Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Horse by Wendy Williams a book review

Below is a photo of the Vogelherd horse, the first known sculpture of a horse carved 35,000 years ago. This 2-inch long horse carved from Mammoth ivory was found in a cave in Germany. As Wendy Williams in her recently published book The Horse: The Epic History of our Noble Companion, describes it: "Across thirty five millennia, you can almost hear him snort and see him toss his head, warning encroaching stallions to take care." p. 12 Williams asks the question about horses... "What are their special powers?" Perhaps our "fascination with horses is somehow encoded in our genes."

She examines the natural history of the horse and the horse-human bond especially emphasizing recent equine research, which definitely disproves a lot of the claims of certain horse training approaches. Some points I have discovered in the first chapter:

- The male-centric view of wild horses is false--very often the mares initiate herd behavior.

- A pair of bonded mares in a wild horse herd in Spain remained in a territory with the head stallion but when they came into season, they accompanied each other to go mate with a neighboring stallion--year after year

- British researcher Deborah Goodwin is summarized by Williams as saying "our belief that stallions dominate a band may be due to the hierarchical structure of our own culture..." which has caused us to "view relationships among horses with blinders on." p. 28

- One wild mare High Tail bonded so strongly with her first stallion that even after he lost his harem, she snuck away from each new stallion to be with him until he died of old age. As she did with other stallions she bonded with.

- Horse hierarchies are not fixed but are fluid and flexible. Horse A may rank higher than b, but c may rank higher than a.

"Now that science is showing us the subtleties of how horses naturally interact with each other, we can expand our own interactions with them, improve our ability to communicate with them, and enrich our partnership....A relationship that has been traditionally seen as unidirectional--we command and they obey--can now become much more nuanced and sensitive." p 32

Can't wait to read more. I am only on page 32.

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