How To Thank A Horse

By DANIELLE LATTUGA

How do you thank a horse?

It depends on the horse. That’s the first thing you should know. They say horses are motivated by four things: safety, comfort, play, and food. Just chew on that for a while.

I thank Smoke every day we are together, by stopping doing what I was doing to get him to do something, once he does it. Huh?

For example, when he’s in a really pissy mood and he doesn’t feel like going on a ride, he will hold his head high, to avoid having to take the bit and wear his bridle. (I can’t really say that I blame him). I can barely reach his head, but I stand on my tippy toes, and I push down steadily, at the base of each ear, one finger to one ear. As soon as he drops his head, I stop pushing down. Thank you, Smoke.

It used to be that I would give him room to thank him, because he’s one of those horses who doesn’t like to be touched, until he knows you. Now I give him a scratch on his secret spot under his chin or I press my forehead into his and just lean. Sometimes we take a little snooze that way.

But there’s all this stuff I want to thank him for, and I don’t think I could ever show him enough gratitude for it:

Thank you, Smoke, for reminding me to ask, not assume.

Thank you for teaching me to listen better, because now I hear what you didn’t say and anticipate what we should do.

Thank you for helping me cultivate patience, by slowing down and accepting that some days are better than others.

Thank you for teaching me that stature is not nearly as important as posture.

Thank you for choosing to stand beside me, not over me.

Thank you for not running away with me until I was ready.

On that note, thanks for carrying me up into the mountains with such speed and grace that I finally understood what your body was meant for.

Thanks for shoving your giant muzzle into my armpit and not recoiling at my own animal smell.

Thanks for rubbing your grassy slobber all over my shoulder. It made me feel like a real Montanan.

Thanks for indulging me and rolling that soccer ball across the arena with your nose, even though you didn’t see the point, really.

Thanks for letting me lower a saddle, then my own bones onto your back so many times. You are strong. You are powerful. Your trust is a gift and I will always do my best to honor it.

Thank you for letting me in and letting me learn. I know you didn’t have to, but I am sure glad you did.

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Want to horse around some more? Check out Danielle Lattuga’s other blog posts: Horse Trailer in Tow, Horse Connections, Even From Afar, or Gaited, not Gated.

   Click here to see all of the Horse Around Missoula archives.

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 Danielle Lattuga is a novice horsewoman, frequently found guilty of confusing hoof beats with heartbeats. She believes that riding and writing are not so different – both part poetry, part sweat. Follow her into Montana’s horse country, and find out if she’s right.