Independence Day is a cause for celebration in the United States. Picnics, fires, fireworks and lots of noise seem to represent the holiday activities for most. The last few years at Halcyon Acres® they’ve also been marked by a next-door neighbor (as close as they get, anyway, out in Podunk) with a month-long fascination around exploding loud objects from his back yard over the fields at our farm.

Cherished New England memories

Some of fondest childhood memories are spurred by this holiday. For years we’d troop up to Cape Cod from Connecticut to either spend time at a friend’s cottage (hardly – more like an impressive year-round home) or stay in the more rustic accommodations my family rented (with showers outside of the living quarters). The Cape’s changed a lot since then, but I always smile when I see paintings and photographs that clearly depict the area – with beach sand banks, snow fence (huh?), water and peas visible in so many of the captures. As kids (there were a ton of us at these gatherings), we’d delight at dancing around the campfire (or bonfire) eating raw or fire-toasted peas while chanting “the Fourth of July is great!”

While the sound of fireworks has always been a bit too much for my ears, the visuals are something I relish. Never did understand what was so captivating about the noise. Today, though, as I hear the audible signals of area finale displays way off in the distance, I smile at the visuals I see culled from memories of years gone by.

Horses deal with noisy neighbor

Getting back to the fireworks fiend (he’s closer than any other as his one-acre corner home property was carved out by a prior owner for his son, who moved away decades ago) it’s weird to have someone in the country so enamored with such expensive toys.

The booms and bangs at all times of the day are tough for the horses to deal with, but the farm herd has become used to it. Client horses can be another story as the racket blasts over their heads during our otherwise peaceful rides.

Helping horses cope with calm confidence and trust

At first, I was irked by this intrusion and hazard that was the product of ignorance. Clearly, he was just having fun with no idea these ear-shattering explosions might unsettle a horse. It might have been easier to take if the uproar was limited to a few days surrounding the holiday, but his penchant for lighting a fire to loud missiles extends far prior to and after the celebration day.

Then, I realized this could be used as a good training opportunity – talk about bomb-proofing a horse, literally. Is it fair to ask a young horse starting under saddle to endure this – probably not. Do they learn to handle it over time – yep. Makes for a bit of a rockier ride initially, and hard on my already destroyed back, but I’ve come to realize this is yet another way to help young horses learn how to handle frightening issues while gaining trust in their rider to keep them out of harm’s way.

Do horses celebrate independence?

To come full-circle, the idea of Independence Day on a farm teeming with horses begs the question, do equines relish freedom? It depends. Sure, they all enjoy and need time to kick up their heels and bond with a herd. When you really get watching, though, horses seem to prefer a guide. Even the alphas (the vicious horses aren’t such – they’re almost always reacting from fear) enjoy another stepping in for a day or month or more to take over the responsibility of leading the herd. All seem happier when engaged in a job that involves humans.  The most troubled that have come through Halcyon Acres® have been those that haven’t been able to find a leader they respect and trust. It’s funny how the herd leaders seem to be the most adamant about expressing their desire for training time. It’s an interesting animal these equines have become. Who knows if it’s due to eons of selective breeding for domestication or if there’s something natural about the horse/human connection, but it seems most horses would prefer to be heard as a team member in a partnership rather than a life where they’re left to be free of human interaction. Maybe we all could learn something about the notion of independence from these animals.

How do you celebrate the Fourth of July? Please share your idea of a good time in the comments below.


4 Responses

  1. Again, Nanette, well done, insightful, thoughtful and well put. I’ve noticed the same thing about herd leaders. They have become my favorite ranking horse to play with. The rewards with gaining their trust are the best in my opinion. It makes me feel like I get a chance to be in the herd myself and that was always my goal since I could remember. Another perk to gaining their true trust is that the other horses seem to be easier to work with after you get the lead horse to want to be with you. It’s like they have a talk with the new horses and they sell the new horse on you before you even start with them. 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comments, Ange. It’s funny, though, treat a leader wrong and they won’t be clamoring for your time – they’ll be taking the herd away from you with them.

  2. Thanks for checking in, Stacey, and for your comments. Right – it is wonderful to reach the leaders, isn’t it – and get their help as you try to move or work with the herd. I never really noticed the others clamoring more for training time when the lead horse(s) is (are) on this list, but now that I think about it, they do. Thanks for the pointer and the idea if I ever need to get others more excited about schooling time.

  3. Nanette, you make a great point, how the leaders are adamant about expressing their desire for training time. It’s access to resources–your attention and partnership is an asset and a resource. It makes sense to me that the leader horses would want to have access to that important resource, and would be adamant about getting it! I believe that’s a constant of leadership traits throughout different species. I love learning about the herd dynamics through your blog.

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