sweater, which is warm, so I wear it all winter and not just around Christmas.  It is red and green and black and white with bold lines.  I wondered if the bright colors and design were scaring her.  Horses are supposedly color-blind, so that didn't really make sense.  I worked on desensitizing her to the sweater by letting her slowly approach it, and eventually I got my horse hugs.

I relayed the story to my husband and he pointed out that the green on my sweater glitters.  It's funny, because I've had this sweater for years and never noticed that.  I'll bet the sparkling scared Gabbrielle because it was like sudden movement, and she couldn't figure out what it was.  Bombay was also a little freaked out about it, and Lostine couldn't care less.  Isn't it amazing how it takes a horse lifetime, nearly 25 years, for a horse to feel comfortable around new things?  With people, it seems to be the opposite.  Kids are confident and fearless, always up for new things, and as we get older we develop fears.


Katharine Swan said...

Horses aren't actually color blind. They have two kinds of color cones in their eyes, while we have three. They see fewer colors than we do, but they still see them. I used to have a link on my blog to a color wheel that showed what colors they see, but it was taken down a couple of years ago. In any case, I remember that bright greens are one of the few colors that show up as a very bright color to them (green appears more yellow to them, though), and I've noticed that Panama has always been rather alarmed by greens, too.

I just found the Wikipedia page on color vision in horses -- check it out. It's not as helpful as the color wheel I used to link to, but it's still pretty interesting!

Cut-N-Jump said...

How funny that the glittery stuff escaped you all this time, but the horses picked right up on it. Reading through Katherine Swan's comment though- it all makes sense.

Sandra said...

Isn't it satisfying when you figure out what they are reacting to?

I raised horses for many years and I tell you, they can confound a person, but they are usually being honest. I have a stallion that got hormonal about his trainer a couple of years ago. It was terrible. Turns out she used a body lotion that set him off. We figured it out because he didn't always do it. I told her he seemed to be reacting to scent and she put it together. Obviously that lotion disappeared!

Your mare is the smart, hyperaware one in your herd.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

That's crazy how they freak out over the smallest things. Interesting that you figured it out was your sweater too.

achieve1dream said...

I was going to say the same thing about horses not actually being color blind, but Katharine said it already lol. Who would think a sweater would be a great desensitizing training tool lol. Glad she got over it and you got your hugs. :D