Although we stand by the proposition that horses are livestock, they do have feelings. We recently blogged about one of our old trail horses, Pat. We put him down recently and encountered something a little unusual. Pat shared a paddock with Blackjack, another old Oklahoma trail horse that served us well for years. Blackjack is also pushing towards 35 years old. In younger years, the two geldings were kept in separate paddocks because they clashed. Both wanted to be in charge and keeping them together just wasn’t a good idea.
Two years ago, Blackjack’s teeth, like Pat’s teeth, just couldn’t eat grass or hay. So he was put on a grain only diet and placed in Pat’s paddock. Older and wiser, the two gelding managed to get along without too much scuffling, although still not exactly friends. In fact, Blackjack was still backing his ears and demonstrating less than love for his roommate the day we put Pat down.
The following morning, Blackjack was fed just like normal. The feed was put in his feed pan, but obviously no feed was put out for Pat. Blackjack walked away from his feed pan and went over to Pat’s pan and stood. He refused to eat until the feed was carried over and put in Pat’s bowl. Once in Pat’s place, he promptly ate.
Thinking it was possibly just a coincidence, the evening feeding was used as a test. The feed was put in Pat’s bowl until Blackjack started to eat. The pan was then moved to Blackjack normal spot. He refused to leave and stood waiting and refused to eat anymore. Finally the pan was again set in Pat’s spot and he ate it. For several days, he refused to eat except from Pat’s place. Horse’s have feelings and show grief in their own individual ways. And just like people, they sometimes develop a closer bond than they realize until the other is gone.
The grieving ended and Blackjack has now returned to eating from his own pan again. Blackjack has been with us for over 20 years and we have never seen anything like from him before. He may have a gruff exterior, but a soft heart inside. When you think you figured your horse out, you might just be surprised.