Sunday, April 13, 2014

馬的問題 -- The Problem With Horses











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Once a useful helper and means of getting where one needed to go, horses have become largely a decorative toy on which upper class ladies show off their poise.

Horses might still be respectable if everybody could have one, but at present only the idle rich can afford to keep a horse.

Class issues aside, the problem of horse intelligence is no small matter in our current impasse. Are we even dealing with a creature with a mind of its own?

Given that horse heads are carved from wood, it is amazing the animal shows any intelligence at all. How many synapses can fire simultaneously in a wooden brain? Researchers still puzzle over this problem.

Having grown out of the horse's body like a tree stump, the head slowly carves itself into standard horse shape. This much we know. The eyes make it look like an animal rather than a tree, though in a way it really is a kind of tree. It stares dumb at you, all wooden. What can you expect from such a creature? The lowest street dog could run circles round it, and does.

Don't be fooled by the Redford film. In reality a horse whisperer is someone who doesn't want you to hear what he's telling his horse.

Horses can be taught to dance and seem to enjoy both dancing and running.

Montaigne writes of a horse that could tap out the answers to simple sums with its right front hoof. I don't believe it for a minute.

But all this is just preliminary. I haven't gotten to the real problem with horses. It is as follows: Horses always go wherever the person holding the reins wants them to go. In other words, for any given horse we must ask: Who holds the reins?

Or to put the question another way: Where do the rich want to go?

Eric Mader

1 comment:

ktally said...


Yes. It's true that most horses are for the idle rich.
The questioning of their intelligence by your methods is not true. Unlike a dog, a horse survives by it's hard-wired flight instincts and grazing in herds for safety.
They don't do math, but they are very smart. My horse and I roll a giant ball back and forth to each other for sometimes up to five minutes across the paddock. This is a form of fetch.
The first miracle is to teach a horse to deny their flight instinct and allow a meat eater on it's back with metal and leather (also smelling of meat) and then to further learn a "language" of aides (from the meat eater on it's back) based on motion and weight distribution. Humans sit on the weakest part of the horse's back and are virtually unseen from the creature's vantage point. That a horse even accepts a rider is a miracle of selective breeding and co-evolution.
Few other mammals have harmonized as perfectly with humans as the horse.