One of my favorite horse sites on You Tube is Elphick Event Ponies, and a few weeks ago, Meg Elphic posted a video “test” of two of her horses, Ari, a 3 year old pinto gelding just coming into training, and Dee, an older Connemara mare. Tests were conducted individually, in two different places: Ari’s stall in the barn, and the arena, where Dee had just been ridden. Meg “fell down” and lay motionless in front of each. Ari approached, sniffed her, bumped her with his nose, sniffed again, considered moving her foot with his teeth, but you’re not supposed to put teeth on humans, and generally looked puzzled and concerned. Dee looked at her with slightly scornful disbelief (“Did you think THAT clumsy act would fool ME? Silly human. I’m not going to make a fool of myself”) and turned her head away to look at Meg’s mother, doing the videoing.
A couple of days ago, when it wasn’t too cold and the ground was quite dry, I was out in the lot talking to R-, and both of mine were standing in their favorite standing spot, but looking at me. I walked a little way toward them and thought of Meg’s video. What would they do if I fell down and just lay there? I told R- what I was going to do, so he wouldn’t worry. Since the ground is hard, and I’m old and creaky, my “falling” was a slow descent, but finally I was down, on my side, face aimed away from them. Eventually I heard the “Huff…..huff…” of their curiosity/anxious breathing, which sounds a bit like when dolphins come up for air. It came closer, slowly. I peeked (tried to) through my eyelashes and saw a hoof, and then another, move into my arc of vision. The hooves moved closer, and more of them. Quite close. The closest hooves had white legs above them; the more distant hooves had red-brown legs. Good, I thought. The closest hooves are on the calmest horse, the one least likely to spook and step on me.
Rags reached out and sniffed my foot, then nudged it, just as Ari had done with Meg. Then he started to take hold of it with his mouth. Rags did not have Ari’s good early training (so I don’t trust him) but clearly the impulse was the “friend lying down not moving, check ’em out” thing.) Meanwhile, when I opened my eyes and half-sat up, Tigger was looking at me over Rag’s back. “You’re OK then…I can go back to my tree and loaf…”
Found it interesting that in both cases the younger horse (like most immature critters) showed the most curiosity, and the older horse showed much less.