“You like potāto, I like potahto”

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Credit: mikey-rio

Credit: mikey-rio

Story from Anne Koletzke at Glen Ellen Vocational Academy, Inc

“You like potāto, I like potahto”

Horses are like people – they have different personalities. They can be nice, friendly and hardworking, or awkward, difficult and lazy. If horses were people, some would be on the dole, and others would be entrepreneurs. ~Tony McCoy

I always tend to think of Mikey and Rio together, probably because they are the only two Quarter Horses at Glen Ellen Vocational Academy, Inc (GEVA), an Equine Retirement and Rehabilitation Foundation and Sanctuary. But I do them such a disservice when I do this, because they are really quite different horses.

They do, of course, have similarities: As far as anyone knows, Mikey and Rio were once Western pleasure or show horses—they most certainly were never racehorses like most of the other horses at GEVA. They are both also on the smallish side, and are, in fact, the two smallest horses on the farm. Mikey, a handsome buckskin, has a dorsal stripe and “primitive” stripes on his front legs, and Rio, a registered Paint as well as a registered Quarter Horse, also sports a dorsal stripe and leg stripes. And they are both gentle, unaggressive horses who usually find themselves near or at the bottom of the herd pecking order.

But other than such superficial similarities, these two horses are so very different. Mikey, for example, is seldom far from the side of his paddock-mate, Chunky, whereas Rio, who lives with 6 other horses, often seems to prefer spending much of the day enjoying his own company.

They’re quite different in how they relate to people, too. When you enter Mikey and Chunky’s paddock, Mikey can be counted on to immediately come over to say hello and to demand attention. Should you be foolish enough to think just giving him a quick pat on the neck as you pass by on your way to clean manure from his paddock will do, you’ll find him waiting for you back at the RTV, so completely blocking your way you can’t possibly empty your shovel into the truck without making him move first. And good luck with that, as by this time it’s as if his hooves have grown roots. Deep roots. But if you put your shovel down and have a quick conversation with him while administering some rubs and scratches, the hoof-roots disappear and Mikey willingly agrees to move out of your way—but only far enough that you can get your work done while still continuing your conversation with him.

When you enter Rio’s paddock, on the other hand, he can be, and usually is, a bit standoffish. Indeed, he may ignore you altogether. It’s not that he doesn’t like attention and good conversation, he does, but he doesn’t need them the way Mikey does. He’s also considerably more of a gentleman than Mikey in every way, and is certainly much too well-mannered to ever block your way just so you’ll pay attention to him. Good heavens, that would be so impolite! If he does want human attention—and sometimes he does—Rio will just walk up and stand quietly behind you or next to you until you notice him. And if you find yourself in Rio’s paddock with some carrots in your hand or are carrying out a not-quite-empty feed bucket, he will never rush over to investigate, but will simply stand where he is, watching you intently— which is very hard to ignore. And if that doesn’t get you to come over and give him some of that goodie you’ve got in your hand, then Rio will indulge in a bit of modest pawing to demonstrate his growing impatience. Now who can resist that?! Not I.

Difference is a wonderful thing!