Saturday, January 26, 2008

Horses don't lie....



The comedian Louis Black had a routine Comedy Central where he discussed how some things stick in our brains and even though we don’t think that our brains have captured a particular statement and can’t let go, somehow it comes back to our conscious thought processes. Of course, his example was entirely hilarious but since I’m not a comedian, I will spare you the details.

The statement that stuck in Mr. Black’s mind was this, “If it weren’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college.” I can see that for a non-horse person, this sentence would make no sense at all.

As I am a horse person, I can understand how someone spent a year in college because of a horse makes. The horse owner could have sold the horse and used to money for college and or living expenses. Or the presence of the horse kept the person sane enough to make it through the school year. Either way, the sentence makes sense for me.

Although I can make sense of that statement, I have been and still am being haunted by this statement: “Horses don’t lie.”

What? That makes no sense at all.

It’s a common enough statement; it seems to be very popular with the natural horsemanship crowd. It does not explain a thing for me.

Stating that a horse doesn’t lie is like saying the Pope is Catholic, roots grown down or a man needs his liver to survive. What is the point?

There are two books on the market now with similar titles, one is Mark Rashid’s book “Horses Never Lie: The Heart of Passive Leadership” and “Horses Don't Lie: What Horses Teach Us About Our Natural Capacity for Awareness, Confidence, Courage, and Trust” by Chris Irwin. Unfortunately, I have not read either book because I’m afraid, that maybe my brain would explode while I pondered the meanings of the titles.

If you read descriptions of the books, there is no reference at all to WTF is meant by the title. There is a lot of psychobabble about horse behavior and putative psychology and a hint of how learning to understand a horse helps us understand ourselves.

Fine, great, good. It’s a nice topic and well meaning, but it doesn’t relate to the title at all. Of course horses don’t lie. They can’t lie. Lying is a purely human action and is strictly defined. Just to bore you a bit more, contemplate the dictionary definition of lying:

Pronunciation noun, verb, lied, ly·ing.

  1. A false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional falsehood.
  2. Something intended or serving to convey a false impression; imposture: His flashy car was a lie that deceived no one.
  3. An inaccurate or false statement.
  4. The charge or accusation of lying: He flung his lie back at his accusers.

–verb (used without object)

  1. To speak falsely or utter untruth knowingly, as with intent to deceive.
  2. To express what is false; convey a false impression.

–verb (used with object)

7. To bring about or affect by lying (often used reflexively): to lie oneself out of a difficulty; accustomed to lying his way out of difficulties.

If you understand the definitions, it would be difficult for someone to explain to me how a horse can lie at all? Anyone who knows anything about horses knows this: Horses don’t talk, Q.E.D. they can’t lie.

I know, I know, there are some idiots who have expressed to me that their horses “pretend” to be injured to get out of work. The example of horse deception goes like this: On the way away from the barn, pasture, or trailer, the horse walks with a noticeable limp and is walking very slow. The owner rightfully discerns that the horse is injured. When they turn back to the barn, pasture, or trailer, the horse picks up speed and walks out seemingly sound. There are variants to this story, such as the horse playing in the pasture or running from the owner, but they are all variations on the same theme: The horse is getting to do what it wants to do and is willing to ignore the pain to go home, play with friends or avoid a trail ride. The horse has the impetus to ignore the pain.

There is ample evidence for this in the wild. A lame horse will catch up in a hurry when the herd is threatened. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this happen in person. A wild mare, was penned in a small pen to keep her from hurting herself. The new non-horsey owners disregarded the BLM wild horse handlers, her horsey friends and the trainer and let the mare out of the pen into a larger area. The mare, frantic to get to the horses across the fence, tried to jump the fence and only succeeded in breaking both front legs.

Since I lived nearby, I responded to a frantic phone call from the new wild horse owner. When I arrived, I found a mare running around on bloody stumps of front legs with open fractures. It was a mess. We had to wait until the mare bled out to euthanize her and even then she was still trying to get up.

It was the singularly most horrifying horse accident I’ve ever witnessed.

Back to the topic at hand: Now that we’ve established that horses can’t lie either verbally or by action, I wonder what these whole books could be about. Of course I could read one or both of these books, but again, the titles themselves just piss me off.

In my mind the statement “Horses don’t lie” elicits a “duh” response. I was just as appalled when the American Medical Association decided in the ‘90’s, and stated in no uncertain terms that cigarette smoking was addictive. When I read that, I thought, you’ve got to be kidding, everyone knows that cigarette smoking is addictive. (FYI: As it turns out, the AMA categorized smoking as dependent response. A dependent response is when you need a chemical to function but there is no biochemical response to increase the dosage. AFAIC, we’re splitting medical hairs here, but hey I’m no physician).

Horses don’t lie is just a cutesy title to sell books and grab attention but not a very good one. Next time I hear it I’ll use one of my handy dandy statements of the obvious such as:

Horses don’t use the phone.

Horses can’t use a recliner for shit.

Horses need water to live.

Horses breathe two ways, in and out.

Horses poop.

Horses smell like horses.

A horse is not a dog.

Horses are bred for different purposes.

That horses don't lie is a given. When I hear it, it just annoys me. IMNSHO, using any statement to that effect just makes you look like an buzz word using idiot.


1 comment:

Twinville said...

Why did that mare have to bleed out before being given euthanasia?