Eve Marx on a horse

The Human/Animal Connection

Editor’s note: There’s evidence that owning a pet has several health benefits: lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, increasing exercise and social interaction. And while we may think of pets as primarily dogs and cats, the connection between humans and horses is just as strong. Here, Eve Marx (shown with her horse, Buttons) demonstrates the strength and the benefits of that connection.

By Eve Marx

It’s taken me an entire year to write this story, not that I haven’t tried. It was one year ago that I had to say goodbye to Buttons, my beloved Appaloosa pony. I should explain when I say I said goodbye, it’s not because Buttons passed over the Rainbow Bridge. Buttons is far from dead, although he is 30-something–for a horse, ancient.

What happened is my husband took a new job and we moved across the country. After agonizing whether or not to bring him (I was advised he would never survive the trip), I made the decision to retire Buttons at the wonderful and caring place where he’s lived the past six years. So we won’t be riding together anymore, and because of the great distance, I can’t really see or visit him regularly. For me it’s been heartbreaking and a hardship; for fifteen incredible years, Buttons has been my boon companion and, even beyond my husband, my most intimate relationship.

I understand many people don’t comprehend the close connection between humans and their horses. Even people who ride often have difficulty understanding equine expression or know how to “read” a horse. Subtle changes in posture, movement, and expression provide important clues to what a horse is thinking. It can take a long time to bond with these magical creatures. (Because they are essentially herd animals, their primary interest is other horses.)

Buttons and I met at a horse dealer’s place in Connecticut. The seller told me since he’d acquired him, the pony had been purchased and returned twice. Nobody could catch him in the paddock, and he was very, very naughty. I had the feeling the pony’s next stop was a trailer ride to a Canadian slaughterhouse, which sadly is the case for many horses. Perhaps intuiting I was his last chance, Buttons decided he would behave.

I felt he wanted to believe that humans could be nice to be with again. I plied him with treats. I noticed his favorite horse cookies were molasses flavored; he’s never cared much for peppermint. I started baking horse cookies especially for him. He also responded well to my singing to him, very low and quietly. He flicked his ears happily right away to “I’m an old cowhand,” the Roy Rogers version. I sang the second stanza:

I’m an old cowhand from the Rio Grande,

and I come to town just to hear the band.

I know all the songs that the cowboys know,

’bout the big corral where the doagies go,

’cause I learned them all on the radio.

Yippy I O Ki Ay, Yippy I O Ki Ay.