Through the mist of shrouded pre-dawn dew, tails of wispy golden amber and ebony swish rhythmically. Two high pitched baby nickers respond immediately to the call of another. Three new fouls joined the herd this Spring, their gangling limbs on the move, muscling-up well, day on day. Joyful curiosity streams through the small herd. Then in one abrupt second, the frisky activity is sliced by a deafening stillness. Ears spike forward and swivel back. The putrid taste of danger replaces that of earthy grass. Was it that barely perceptible flicker of motion off on the dawning horizon? Or was it the tiny rippling ground tremor felt through the sensory-active hoofs? Even what may be a simple breeze is now a deadly suspected predator. Ancient survival mechanisms are poised for the lead mare’s signal, the herd is on red alert. Who eats and who gets eaten?
The Hormonal Gas Pedal in Action
Nature clarifies the uncertainty. Yes, it’s danger! Run! Burst into action, nose to flank. Protect one another, babies in the center, be a unit, be off! Eyes stark with terror, their bodies are put to the test. Nature’s prehistoric orchestra begins its dramatic symphony. Pupils dilate. Digestion shuts down. Flight is the only remaining requirement. The sympathetic nervous system acting like a hormonal gas pedal. Thousands of pounds thunder across the tundra on small, hard hoofs. Injury or weakness will cause the hoof to fail. Failure of the hoof will cause death. They are fleeing for their lives – survival depends on healthy functioning feet.
Miraculous engineering in hoof design have kept horses alive on the planet for over 50 million years! That’s 50,000,000 years. Hoofs are not design flaws that need nails to adequately perform.
And now, just as fast, the herd halts. The parasympathetic nervous system acts like the brake pedal. Heads relax, stretch, and resume to ground grazing. The danger has passed. They’ve had their workout, now to rest, restore and digest some more.
I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from my new E-Book! Please watch out for it, it’s coming soon to friends of Cavallo!