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  • Writer's pictureKathleen Choe

The Adventures of Copper: A Curious and Courageous Quarter Horse

While I was adjusting the automatic waterer on my horses’ trough, my curious Quarter Horse, Copper, came over to see what I was doing. He bumped the device out of my hand just as I finished attaching the hose to the spout, so it started spraying water everywhere. Copper startled and backed up, getting tangled up in the hose attached to the automatic waterer, upon which he completely panicked and ran away, dragging the hose and waterer behind him. As I observed the rest of the herd joining him in flight, not knowing what had frightened him but trusting his judgment that there was danger, I wondered what it would be like to write about this incident from the horse’s point of view and decided to give it a try! All behavior is communication, and the ways our horses behave has much to teach us about how they experience their environment and the humans that inhabit it. Copper is especially curious and playful, so I thought he would make an excellent protagonist for this venture!

I am 15 hands worth of gorgeous and sleek copper colored fur. My human calls me Copper and tells me everyone wants to bring a handful of my mane to their hairdresser so they can have the same hair color I do. She won’t let them, though, because she likes my mane attached to my neck. So do I.

I used to be number Two in my herd, next to my best friend, Sterling, until a Thoroughbred named Chief showed up on day and muscled his way into my spot. He thinks he is all that as he is taller than me and used to be a race horse, but I know I am still Sterling’s best friend because in the afternoons when Sterling wants to nap, he chases Chief away and lets me swish the flies away from his face with my beautiful, long, and yes, copper colored tail. Spirit, the only mare in our herd, is still under me so I don’t mind too much about being number Three as long as I know Sterling still likes me best. Plus, Chief’s jockey beat him a lot so he is scared of everything. I’m not scared of anything!

Well, until today. I was getting a drink from the water trough and looking over my human’s shoulder while she fussed with the long snake-looking thing that attaches to the part where the water comes out. It starts making a shushing sound when we drink water and sprays water into the trough, but I’m used to that sound and it doesn’t bother me. I couldn’t really see what she was doing so I hung my neck over her shoulder and accidentally bumped the part she holding and she dropped it! Water started spraying everywhere and I backed up and the snakey thing wrapped around my legs so that when I ran away the shushing box chased me! I ran away as fast as I could, my heart pounding, and of course the rest of my herd ran too because they knew we could all be in danger.

We ran to the edge of the pasture and circled around to see if the danger was still chasing us. Thankfully it wasn’t, but we ran around one more time just to make sure the predator was truly gone. Of course, then we were all thirsty, but I let Sterling go to the trough first to make sure the snake and shushing box weren’t going to attack him too. He started drinking and looked at me to signal that it was safe, so I came over and started drinking too. But the shushing box started shushing and I panicked and ran away again, with Sterling right behind me. He is so lucky to have me in the herd to let him know when there is danger! We are going to have find another place to drink water from now on for sure.

Horses live a life synchronized with the rest of the herd. If the horses observe a threat, their first move is to hurry together before fleeing like a group. According to equine ethologist Lucy Rees, it is a way to defend the group by confusing a predator, so it does not know where to attack. The rules of the herd are to keep together, not collide and synchronize with those around you. Horses synchronize speed and directions, and the lateral position of their eyes helps them avoid clashing. Synchronizing is also helpful for more quiet and peaceful times too; “Bands stay together, eat together, rest together, go to the water to drink together. Mares spend time teaching other youngsters to respect their personal space. Through observations of the mare and the other horses in the group, the foals learn to observe the social signals of horses.” (“The Social Life of Horses,”, June 23, 2023)

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