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The Horse's Playground



I always try to keep my cell phone with me when I am around animals, and hopeful to observe the unique behavior of animals of the same or different species. In this case, it was the behavior of two horses (equines).


With these particular horses (a bay Thoroughbred and his best friend, a Paint), in the fields, one horse would always run up to the other to surprise the heck out of his adversary. Often, when I was riding one of my horses in the outdoor ring, I would hear the crackling sound of hooves on ground cover and leaves, and then I would hear these guys thundering in and out of the trees, chasing each other across the running stream that ran through their pasture. They always stopped, turned around and then proceeded to pick at each other, usually biting at each other’s lower jaw, legs, and withers. When you watch them biting playfully at each other, sometimes they would bite behind the knee of the other horse - kind of hamstringing it to buckle; very clever, I think. If it was near feeding time, they were always sparring with each other at the gate - just nitpicking, nipping across the neck and then back again. I always found them playing close to dinner time, generally around the gate leading to the barn, where they were extremely anxious about the person who would come, get them and take them to their stalls where their food was waiting.


Recent studies have proven that horses who have been pulled away from their friends will remember each other when they come back together, often after being apart for several years. I had a couple of my own horses who also were best friends. If I took one the mares out to ride, the other one would follow me to the gate, and stand and holler to her best friend, even though there were six other mares in the pasture for company. They simply enjoyed each other’s company.


Horses are so interesting to paint; they are so majestic and agile. When painting any animal, you need to understand that the painting you have in mind before you start will normally not be the painting that is realized. As I have noted in previous blogs, I start with a rough sketch and then fill in the blanks based on photographs, remembering that a photo does not catch the whole story about the subject. You draw/paint the subject as it actually is, rather than what you think is there, while also capturing the essence of the subject and not a copy of a photo. This is really the most difficult part of laying down the foundation of the painting. For me, it has taken years to develop this understanding and approach to my paintings.