We get it. Everyone has days where it's a little harder to get up, when the idea of staying at home all day in your pajamas sounds better than just about anything. And if we occasionally get the urge to stay in and ignore the rest of the world, we care to bet that at times our horses feel the same way too. For those that share their lives with horses you don't need proof to tell you that this is the case. Chances are you're already familiar with a variety of tactics that our four-legged friends use to tell us when they would really just rather not.
Here are a few telltale signs that your horse would prefer to take a personal day.
1. Your visit is politely declined.
Maybe it's an early ride and the sun isn't quite up yet, or dinner has just been served. Or perhaps your horse would just prefer a leisurely afternoon over a schooling session. You call their name and receive no greeting, let alone a recognition, and you didn't bring any carrots to break the ice. Your horse freezes like a statue as you walk up, pretending not to have noticed you. They continue to stare into oblivion as they take a page out of the ostrich's book, hoping that if they can't see you, then you can't see them. The truth is, they aren't mesmerized by some scene out the back of their paddock - they just aren't feeling it.
2. The trip to the cross-ties is like an eternal death march.
You wonder how an animal with such long legs can take such slow, labored steps while hand walking. But then you think back to all those times that they've gone from zero to 60 after a tree branch rustled suspiciously, and you realize that this snail's pace is simply your horse saying "Not today, lady. Not today."
3. Your aids are whispers in the wind.
We know horses can sleep standing up but can they sleep at the walk too? You go through the gamut testing the mechanics - inside leg, outside leg, yielding to the rein - you're pressing the buttons, but nothing seems to be firing.
4. They bring on all the drama.
The grunts. The sighs. A simple squeeze into the left lead canter incites an old man's achy groan. Your horse wants you to know this is some strenuous warm-up you're asking for. You on the other hand want to know if a horse can be nominated for an Oscar.
5. The arena gate radiates a magnetic pulse.
Your circles are egg shaped, bulging in the direction of the exit. As you enter the gate’s magnetic force field your steering seems to dwindle as a hidden energy tries to pull you out. It could be divine intervention, or it could be that your horse would prefer to phone this one in.
6. They get stuck.
You know that this is normal in the canter when you're working on collection (after all we can admit that it's not easy for us to get up after squats either) but you know things don’t look good when it happens at the halt. Either someone cemented your horse's legs into the footing or your horse is reminding you about that judge that marked you down last week for lack of immobility. So maybe we should practice halts? (hint, hint).
7. When all else fails they spook.
They've tried to derail your ride by doing a system wide shut down, but your horse is astounded that you still haven't received the message. For what is probably the 10th time today your horse reaffirms in their mind that they are in fact smarter than you. They proceed to their last ditch effort of spooking at apparitions in the corners, and invisible boogie men down the long side. You wanted stimulation? With adolescent sass your horse says, 'Here, you can have it.'