My current work in progress involves chariot racing, and given its substantial equine components, I’ve recruited the aid of horse owners Julie and The Boyz’ Mom to keep it real. (For more about them, read this post.) They love sharing about their horses, and I love learning from them, and hopefully you’ll get some entertainment out of our exchanges.
So a couple of months ago, I posed this question:
Do horses sneeze?
Maybe some of you are laughing now, but it is a valid question. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean an animal can do it, and vice versa. For instance, we sweat, but pigs don’t (ergo the whole mud thing). And while gender is an established-at-birth characteristic for us and many other organisms, it’s not for sea slugs, which are all born male. (As to how the female sea slugs come about, I’ll let you discover that for yourself.)
Anyway, back to the question. It arose when I was writing a scene that included a candle and a horse, and I wondered if the horse could accidentally blow out the light. I vaguely remembered that horses don’t burp, and if that was impossible, could they generate enough puff to blow out a candle, physiologically speaking?
So I went to my horsy experts. My e-mail went something like this: Is it possible for a horse to snort hard enough to blow a flame out? On that note, do horses sneeze?
The Boyz’ Mom responded promptly:
Most definitely… They also snort, snuff , snuffle and hack. All of which can be done with quite a lot of force when you consider a human sneeze is at approximately 100*150 miles per hour…The sneeze bath is something everyone needs to experience…hee hee.
Sneeze bath?! That was not what I expected. But it got my imagination going all sorts of places so I wrote back:
I get the feeling that both of you have experienced the wonders of the horse sneeze snot bath… So when they’re done, do big boogers hang out their nostrils and do they wipe them off on themselves? Or do they maybe treat you like a human Kleenex and wipe off on you?
Here’s Julie’s response:
lol – They always have crap hanging off their faces or dripping out of their eyes. And no, they could not care less that they have crap all over their faces. Anything works to wipe the gunk off – towel, shirt, sleeve, hand. They are pretty gross and there is a reason they are not invited into most people’s homes. I am not even going to get started on Blondie and how she sucks in part of her tail when she is pooping. Then she gets all offended when you try to pull it out.
Blondie, by the way, is Julie’s American Saddlebred mare and, despite her aforementioned tail sucking habit, fancies herself a princess.
And the Boyz’ Mom wrote:
Well…for me they usually snort it all out in a spray of nasty all over me….I am however the human kleenex they wipe on me , eye rub they rub on my shoulder, butt scratching post squish me against whatever to get a good scratch and forehead rub on my back… It’s awesome to be loved!
If that’s horse love, I’ll keep a respectful distance!
Well, that was quite enlightening! Portrayals of horses, at least in the media I’ve been exposed to, tend to wax majestic, giving the impression they’re above boogers and butt scratches. Can you imagine the Black Stallion wiping his snot off on Alec Ramsey? Even in the abscess scenes in Disney’s Secretariat, the big racehorse still came across as regal.
At any rate, I got my answer along with some laughs, a new level of respect for my ladies, and the inspiration for a little humor for my manuscript. My main character probably hates me for it, but as you can see, a horse-sized helping of gross is all part of being an equestrian.