They all smell different from each other! Really!
OK, maybe this is TMI but its true! They all have their own scent, just like we do. Not only do they all have their own scent, they are just like us when it comes to scent choices. They like what they like and they don’t like what they don’t like.
So, let’s break this down. First, horses all have their own , unique frangrance. Now, I know what you are thinking… a horse smells like a horse. Yup. Just like all dogs smell like dogs and all cats smell like cats. But, I bet you know your dog’s scent, right? And I bet other dogs smell more “doggy” to you, right? Same with horses. Heck, our kids smell great to us and they smell like kids to everyone else… can you see where I’m going with this part? And to stretch it a bit here, I think one of the subliminal reasons we pick our horses is according to how they smell to us. I think that we think we don’t really “like” a horse but we don’t know why. And, perhaps that innate thing we don’t like is how they smell to us.
So, let’s get back to the idea here. Scent is important to us and to our horses. I have 12 horses. If you blindfolded me, I would be able to tell which was which just by their scent. That is how different they are. And, so could you. But, you have to think about it and compare. The only reason I can do this is because I’ve been thinking about this for a while. I noticed a few years ago that my Icy has a really musky, horsey scent. She is a very dark grey. Hmmmm. Then, when Aladdin got sick, I had to give his meds twice a day and I always kissed his forehead. His scent was so sweet to me. I often wondered if the BOUNCE dryer strip that I used to dry his flymask had made his forehead smell so nice. But, he smelled that way all through winter and every day of his life until the end. Hmmmm. And, after he died, I thought I would never remember his scent… which then got me to understand that they all do smell different. They may smell like horses but they all have their own scent.
Why is this even important? Well, for a few reasons. First, it makes them individuals. And secondly, it opens the door to their preferences. Many of us don’t even consider how we smell to them… Horses have opinions just like we do. I mean, you know they hate the smell of certain sprays and lotions. You know they hate the smells of certain foods (could be poisonous) and you know they identify their saddle and tack by the smell. They sniff every stall and every inch of new surroundings. And, of course, they smell any new pile of manure they come across. They don’t smell it because they like to smell manure, they smell it because the scents tell them the story. Their sense of smell is much more acute than ours. They can whiff the manure pile and learn about the owner. For example, when one horse smells another’s excrement, they learn what that horse ate, what gender and their age. They also know whether the pooper was stressed or OK, too. That is important when you are following along on the same trail…
So, now that we have established that they all have different scents and that scent is important to them, I wanted to tell a few anecdotes.
I knew of a Morgan stallion who would never breed mares who were lighter in color than bay. He would only fall in love with black, brown or bay mares. He actually would not do his job on lighter colored mares. Now, you could say that he had a color preference. And, maybe he did. But I say he had a scent issue. In my opinion, darker horses smell more horsey than lighter horses. So, I’m thinking that he just preferred that scent. Or, maybe he just like the color, dunno. But, when I thought about this stallion, I thought that I might go around and actually smell test my darker vs lighter horses. And, in my humble opinion, the darker horses smell more horsey, whatever that is.
My next story is about a stallion I knew that got loose and broke into the tack room at his barn. He made a B-line for the saddle of a gelding he hated. He ripped that saddle apart. He also grabbed the gelding’s blanket off of the opposing wall and took the gelding’s bridle off of its hook and flung it. Nothing else was touched. I think he made his point… How did he identify his nemesis? Scent.
And in my own personal testing lab, I know that my horses totally prefer certain shampoos and soaps that I may use. I have actually had some of my horses turn away when I use rosemary shampoo. I know that several of my horses hate perfumes on me. But, they kinda like certain essential oils or fragrances from Hawaii (for some reason). I’ve noticed several of them will bury their noses in my hair if I use Herbal Essence Shampoo. That is preferred over citrus scents in my household, even though many of them like oranges. They like Aveda but don’t really like Fructise. It really bums me out when I purchase a huge, cheapo gallon of some shampoo from Costco and they hate it…
I’ve even had better training sessions when I let the horse inhale his/her favorite scent. Huh? I bet you think I’m really off my rocker now… Well, here’s what I mean. I have taken bars of fragrant soap out and let them sniff. I usually only present three at a time. I do this over a few days and figure out what they like. Then I wear that or wash with that and let them smell me. Sometimes I get it wrong, but usually, it sets their mind at ease. They think better when things smell good to them. Try it. It works… I also wipe them down with fragrances they like. I think the scent then becomes a good thing and a way to set the mood or something. Its like when I light my favorite candle. No matter how I am feeling, when I smell that fragrance, things just get a little bit better. My sense of smell isn’t nearly as heightened as a horse’s. And, since horses are flight animals and use their sense of smell to survive, I’m guessing a pleasant scent to them is way more important and soothing than it is to us.
I wonder what a horse communicator would say about all this. I’d sure love to know if I’m smokin’ dope or if this is true. But, what I know for sure to be true is that horses all have their own scent and I’m pretty sure they all have their own opinions about how we smell. So, why not try to set up a ride or training session with some horsey aromatherapy, eh?
But, that’s just me…