Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pie and His Reflection

When Pie first came to our barn, and I would ride him on the grassy area behind the barn, he would sometimes become a bit alarmed and excited by our reflection in the big plate glass windows on the back of the barn.  I suspect he'd never seen a reflection in glass before.  Now when I'm riding there, I've noticed that his eye is still often caught by the reflections, although he's no longer worried about them.  I'd always thought it was just because of the sight of movement and the changing light, but recently I noticed something else.  When we were standing close to one of the windows one of the last times we rode (it's been too cold to ride for a while), he was intensely interested in his own reflection in the window.  He wanted to go up and investigate it, so I let him.  It was pretty clear that he didn't just see movement and changing light in the reflection, he saw a horse, and wanted to find out about it.  He touched noses with the horse in the window and seemed a bit perplexed that it wasn't real.  I don't think he recognized that it was in fact himself, but he did pretty clearly seem to know that it was another horse. It was very interesting to observe his reactions and curiosity.  Are your horses ever interested in the horse in the window?

22 comments:

  1. Apparently, the ability to recognize one's own reflection in a mirror is a sign of intelligence. Elephants do, and I think dolphins have been tested, along with the apes.

    I think for a horse, it might take a little more thinking. The first part is to figure out that the reflection is not another horse on the other side. It will be interesting to see if Pie eventually starts admiring himself.

    Either way, I like his essentially calm reaction once he figured out it wasn't anything dangerous. He has a really good temperament when confronted with new things.

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  2. You know... I never thought of it as "different" or "odd"... Rosie calls to the 'Horse in the mirror" and even looks back sometimes as we pass it.

    I've stopped and let her look at herself, but she hasn't made an attempt to approach.

    My dogs on the other hand try to pick fights with the "doggie in the mirror" its rather funny.

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  3. I think Panama knows it's his reflection in the mirror. I don't believe he'd ever seen a mirror, or even a reflection in a window, until I brought him to our current barn, which has mirrors in the indoor arena. He never acted surprised at all to see a horse in the mirror. He was very interested, though, and walked right up to check it out. I still often catch him looking at himself in the mirrors, especially if we stop for a break. I know he knows it's a reflection, because I can wave my arms in the air like a maniac, and it doesn't startle him at all to see it reflected back in the mirror.

    I always say he knows how cute he is. I guess that's why he never seemed surprised to see his reflection in the mirror. He's probably stand there and preen if I let him. :o)

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  4. By the way, Jean, I suspect that more animals than we realize understand that the mirror shows a reflection. The only way we can judge their understanding is via curiosity, but I think some animals, such as cats, don't particularly care enough to be curious! I know they know it's a reflection, though, because I had a cat who used to turn his back to me and watch me in the mirror, and he clearly knew it showed what I was really doing.

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  5. Dear Kate,
    I just wanted to thank you for all your hard work and dedication to this blog. Your advise and observations have been invaluable, and I'm grateful to have come across your blog. As a small token of my appreciation, I listed you as a recipient of the "Stylish Blogger" award on my page.

    Thank you for being so wonderfully you!
    ~Amber

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  6. When I took Hampton over to the indoor a couple of weeks ago, he walked right up to the mirrors - ears pricked, neck arched and was checking out the sexy beast he saw. He wasn't scared, but clearly curious. So funny!

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  7. We used to have mirrors in an arena where I boarded. Some of our horses looked at their reflections and some completely ignored themselves or other horses.

    It will be interesting to see if Pie figures out it's his reflection. He's a smart boy I bet he will.

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  8. Our mounting block is located in front of the observation room window. Before I get on him, Gem always walks up to the glass and licks it....I wonder if he's kissing his reflection. :-)

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  9. It is so funny you say that because today after my ride I was grazing Pie in the only grass I could find - right in the front yard. Pie caught his reflection in the front windows and gave an enormous spook. I don't think he saw a horse though. He isn't quite as...astute as your Pie! I think you have a special one there, Kate.

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  10. That is so cute! I enjoyed reading everyone's mirror comments. Thanks for sharing this. It was really interesting. :)

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  11. I don't think I have ever ridden by a window, besides a car window, which is too small and low to catch Lilly's attention! But I do know that when Lilly sees our shadow when we are riding, she will always look at it, and has been known to startle at it. I say, Silly horse, that's just YOU!!

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  12. Suzy used to admire herself in mirrors and windows. When I did my equine science diploma we did a bit on stall kept horses and using mirrors. Also horses who needed to be trailered alone that had anxiety problems. A mirror seems to comfort them like another horse would.

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  13. My mare Bridget used to like to admire herself in the mirrors of the indoor. I don't know that she knew it was her reflection but she did like to admire the horse in the mirror!

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  14. My horse LOVES the horse in the mirror. If there is a mirror in the turnout, he will stand by that mirror and "shmooze" with the horse. If we're in a dressage court with mirrors along the "C" side, he pricks his ears because "there's his FRIEND!!" The funniest experience was at a court in Laguna Niguel. There were mirrors at C and mirrors again at E. Every time we rode by the E mirror, he would puff up and be "all macho." Some horses are afraid of the horse in the mirror, others are just SURE it's an enemy to be challenged. I think my horse just likes that handsome friend who is doing the same thing HE is doing--with a rider who looks very much like his own mom ;o)

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  15. Poppy admires herself in the car window. Once we even caught her giving herself kisses in the window :)

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  16. Our work shed has a window, Camryn likes to stop and check it out as we ride down the drive. The first few times she did a double take, now she just goes by and observes herself.

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  17. My horse loved to look at herself when we would ride past a window. Yes, I knew she could see herself because she would look at her reflection and then the reflection of the other horse. Then she'd really look at the other horse and go back to the reflections.

    She also used a mirror in my barn. We would hide around the corner and look at her in her stall to catch her kicking the walls at feeding time. She'd look in the mirror right at us and not do it until we moved out of sight.

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  18. I boarded at a barn with a mirror in the arena and it was a constant source of curiosity to Cowboy. It was funny.

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  19. I rode a lesson horse for awhile who would pin her ears and bare her teeth at her own image as we passed by the indoor arena mirrors.

    Apparently she always did that and when I rode her, it was like she was waiting for that 'mean horse' as we approached the sides with mirrors.

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  20. The first time Ozzy saw his own reflection, we were at a rest stop on the turn pike (don't ask!) and I SWEAR he started strutting as if to say, "Oooh, who's THAT good lookin' horse?" The next time, there were two mirrors in an indoor in RI. One of them was his new BFF. He was nickering and touching noses. The other was his sworn enemy and he was determined to kill it. Eep!

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  21. I once rode Apache past a truck that had black out windows. She paused and snorted and I let Apache
    stare at her reflection for a few minutes. I believe she was wondering how a horse was able to get inside that truck. lol!

    ~Lisa

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