Uncommon Praise

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the ways in which we talk about our horses.

There are set ways in which we praise them. They have good brains, expressive gaits, can take a joke, are easy keepers, have funny quirks, and more. The language becomes rote and set after a while, and it has its own internal structure. For example, when I wrote out “take a joke,” you have a clear sense of what that means, right?

Today, I want to hear about ways in which your horse is special that aren’t typical. What are the things you love and appreciate about him or her that don’t use words other people might? Not what you’d write in a sales ad so that everyone can understand his appeal – but the private reasons you cherish him.


Here’s what I think about Tristan.

I love that he is wholly and unreservedly himself.

I don’t just mean that he has a quiet dignity – he does, most of the time. I don’t just mean that he has personality – boy, does he ever.

I mean that Tristan embodies a perfect blend of self-confidence and self-awareness. He has such a clear sense of his personhood (equine-hood?) that is totally lacking in doubt or equivocation. He engages with the world entirely on his own terms. He does not compromise the parts of him that are him, entirely. It doesn’t occur to him to compromise him.

It makes things harder, sometimes. For as much as I know he loves me, I also have a crystal-clear understanding that he exists wholly apart from me. He has a rich internal life and sense of the world, and a place in which he is entirely comfortable, without the need to relate himself to others beyond the equine negotiations that make up everyday social life. By that I mean – he understands the rules of a herd, and plays them, but he is not ambitious or insecure. He can usually be found on the edges of a fracas, biding his time and making choices.

You might say that I’m either anthropomorphizing or exaggerating.  Maybe I am. But I’ve known a lot of horses – and a lot of animals at large – and a lot of them are insecure or mutable. They see themselves very much in relation to others – whether of their own species or of humans. They’re highly sensitive social creatures whose personalities and outlooks can change depending on their company. There’s nothing wrong with that. It can definitely also be a desirable trait, in either a human or an animal. My dog, for example, is like that. A lot of horses are.

Tristan is not. Maybe it’s an artifact of being wild for so long, then neglected and on his own for so long. He was, for a full decade, just a horse. Nothing more, nothing less. He carries that within him still. It makes my life harder some days – everything between us is a measured conversation. Still.

But I love him for it.

So, is there something about your horse that’s not apparent to the casual eye? Something that you have to think through thoroughly to explain, but that draws you? Something that’s not the first, easy way you’d talk about him?

6 thoughts on “Uncommon Praise

  1. Great post! I love seeing a horse’s real personality develop, and I’m still eagerly awaiting Opie to figure himself out.


  2. aww Tristan ❤

    one of my favorite things about my horse is his old soul, his "been there, done that" way of approaching things which he most definitely has never done, and places he's definitely never been. it's almost uncanny sometimes.


  3. I LOVE this post!!! And I am totally going to do some thinking and write about this as well. I am willing to bet his self-confidence/awareness is a part of him being a wild Mustang.


  4. I love this too. For Lucy, I love how unflappable she is – I think she’d be an ER nurse or a paramedic or something if she was a human because she just never loses her cool. I don’t necessarily mean it in the bombproof, quiet way people describe horses, but that she just doesn’t get worked up over things, she stayed calm even when I was a bundle of nerves and just went about her job.
    For Doc, I love how he’s kind of bossy if that makes sense? He always thinks his way is best and while that can be annoying (ahem, we don’t have to take the long spot EVERYSINGLETIME dude), it’s nice to have a confident partner who is very self-assured. He knows what he wants, he’s determined and he’s going after whatever that may be, like a great CEO.


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