Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dawn Says "eeeee"

I have never met a horse with as many vocalizations as Dawn - she seems to have a different one for every occasion, and she says something different with every one. Last week she actually managed to come up with one new to me - and I've known her for 9 years now (I'm saving this one for last - it's at the end of the post).

My old mare Promise had a silent nicker she used as a greeting - we called it "doing nostrils" - her nostrils would move but there was no sound. And Lily had a funny sound she made when getting to know another horse - she would sniff noses, and then give a short, very high-pitched "me" while turning her head away (in contempt of the obviously lesser being). And Norman the pony would, when excited, give a loud whinny always accompanied by explosive farting - I guess all that effort had to make sound from both ends!

But Dawn has more variety in her expressions. When she's bolting from the gate, or excitedly herding the other horses, or angry at a gelding for expressing interest when it's (not quite) the right time, she does a loud "eeeEEE!", usually accompanied by a head shake, a bite or a kicking motion. She'll do this in her stall when she's in heat and kicks the wall. When she's interested in another horse, she'll do a quieter, interrogative "eeEee" - it has a very come-hither sound to it. She does a bellow and stamp when she's intimidating another horse face to face.

She has a low, sexy nicker that she uses to greet human and horse friends, usually accompanied by sniffing and nuzzling - I think it's about the sound a mare would make to a foal. She oddly enough often makes this sound for our farrier - he finds it somewhat disconcerting. She has what we call her "frantic whinny" - this is used when she's calling to another horse from a distance or is worried about an absent horse.

And she grunts. She grunts "unh" - a short, fairly loud exhalation, sometimes when she bucks but also if she unexpectedly bumps her nose into something - she often is looking in a direction other than the one she's walking in and can bump her nose into objects like door frames or fences. It has a bit of a sound of protest about it.

And last week, she hummed. That's the only word I can think of that describes it - it was the same "eee" sound, but soft, low-pitched and elongated - just softly sing "e" in a quiet, low voice and that's the sound she made - she was using it to acknowledge Maisie as we walked by her paddock.

I wonder what she'll come up with next?

14 comments:

  1. She's working on, "Good morning, I'd like my food now." By the time she masters it you'll be fully prepared. *G*

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  2. Jean - actually, she has one for that - it just isn't very polite - she runs her teeth (loudly) up and down the wall.

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  3. I had a lovely mare named SUnshine who would wait till I was in a large crown of riders then begin to moan and grunt as if my weight were killing her!

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  4. I love your descriptions of Dawn's "voices". The more personality, the more varied the voices perhaps. I wish you could have caught her humming on tape! Our Pie is a groaner. He groans about bugs up his nose and he groans in delight when he urinates. It is really hysterical.

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  5. How funny, Gilly has some funny sounds he makes, not as many as Dawn though. Now Pokey the donkey is the one who really sounds funny here. He whines, grunts, squeaks and sounds like a small child having a temper tantrum, when will stomp his little feet, snort and flip his tail up and down. I must get it on tape sometime! he is so vocal!!!

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  6. Dawn sounds like she has lots of personality. She may add more to her repertoire as she goes on, what a character. My horse Erik used to actually sigh because life was just too hard for him sometimes. We used to call him Eeyore. Our paint Lifeguard would make sounds with his lips that sounded like a Bronx raspberry. He did it every time he wanted attention and food. They are all so funny. It makes me happy to think that I'm privileged to be a part of the horses world that so many people know nothing about.

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  7. Lena is our vocal one for sure. "Weeheeheehee" at feeding time, emphasis on the "Wee" part; soft nickers only sometimes; good, full throated mare squeals after flirty nose-to-nose sniffing; teeth on the pipe panels, which I'm not sure counts as a vocalization, but is definitely an opinion.

    She once thoroughly embarrassed my daughter when, upon seeing a tall, dark, and handsome Warmblood gelding, she let out a low and throaty, "Eh heh heh heh," easily translated to "Hey, big boy."

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  8. When Jimmy first started to trust me, he did what we called a "chuckle" nicker. It literally sounded like a deep, quiet, chuckle. Kind of a "huh huh huh huh" which was SO hilarious out of his little body.

    Now, being on stall rest, he lets out a LOUD and HIGH pitched whinny when he sees me. Which I know is only because he's certain an unbelievable amount of love, attention, grass, and carrots are in his immediate future. The order to him is irrelevant ;-)

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  9. Dawn mare, she is so delightful and animated!You know where you stand with her well developed horses speak skills!
    KK

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  10. KK - the picture above is my older daughter with Lily. That was the last class they rode in (double clear) before she was retired due to heaves. I was feeling nostalgic!

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  11. i love all the unique ways horses find to communicate with each other and with us! one of my favorites from the herd is donnie's greeting. we call it 'jiggly nose' - it's a very low nicker and his whole muzzle goes slack and jiggles like crazy. it's too cute and always makes my morning :-)

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  12. I just love your concise descriptions...I can almost hear them myself! I do love all the different ways our horses communicate verbally and otherwise with us - they truly are wonderful animals, and I feel blessed to be a part of their world. :)

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  13. Oooh! I love this. Before I owned my own horse I never knew horses could be so communicative. I enjoy listening and watching them communicate now. Baby Doll was very polite and rarely ever nickered or whinnied to me. She was quite patient about being fed.

    Apache is so funny, now that she is starting to get used to living here and the way we do things. She will nicker and whinny and even do a little dance when she knows food is coming. And she also does this silly tongue wagging thing where she hangs her tongue and wags it up and down and in circles. And then she yawns! lol!

    I bet Dawn makes you laugh :)


    ~Lisa

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  14. Just saw this..my Laz does the "EEeeee" squeal too! Like a giant Guinea pig! :) It's almost like he has so much excitement that he can't contain it. Sounds like Dawn is very similar

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