Generally speaking, I think most animals know more than humans do. And certainly, in my experience, many animals are smarter than many humans.
So I startled myself a bit yesterday during a discussion with my neighbor Patti about our dismal October weather. She said her horse Sterling had put on quite the coat, causing her to wonder if winter was going to be really bad.
I flipped back something to the effect that if horses were smart enough to predict a winter’s worth of weather they would not be living in pens and subservient to humans.
So do I really believe this? I don’t know if I do or don’t. Is it possible that a horse can intuit things like El Niño, the tracking of the jet stream, polar air masses? And then grow a coat accordingly? Or is this cosmic weather station just hardwired into a horse’s central nervous system?
And what about the horses that didn’t grow a long coat for winter? Are they just not “in the know,” or do they merely like it cold?
Regardless of Sterling’s heavy coat, when I drove my son to school this morning the temperature on the Subaru thermometer was 2 degrees. Last week we had 2 feet of snow. Even this human knows that’s way too wintry for October.
And speaking of the mystical world of animals, I just finished a book by Rupert Isaacson called “The Horse Boy.” This is the story of a father’s quest to heal his son who has autism. I found the book compelling on many levels. For starters, the story is an epic real-life adventure told in a very raw form.
Most familiar to me was Isaacson’s description of his son’s speech habits, peculiarities of behavior, and tantrums. Most valuable was the manner in which this father openly discusses his very personal feelings about his son’s condition, and the impact it has had on every part of his life, including his own physical and mental well-being and his marriage.
I also found the story intriguing in light of my use of saddle donkeys as therapy for my son Harrison.
Without spoiling the story, Isaacson discovered his son Rowan to have connections to the world of shamanism and also to horses. So he decided to take him to a place where shamans and horses are still an integral way of life — Mongolia. The resulting story is one of courage and triumph. I recommend it not only for people who are close to someone with autism, but also for anyone who likes a good adventure tale.
If I have any small criticism it is the appearance that Isaacson foresaw the marketability of this story well enough to bring a video crew along for the adventure. The film is due out this fall at special screenings all over the country. Still, I think the richness of the story, along with the fact that the film will give millions of people an honest glimpse of autism, offsets this minor quibble. Plus, Isaacson has donated part of the proceeds to helping children, and I can’t blame a writer for wanting to make a buck off his work.