Reflection: Animal Communication
Trip to the West Campus Stables.
By Erik Shalat (05/13/13 09:48:37)
Related animal: Horse

This has been a great quarter to go see big animals. Iíve seen huge farm pigs, sheep and cattle. A few days ago I visited the West Campus Stables to draw from live horses for my intermediate drawing course. I have a history with horses; I tried to learn to ride them one summer when I was about five and our neighborhood is considered very ďhorse-friendlyĒ with several equestrian riders trotting along our streets and parks. Actually, the park at the bottom of my street has about three horse farms surrounding it. So while I see horses often, I donít think iíve actually touched one or interacted with one in several years.

I managed to form a bond with one horse by the name of Chief. Before I tried to draw him I petted him and fed him some grass, because that seems like the thing to do around a horse I suppose. Later when we were left to our own devices, I hung around his pen and he kept following me when I tried to draw him. I would pet and feed him, and try to go back to drawing, he would get right back in my face and beat his hoof on the fence. He stayed right next to me for about half an hour. At a certain point I was more interesting in interacting with the horse than trying to capture it in illustration so I put down the paper and pencil and started moving around. The horse would follow me back and forth along fence. I would go to the very end of the fence very quickly, and he would beat his hooves again and walk over.

Horses have curious faces. When you look closely, you can see why horses are associated with dour, long faces. Itís more than the downwards, extended mouths. They have very sorrowful eyes. Something I love about horseís appearance is that they have such a sheen to them. The short hair and thick, prominent muscles makes them glisten in the sun.

A misconception I had about horses is that theyíre always standing up. I was under the impression that horses were too fragile and if they fell down they would break their legs. The horses on the West Campus Stables would roll around in the dirt with the kinetic force of a car. They propelled themselves down and got on their backs and twisted and turned. When I saw it I was frightened; I thought they were hurting themselves. Horses are a lot sturdier than I thought.

I am considering a project with horses, assuming I can gain access to the West Campus Stables without people getting angry that I am using their pets for art. Horses are a very easy animal to feel empathy with. That is generally true of larger animals like dogs, horses and pigs. Horses are much more reactive than pigs I feel, so there is definitely some potential for projects.

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