On the Smell of Horses

photo by chandra smith

Tonight I was giving Tal a rub down before he left for the far pasture to graze. I noticed his body fragrance. I told him he smelled like a flower, like perfume in a horsey sort of way. Maybe he’d been using an aftershave, I teased. I pressed my nose into his coat and took a long breath and began thinking about what smells tell us, and how they make us feel. Sometimes when one of my horses is not feeling his best, I detect a metallic odor, or sometimes sour.

In one of my favorite books, What Horses Say, by Anna Clemence Mew and Julie Dicker ….it is mentioned that different breeds and even different colored coats smell differently. Tal is black and white and sure enough his black coat has a different scent than his white. Apparently some horses on occasion won’t like the smell of another horse. And it makes me wonder about those highly fragrant fly repellents we humans insist on using. I learned early on that some of my more sensitive horses didn’t like the fragrance. They would run away when I started to apply it, until I finally found one with a more natural fragrance.

My favorite aroma on the ranch is the seasoned horsey smell mixed with crushed apple breath. I inhale deeply and hold, savoring the feeling it evokes. I’m transported through time to memories and places like old homestead ranches and abandoned apple orchards where the nature spirits run freely. The familiar home feeling emerges, that which was interwoven through my childhood years and is now a tie to my past. It makes me want to ride the top of a wave until the sun sets in the western sky.

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