Do horses have a sense of humour?
Dogs do, even though it tends towards the custard-pie-in-the-face, trousers-down sort of humour. Just to watch the Labradors chortling on Pancake day, when there’s fun and laughter and pancakes fall to the kitchen floor like confetti gives me no doubt about that. At a recent supper party, one of our guests got noisily cheerful then tripped on his way out and fell into Guinness’ basket. She thought it was side-splitting and licked his face sploshily while he was down. And when Indie seized a visitor’s glove and went on a high-speed multi-lap tour of the garden with the visitor rushing behind him shouting “Give that glove back: it’s brand new leather!” you could plainly see that Indie was giggling his head off with naughty delight.
Scarab the cat has a sense of humour too. His favourite game is ‘hunt the cat’ played last thing at night when the dogs are in their baskets, the lights turned off and everybody wants to go to bed. Scarab gets invariably frisky at this moment, waits till he sees the whites of your eyes and sets off on a steeplechase around the house. He zips upstairs at a speed unexpected for a cat of his ample girth, and goes to ground beneath a random piece of furniture. The good thing is that he finds the whole thing so hilarious that he can’t resist purring loudly. And then I’ve got him.
But horses? Something in the long face and sense of dignity suggests not. Slip is intuitive, gentle, courteous and sometimes bonkers, but I’ve never sensed the smallest hint of a grin. Harry is bigger, darker, heavier, and doesn’t look like a laugh a minute. But this morning I went to feed them hay. I was slightly pushed for time, as we were going to a friend’s house for Sunday lunch. I was wearing one of my better jumpers and didn’t feel I had time to go indoors to fetch a coat. Big mistake – BIG mistake.
I carried a wedge of hay carefully at arm’s length out for Slip, and put it in front of him. Slip ate it. Perfect. I carried a second wedge of hay for Harry and he picked it up, checked for wind direction and then hurled it straight back at me. And hay sticks to wool like butter sticks to toast. In a second I was transformed from a reasonably respectable person to a walking haystack. And Harry? It’s hard to tell, but I’m pretty sure that Harry fell about laughing.