Horse behavior like other animal behavior interests me. Usually the nature of horse behavior is self-protection from injury or threat. Such an example I witnessed today. I’ve always known the term “horse sense” but had not thought much about it until today.
The origin of horse sense is likely ancient but in 1870 the New York magazine The Nation offered the following description of horse sense as it applies to humans: “The new phrase, born in the west we believe, of horse sense which is applied to the intellectual ability of men who exceed others in practical wisdom.”
But how does the term apply to horses? This morning I delayed my ranch work today in order to complete my workout routine. I failed to notice the gathering of dark clouds and the freshening of the breeze. A storm had been predicted but arrived earlier than predicted. When I looked out the window of my house and saw the rain down in the valley, I tore out, jumped in my pickup, and drove to the pens to feed the horses. I struggled with my umbrella, as I made serial trips with scoops of feed from the feed sack in the back of my pickup to the horse trough. My umbrella kept getting turned up in the gusty wind.
Meanwhile I looked up and saw Fancy and Dandy, our two horses, standing together in a nearby pasture under a Post Oak tree. They followed my goings and comings with interest, as both perked up their ears and stared in my direction. Neither, however, moved even a single hoof toward the horse trough. Usually they see my approach at feeding time and come running.
I suspect they sensed that walking around in a thunderstorm was not a very good idea. Is this what is known as horse sense? While both love nothing better than chowing down on their daily meal, I learned in this instance that eating would just have to wait until after the storm.
I consider this an example of horse sense. Maybe the horses proved they have it and their human companion doesn’t. He was foolish enough to get out in the rain and presented a moving but tempting target for the lightning. The horses might have even thought themselves more intelligent than the rancher, something the Border collies at Medicine Spirit Ranch figured it out a long time ago.
Maybe W. C. Fields was right when he described horse sense as the thing a horse has which keeps him from betting on humans.