|Kalup is the pack horse front and center. |
He got revenge on all that stuff
No matter how much we love our horses, every horse owner experiences times we just want to shoot them and be done. Even the well-mannered ones can forget themselves in the heat of the moment, or when they find themselves bored, tired, hungry, thirsty, or in a scary situation. How does that manifest?
|Bored older horse cribbing (sucking wind).|
Note that the cribbing collar isn't stopping him.
The tied horse may occupy himself digging a trench to China, and you will come back to find him standing down by the head, knee-deep in his private hole. The Forest Service does not take kindly to these beasts. He may also investigate the lead rope, and either chew it in half, untie it, or pull back and jerk the knot so tight it takes an hour to undo it. He may tangle himself if you tie him too long, or even hang himself. My nephew's supposedly well-broken horse broke his neck lunging into a tree when he decided he didn't want to be tied up anymore. There are a thousand ways to make camp scenes interesting/dangerous/tragic with your fictional bored horse.
Tired horses quickly become crabby horses and lose their tolerance for the usual run-of-the-mill annoyances. A horse that usually will not take offense at being crowded by another might suddenly haul off and let the offender have it with one or both hind hooves, or whip his neck around like a snake with flattened ears and teeth bared. He may continually try to pull the reins out of the rider's hand and head off in some direction he thinks will get him home faster (he may be right). He might try to lie down. He might start jigging or tossing his head and displaying general signs of impatience with the whole day's program. He may become very balky and refuse to keep going. He may try to rub you off on the nearest tree. He may sidle off the trail in an attempt to get his way. Pushing him in this state is just mean, and your fictional hero had better have a really good reason. At some point the poor beast will just wear out and quit, and no amount of beating will get him going again.
The tired horse is also usually sweaty and itchy. He wants that saddle and bridle off right dang now. The second you dismount, a horse with lousy ground manners will immediately try to rub his itchy head on anything in sight, starting with the fence, progressing to you, and finally to his front leg if all else fails. While he may appreciate all your careful grooming, odds are it will all be ruined two seconds after you turn him loose, because he will instantly flop down in the dirt and roll the itch out. In this regard, Kalup had one endearing habit. He was too well-trained to rub on me or the fence, but he would happily rub his forehead against my outstretched palm for ten minutes at a time, and become blissful when I scratched below his ears.
Don't get between hungry Horsey and his food. Or between him and the water trough when he is dripping sweat and desperate for a drink. Most horses will wait their turn, but the poorly trained or excited animal will not. His training goes on hold and his brain goes into neutral and he will scramble over pretty much anything in his path, from you to other horses to large boulders and fallen trees to get to the object of his desire. If he is aggressive he will think nothing of walking over the top of you, dragging you with him by the reins, shouldering you aside, even nipping at you to clear a path. He may sidle or run excited rings around you even if you have a firm grip right at the bit, and not be at all fussy where he puts his feet. You may have a very hard time holding him back, especially from water. He can jerk hard enough to give you rope burns, dislocate your shoulder, or send you stumbling along three or four steps before you catch your balance. It is very easy to end up on the ground if he butts you with his nose or shoves you with his shoulder, and if your hero holds onto the reins he/she could end up being trampled or dragged. I can tell you that I don't care how strong the man; a really desperate horse has all the advantages in weight and frenzy, and holding onto him is nearly impossible if he loses it enough to begin striking at you.
One exceptionally annoying habit among some horses is refusing to drink in strange venues. Pilot went thirsty his first two days in the mountains because he would not drink from the only sources--a rushing stream and a bucket that tasted of the plastic holding tank in my horse trailer. He didn't know how to deal with moving water and it scared him to boot until he got thirsty enough to figure it out. Other horses will not drink funny-smelling water from strange troughs (chlorinated or mossy). Some show people get around this by using Kool-Aid to make it all taste the same no matter where they go. It is really true that you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink. A really thirsty horse will drink from a scummy mud puddle, however.
If he is hungry, a mannerless horse is not above taking the food out of your hand, shoving you aside with his nose or thrusting his muzzle into the bucket hard enough to dislodge all the contents and dump the whole thing on the ground (and you, too). You may end up standing in a nice circle of scattered hay he has knocked from your grasp while he runs off with his stolen mouthful. This is especially common in herds where the low guys in the pecking order are really hungry because the more dominant horses have been guarding the food. You can get badly hurt by horses jockeying for position or trying to get at the food as you're distributing it if your horses are not separated into stalls or other feeding areas.
Hungry horses are noisy horses. At any movement in camp or at the stable door they will start up a morning chorus of "Feed me! Now!" There will be lots of whinnying and snorting and hopeful huh-huh-huhing. There will be jostling, laid-back ears, and threatening among the tied beasts, who will happily take out their frustrations on their buddies. Many will start pawing to emphasize that you should hurry (or start in at oh-dark-thirty in hopes of waking you up). They will be sidling impatiently around whatever they're tied to and their heads and ears will be up and straining to spot you coming their way. Don't count on sleeping late when traveling with horses.
Horsey can become annoying very quickly when he's nervous. Nellie, being herdbound to the max, completely loses it when asked to go somewhere she's not seen before (even reversing a normal route) because then she is uncertain where home lies. At that point she begins fussing with the bit, starts to pull, dances through and over anything in her path, and generally loses her tiny mind. And she's way better now than when I started with her. Sigh.
Very annoying habits of scared equines include leaping without looking (onto the horse ahead, sideways into the brush, or over anything in their path); whirl and run, also without looking; fretting, head-tossing, grabbing at the bit, bulling their way into the bit in hopes of overpowering you, and outright bucking or bolting in an attempt to get rid of you or leave behind whatever is scaring them. They will take giant leaps into water or bogs or anything else if they feel threatened from behind or see themselves being left by the other horses. They take little heed of anything in their way in their departure from the threat zone. This often gets them hurt but they don't actually care until it's all over. You are then stuck patching up the pieces.
There are a million ways for horses to be annoying, from balking at every strange sight on the trail to unlatching gates and pooping in the water bucket. Such habits, however, make for interesting equines in your fiction, a wonderful departure from the usual perfectly trained background beasts.
I invite you to add your pet horsey peeves in the comments! I have barely scratched the surface here, and I know for sure I haven't seen all the ways a horse can aggravate his rider.