If you read enough horse sales ads, you see a great deal of people describing their horses as “honest”. This concerns me, because so many horses are actually lying liars in various ways. If horses were humans, they would be naturally gifted politicians, used car salesmen in disreputable lots or those back-alley vendors in Venice who hawk “Gucci” purses that are actually made from the tears of small children.
I’ve seen many instances of creative truth telling from horses and their body language. There’s the doe-eyed gelding who looks SO sweet and innocent, begging for attention. You reach out to pet him, and he happily obliges and accepts the affection. You can practically hear him purr. Precisely 11 seconds later, you’re being flung down the barn aisle for no particular reason, and he’s tossing his head up and down in deviant, errant jubilation. Maybe there’s a reason he was practically purring – he’s probably a reincarnated cat.
Then there’s the dude who warms up at the show with all of the energy of a convention of aged sloths. It’s all you can do to get him to just freaking move already, so you go lightly and wait out your round to save his energy and spirit. As his head hangs down like pitiful molasses, you wonder if you remembered to feed him this morning. Or ohmigosh, maybe he’s colicky? Is he O.K.? Is he depressed? Lame?
As you go into the arena for your dressage test, you worry that perhaps he’s not feeling it today. Maybe you’ll pull up mid-test if it continues. But then, as you are about to make that centerline a nine, his eyes widen larger than Kim Kardashian’s rear end. As he bolts sideways because the wind blew two degrees further southeast than he deemed necessary, you’re suddenly worried about simply staying on and the life choices that brought you to this moment.
Then there are the jumping liars. I’ve had so many conversations that go like the following:
Me: “We good? All straight? Jump is ahead. Just keep this pace, buddy.”
Horse: “Got it. All good.”
Horse: “OH MY GOD I CAN FLY. Wheeeeeee!”
Me: “We’re going to that jump.”
Horse: “Roger, jump confirmed. All systems go. Target locked.”
Me: “O.K., because it’s kind of big.”
Horse: “I got this, boo.”
Me: “You’re the best.”
Horse: “Just kidding. I actually hate you. Jump is cancelled.”
Me: “This is a one-stride. Pay attention.”
Horse: “Duh, it has to be one. Any idiot can see that.”
Me: “O.K., cool. Because we’ve talked about this, you know.”
Horse: “I know. Oh my gosh, you don’t have to keep telling me.”
Horse: “LOLsies, Imma bounce it.”
But there is no subject that elicits more creative truth telling from horses than food. There’s always that gelding who looks perpetually pregnant with twins, yet claims to be starving. As he kicks his feed bucket all Hobbit-like asking for second breakfast, you can practically hear Sarah McLachlan singing “Arms of an Angel” in the background. If you have just 10 cents a day, you too can help a starving horse in need. Don’t be heartless.
Despite their lies, we still love our ponies. At least they keep it interesting. But if your horse starts lying a bit too much, you can always try rehoming him to that car dealership down the road. I hear they have snacks.