Why Horses are better than Video Games

A symbol for a kinder gentler way

A symbol for a kinder, gentler way

I am sorry that over the internet I cannot present you with the real thing, but I hope the image recalls, at least, the familiar smell of bacon frying.

I am sorry that over the internet I cannot present you with the real thing, but I hope the image recalls, at least, the familiar smell of bacon frying.

I'm afraid that unless visited a living pig you won't be able to relate to either the pungent aroma or the frantic squeals and vicious grunting that always accompanies the pigs at their dinner.

Unless you have visited a living pig you won’t be able to relate to either the pungent aroma or the frantic squeals and vicious grunting that always accompanies the pigs at their dinner.


Do you remember the movie “Babe”? This “live action” movie follows the life of a pig named Babe who discovers a kinder, gentler way of herding sheep. I like the movie. I recommend it. I identify with the hero because I have been on a pursuit of how to train horses in a kinder, gentler way.

I shouldn’t have to tell you that “Babe” was not a movie about a real pig. I’ve spent many hours with pigs as a farm boy from Iowa and then, as a memory refresher, more hours with real pigs that I fed and raised on our farm for a summer a couple of years ago. Believe me, I know what real pigs are. They were not anything like Babe, especially the ‘kind and gentle’ part.

The film is deliberately anthropomorphic. The anthropomorphism as employed in this movie is cute and works well to tell a pleasant story. The trouble is this movie may be the closest encounter that most of the viewers get to a real pig other than bacon on the breakfast plate. Unless we have been educated by an experience with a real pig, the powerful image and symbol of this kinder, gentler, cute, mostly human animal creeps into our subconscious as a picture of what a pig is, even though we know the movie is a fantasy.

Because of all the movies and storybooks about horses and the majestic beautiful animal himself, as seen from a distance, horses have become a symbol. Ordinary people have more acquaintance with the symbol of the horse than an actual real horse.

The real living horse Titan is not a symbol. He is an individual, completely distinct in personality, gifting and failings from any other living thing, just as I am. Because Titan and I are completely unique individuals, our relationship is unique-unlike any other horse/human relationship.

I have made it a goal to have resistant-free riding with Titan. Last weekend I rode him as Kathryn was looking on. As often happens with a spectator present, I was able to see myself with new eyes. This time it was Titan’s and my relationship that came into focus. It seemed fractious and at the same time he accomplished everything I asked him.

In retrospect I may have gotten off on the wrong foot at the very beginning of his training.  He was a violent stallion, willing to fight probably more than any of the other stallion I’ve had. I felt that in order to be the herd boss (a necessary ingredient in training) and keep from being stomped on (a very real possibility) I had to be at least equally forceful right back. I am not sure of this or any speculations of past mistakes; however I am resolved to build a balanced, friendly relationship between us now. I build and maintain a friendly relationship with nearly all of my horses, but gaining this relationship with Titan is challenging.

Today I rode Titan on our usual one and a half and mile canter. He didn’t push me. It was a pleasant canter for about a mile and then I bumped into a neighbor and paused to visit. I sat on Titan’s back and visited with my neighbor for half an hour. Titan stood quietly. He did not fidget. He was a perfect gentleman. When we were finished visiting, Titan and I left out at a canter and then he pushed. It was the home stretch. It wasn’t unmanageable but I don’t want him to set the speed. If I allowed that we would wind up in Canada in a few minutes. Lately with Titan it has not been a total out-of-control argument, just enough disagreement to take away the harmony. I’m compelled to work that out to harmony and balance.

A real horse is way more fun than video games including even the best movies. A real horse provides a real-life experience. There are real-life outcomes. The successes and failures are real. You can see the successes and failures on the horses. Also there are real dangers. I can prove it by  some real scars I carry on my body. Finally, there are real lasting pleasures in being a live human being mounted on a real live horse galloping on the real living Earth.

Titan jrl

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2 Responses to Why Horses are better than Video Games

  1. Jim H says:

    I remember when we had our three dogs – we had time to relate to them and soon realized they each possessed a unique and individual personality. I was telling this to a friend who owned a couple of parakeets and he told me of discovering their personalities (it always made me look at wild birds differently). There is definitely more human interaction with a dog than a bird and I’m guessing there’s more with a horse than a dog. It’s a privilege to enter into the discovery of who they are and then be able to have a relationship with them. I envy you and Titan as you work out the “real” between you.

  2. J.R. says:

    Thank you Jim, I read about this “human/animal interaction” in a book called “Bandit: Dossier of a Dangerous Dog” by Vicki Hearne . She said that dogs and horses stand out amongst all the other animals as truly domesticated. She said that (I don’t have the book anymore so I can’t quote it perfectly) when Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden, horses and dogs for better and worse decided to stay with humans.

    The horse is a herd animal and an herbivore. The dog is a pack animal and a carnivore. They are motivated by different goals. They require a different language, but they are both programmed from life in the herd or pack and then thousands of generations of domestication to human beings to partner up and therefore interact with their human partner.

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