Horse as “Emergency Alert System”

Do you ever notice what your horse notices? I’m always fascinated at what horses see off in the distance. So many times, I can’t figure out what they are looking at until the object gets closer or I get out my binoculars. Their senses really do seem different and more acute in many ways. It is no wonder horses can get pretty skeptical about the human ability to keep them safe. Half the time, we can’t see or even hear the potential danger that they perceive.

Recently, after finishing a pleasant late-morning ride on my horse, Shiloh, I went inside to grab some lunch. I peaked out the back window to check on the horses before I sat down to eat. I happened to notice my other horse, Bear, standing at alert. He was looking past the side of the house and had a rather perplexed look on his face (meanwhile, Shiloh’s attention was on a pile of hay- gotta refuel after exercising, right?).

I was curious about the object of Bear’s rapt attention so I walked to the front of the house to look out a different window. Through the glass, I could see a woman hopping down the road, obviously trying not to put weight on her left foot. I raced outside and asked if she needed help. Turns out she had somehow twisted her ankle while going for a walk to get some exercise. I put on my COVID mask, brought my car around to her, drove her home and helped her to the front door. I offered to take her to the doctor’s office or to the ER, but she declined. She was going to contact her family.

She had a cell phone on her and wasn’t that far from home, but I still think she would have had a very difficult time trying to get there on one foot! As we were in the car heading to her house, I told her that I only noticed her after Bear alerted me to her presence. She told me to tell him thank you (which I later translated into the form of an apple slice). She said she used to walk by my property when her daughter was young child, and they gave the horses carrots over the fence. Maybe this was Bear’s way of returning the favor.

So there ends my story of Bear acting as a first responder of sorts. Has your horse ever clued you into an emergency in progress that you wouldn’t have been aware of without his or her help?

Bear dashing off, no doubt, to find the next emergency . . .

Update: To read a postscript to this story, please go to

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