Messages Through Animal Communication
The Way of the Island
The Chincoteague ponies live on the island of Assateague off the coast of Virginia. Each year the ponies are rounded up and foals are auctioned off for adoption to raise funds for the very important Chincoteague Fire Department. Equinox, our 4-year-old bay gelding, is one of the many Assateague foals who have swum the channel to a new life - one of domesticity rather than of the wild. He was asked to share some of his memories and thoughts about this with us, and here's what transpired.
Kathy George, animal communicator, relayed my question, "What was life like when you were living wild on the island?"
Kathy relayed back that Equinox, who calls himself Equal, said that it was not as scary then as things are now, only because he had more herd members around him. He said, "In the wild herd we were talked to constantly; there was a big communication going on among us and there was always a knowing as to what we were doing, where we were going, what we were going to be eating, and where. The nice thing was that I didn't really need to make any decisions; the decisions were being made by others very high up, and that was very comforting." he said. This was very cute and amusing to me because we adopted him when he was just a colt, only four months of age. He continued, "It's much different now. We don't have that communication and there is not as much camaraderie where I am now. But I like it where I am and I'm very happy. I like the human contact. It's the herd aspect of it that confuses me, because no one talks, no one guides, no one does things the way we did on the island."
Kathy said, "This is very different for him, this lack of communication."
I asked, "Does he find the food adequate here?"
Equal replied, "There's more of it; I do like the food here." He basically gets all the pasture and hay he can eat, plus a little bit of whole oats, and a variety of other edibles.
Kathy said, "He's showing me a picture of a funny little blade of grass he ate on the island and if he took the top off of it there was a middle section that was very sweet. He only ate it down partially and left the rest. He found that to be like a treat."
I asked, "What other comparisons can you make with domestic life?"
Kathy burst out laughing affectionately at this one, and replied, "He doesn't have that same sensation of running with his nose on the ground as he did on the island! The sand would run off the side of his nose, and he liked the way that felt; he would run for a little bit and make grooves in the sand with his nose." We laughed and I could easily picture him doing that. "He tried that here in the Pennsylvania dirt and it didn't work," Kathy laughed. "The feeling of the sand running off his nose was very soothing," she said.
I commented, "I guess we'll get some sand in the round pen!"
"A good thing about the ground I'm on now is that I can get going much faster than I did before," said Equal. I can see the firm ground here being helpful because he is very agile and quick to react. Kathy added that it makes his ego feel pretty good too.
Equal added that he doesn't mind the idea of working here; that doesn't bother him at all. "Apparently, if I'm going to fit here, I'm going to have to work," said Equal. "I also hope to get a little more acceptance from the other horses."
I asked, "What is your status in the herd?"
"Some days I'm number 3 from the bottom, but not so often. I'm still at the bottom but sometimes they let me be number 3 from the bottom," he said. Equal lives in a herd of six.
I asked, "Is Bo the leader now?" Kathy asked for a brief description of Bo and continued. Bo is our 21-year-old Quarter Horse gelding who was the leader until his navicular syndrome lameness got worse.
Equal replied, "Bo used to speak, but no one listened because he couldn't put action behind his words." Bo's feet hurt and therefore he could not move quickly. "Now Bo speaks and he puts a little more action behind his words. Bo's not necessarily aggressive but will do what's necessary. Bo prefers to say things once and once only, and if you don't listen the first time, usually the second time hurts," Equal said.
"What do you think of Tillie now?" I asked. A previous communication had revealed that Equal thought Tillie was a 'smart mouth' and uppity. I described Tillie, our 9-year-old Thoroughbred mare, to Kathy.
Kathy said that at times he feels almost sorry for her now. Equal explained, "If she would just be more feminine, the way she really wants to be she'd be so much nicer to be around, but I feel sorry for her because she won't allow that to happen. One on one she's not too bad. Sometimes when another one of us is around, she turns into this insecure tomboy. But I'm learning to deal with her."
Kathy explained that he's actually looking at things differently now, looking to advocate for himself, and doing it in a very centered way. She said, "He observes the other members of the herd, tries to understand their way of being, and strives to get along with them. One is insecure, one feels threatened, etc. - thats how he's observing them now. He's probably bringing that over from being in the situation he was born in, looking at horses and sizing them up on how to deal with them."
Equal proudly responded, "I am just so smart."
"He's just so proud of himself for explaining all that," said Kathy, and we had a good chuckle.
I asked Equal, "How do you like having weight on your back?"
Kathy said that he wasn't real enthused about it at first. Equal related, "The others spoke about it as not being a problem. I don't fear being hurt by you," he said.
Kathy continued, "But he says that his biggest thing is you being on him and him moving all at the same time. He wants to know how that's going to be. It feels a little odd to him, the balancing thing."
I explained to Kathy that I haven't been riding him, but I've been climbing from the raised center walkway over his back to get to the hayloft ladder when he's tied next to it, and I've been sitting astride him. I was wondering if he was worried about that.
"No, not really," said Kathy. "He's also showing me something about pulling. Not only you being on him, but pulling something."
"Oh, like pulling a cart? That's so funny because I've been talking to him and telling him the different things he can do, and that's one I just told him about," I said.
Equal said, "I can do it, I'm strong."
And I am sure he can. Next I asked, "What did you think of the horse and buggy that stopped in the yard?"
Kathy said, "He wanted to know why the horse that was pulling it wasn't afraid of it."
Equal said, "He didn't even see it, and he wasn't afraid of it!" I was amazed that Equal noticed the horse had blinders on!
Equal said, "The horse pulling it was a very brave horse, and it was a very brave thing to do."
Kathy added, "And as he's saying that, I'm explaining to him that that's one of the possibilities that he could do."
Equal said, "I could be that brave?"
"He's not real sure about it," Kathy said. "He wants to know if you would be there if that were to be."
"Yes," I said, "We'll work up to that gradually, step by step until it's no big deal."
"The thing that he finds most amazing is that he's got all these options that you're putting in front of him," said Kathy. "He's excited because it's like having six different flavor lollipops in front of him and he's looking at them saying, 'This looks good, and maybe this one, and maybe that one, and I just don't know yet...' That's the way he feels at the moment," Kathy said.
"Well, Equal, you'll be able to choose as many as you want," I said.
"And that's what he's finding so amazing about everything," said Kathy.
"Are you happy with the way things are here?" I asked Equal.
He said, "You're late a lot."
We both laughed, but I was amazed, because I had been late a lot! "That's so funny," I said, "because I've been saying exactly that to him: 'I'm so late!' and then I explain why. Sometimes I get up early and get on the computer before I go out to feed, but that often gets me in trouble because I get caught up in the middle of something and don't get out there on time."
Kathy continued, "And he wants to know: #1, How much longer you're going to be late a lot," and we both laughed, "and #2, When you're late, do you always have to furrow your eyebrows?"
We both burst out laughing and I said, "Oh I'll have to pay attention to that!"
"Apparently you're furrowing your face and he finds that to be of concern," explained Kathy.
"Hmm, ok. That's just a look of concentration," I explained.
I asked Equal, "Do you get any communication from the other horses if there is something wrong? I wonder sometimes about old P-pot and if he hurts." P-pot is our 44-year-old Quarter Horse gelding.
Equal replied, "He's ok. It's not so much. On the island we had to communicate all the time, because it was just all of us and we had to take care of one another. If one was hurt, then we'd stay, or if it was bad, we'd leave. But we stayed together and constantly communicated with each other."
"They were in tune with each other, collective thought so to speak; it's almost on that level," said Kathy.
Equal said, "It was out of necessity. Here it's not so much out of necessity because everything is right here. And I miss that, because it's very comforting to know what someone's thinking, and what we are doing, and where we are going all the time."
"Is there anything else that you want to say?" I asked Equal.
Kathy was quiet then said to me, "Were you doing some sort of Bowen or massage on his forehead, on his head, or around his ears?"
"No, but I always caress his forelock and forehead," I said.
"Well, he's liking it. He's showing me the front of his head to the side," she explained, "and he really likes that, having his head touched like that. He likes it a lot."
I love to smooth his forelock off to the sides and stroke his forehead from center to side, following the way the hair grows. When I do it he just melts he softens his eyes and his head drops. I think I enjoy stroking him that way as much as he likes me doing it!
After the conversation Kathy said that she would have never thought that the communication between the two worlds was so different. I wouldn't have either. But it makes sense; horses living with humans don't have to survive on their own anymore, and because of that, domestic horses have lost part of that collective communication going on among themselves that meant their very survival as individuals and as a species.