Mirror, Mirror on the Wall . . .

MirrorLast weekend I took Freedom to a barn with an indoor. In all the years that I’ve owned him, I have never taken him inside one.

The first steps into the dark, cavernous space took some coaxing. But it was the mirrors that really set him off. Along the long side of the the ring were three mirrors.

The first time he saw his reflection, he stopped dead in his tracks and refused to move. He stared intently at the mirror. I’m sure he was asking, “Who is that chestnut horse?” Like most horses that have never seen themselves in a mirror he knew he was looking at a horse, but had no idea that it was himself. Imagine his surprise when he took a few more steps and saw . . . another chestnut horse . . . and then another.

It took him several trips around the ring before he stopped craning his neck to the side so he could watch his reflection. Finally, I suppose, he decided the horse he saw was boring.

In truth, his reaction was pretty mild. Back when I used to board at a facility with an indoor, I remember seeing some pretty severe reactions — both panic and aggression — and I know that new horses were never turned out unsupervised in the ring until they got used to their reflection. At least they weren’t after one large mirror was shattered by a horse who kicked the offending gelding who was coming right at him!

Has your horse ever seen himself? What was his or her reaction? I understand that some people put (unbreakable) mirrors in stalls to help reduce weaving and other OCD type behaviors but I’ve never seen that tried. I’m curious to find out if it works.


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