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Hello --

I had worked in many stables in my early years, but only one horse was the subject of my scrutiny of reasonable degree, and that one was the one I owned for 25 years at my home.

Have you subjected horses to music?

The reason I ask, is that my mare seemingly had strong preferences on this subject. Mind you, I have no idea how her brain interpreted it. Was it just soothing sound of "white noise"? Or did she connect the sounds into some primitive enjoyment?

One time I happened to play a certain type of music* from my truck while I worked in the front yard. The horse as usual was loose -- no halter -- she knew where the boundaries were. She had been seemingly dozing next to the truck's open window whilst this music played on the cassette, probably for 30 minutes. I had noticed her ears were not "lazy" as they often were while asleep, but ticked towards the window. The cassette ended and popped out. Rock music from the FM tuner played. The horse instantly had quite an annoyed look, and walked away from the truck. I went over to the truck and called her back, and she did so reluctantly. Then moved off again.

One other small (true) tale --

Early on, we moved the horse from a pasture with 20 horses, to her own place by herself about 200 miles away. She was "depressed" -- anthropomorphic, but, she was depressed. Looking for a way out of that yard. Circumstances allowed her to bolt out at a later date, running down out of the cul-de-sac and going down the residential road leading soon to a busy primary road. I had already taken off after her on foot, about 300 feet behind. As she approached the primary road, she slowed down, and came to a stop at the intersection. I caught up to her; she looked down the primary road south towards where she used to live with her horse buddies and enemies. I gave her a neck a rub, and said with feeling that she couldn't go back, it was too far away. "...Let's go home."

She looked at me, looked back southward down the road, made a big sighing sound. She then turned and followed me back home, halterless (well, I had rushed to follow, didn't have time to grab equipment). From that moment, her mood changed for the better, and she never took off again.

This is just a tip of the iceberg in describing the puzzling behaviour of this animal. Mind, when I had bought this horse, she was just a 4x4 for the trails I wanted to explore in the mountains. Everybody said that they were stupid!

Then there's the times she would quite gladly eat a hamburger when amongst my friends and I at a local Carls' Jr. Any other time? Yeccch!

Goes to show how horses are like humans in their need to fit in with a social group?

But that's another story.


*PS- the music the horse liked was ambient music. Brian Eno's ambient series such as "Music for Airports," and Steve Roach's "Quiet Music" were "favorites". Did NOT like country music -- which was what all the barns I had worked at, played!

J. T.


Wow, what fabulous illustrations! Yes, horses do respond to music. Have you ever watched a freestyle equestrian event? It's wonderful to watch the horses "dance" in time with the music! There is also an element of connectedness involved with sound. A friend of mine frequently has to spend a week at a time working out of town. He leaves a radio playing in his barn, which seems to calm the horses with a "there are still humans around and all is right with the world" message. As for your horse's reaction to the different styles of music, do you recall my adage, "A horse will tend to react to you like you act toward it"? Horses are very good at reading emotions, and I see no reason that they shouldn't also read the emotions implied by music. What's one of the main emotions conveyed by hard rock? Alienation. Your horse may have been saying to the musician, "You're alienated? Okay, I'm gonna alienate myself from you!"

There's a little tune that matched Willy's walking gait perfectly and that I would often whistle or hum when we were out on the trail. If things started going crossways and Willy was becoming nervous, I could whistle that tune -- which I still refer to as "Willy's tune" -- and he would calm right down.

The runaway horse story shows at least three things:
1. How important being connected to the herd is for a horse.
2. How good their internal "Global Positioning System" is.
3. How they will bond with a human, and even "heel" like a good hunting dog.

Thanks for sharing these experiences. Isn't it amazing what goes on in that "walnut" -- or larger -- sized brains of theirs? Your tales all ring true for me -- or, as some would say, "Been there, done that."

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