Feature: Senior Horse Essay Contest WINNERS

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My Senior Horse’s Silly Quirk

It’s that time of the year again! The holiday season has us coming indoors out of the cold and getting warm by the fire, drinking hot tea, listening to rain on the roof, and visiting with loved ones. And then there’s our Senior Horse Issue, a favorite of mine, with our annual Senior Horse Essay contest. This year, we asked readers to write about their senior horse’s quirky behavior. It could be funny, endearing, or downright annoying, and the essays I read had me smiling and, as usual, putting off having to make a final decision on the winners. I hope you enjoy the stories and photos as much as I did. A huge thank you goes out to Farnam for donating our wonderful prizes! – Kim Roe, NWHS Editor.

First Place Winner – Cimarron Speaks for Himself

Essay & Photo By Alexis Warner

Senior Horse
Essay & Photo By Alexis Warner

I have often jokingly compared Cimarron, my thirty-year-old Paint gelding, to the renowned Mister Ed, the title character of a 1960s television series that follows the comedic adventures of a talking horse. However, while the movement of Ed’s lips was reputedly accomplished by placing a piece of nylon thread in his mouth, Cimarron has always been one to speak up for himself. Whenever he wishes to ask for something—whether it be a treat, passage through a gate, or simply my attention—Cimarron will raise his upper lip in a grin, clack his teeth and “talk” to me, or stick his tongue out and wiggle it. These unusual behaviors began as a nervous tic when he was young. When anxious during training, he would often chew and click his teeth like a submissive foal. Later, at campgrounds and on the road, Cimarron’s behavior was often rewarded by attention and slices of apple or carrot from amused passersby. With such reinforcement, the habit stuck.

When I first met the old Paint in November of 2007, I, like so many before me, was immediately enamored with his hilarious expressions and friendly character. I even helped Cimarron expand his repertoire by teaching him to “smile,” to shake hands, to bow, and to give hugs. With such training, Cimarron’s “talking” has also become ever more demonstrative. When I see Cimarron’s wide brown eyes and fuzzy golden ears locked upon me, his toothy grin aimed in my direction, it’s impossible to deny him the affection (and, usually, the cookies) that he so desires. While he may lack a voice, Cimarron has found a way to speak to me without words, in a silent language that we alone understand—one which I will forever carry written upon my heart.

Watch Cimarron “speak”:

Second Place Winner – Prize: Making Folks Laugh

Essay & Photo By Hillary Styles 

Senior Horse
Essay & Photo By Hillary Styles 

Meet Prize! She is my 27-year-old Quarter Horse/Thoroughbred mare who I’ve had for 23 years. Prize was a surrogate mare, and once her foal was weaned the facility sold her to us. She was completely green, and I worked extremely hard training her to be ready for 4-H horse fair in the summer. The hard work paid off, as we went to championships at the county fair and qualified for the state fair as well. She was tall, muscled, and gorgeous, and had a picture-perfect face at the time!

After high school, I went to Oregon State University and, of course, Prize went along with me so I could continue riding through my education. That’s when I noticed she was dropping grain, her tongue would poke out of her mouth, and her front teeth weren’t exactly straight. I had an equine dental specialist come check her out, and they determined she may have broken her jaw at some point in her life and we were seeing the effects of that now that she was getting older.

Over the next several years, her front lower teeth started to slant more, and her tongue hung further out of her mouth. During events, like horse shows or trail rides, her tongue drooped more and more as she grew tired from the day’s activities. People started to notice and comment, and really loved it!
Through the years Prize’s tongue has made many people laugh, especially me. Every veterinarian that visits wants to look inside her mouth, take pictures, and ask what happened to cause this unusual sight. She is still gorgeous at 27, still out riding on the trails, and will be making people laugh with her unique facial features for the rest of her life!

See this article in the November/December 2022 online edition:

Nov/Dec 2022

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