Ellison is a professional horse trainer and riding instructor. She runs a summer camp program and offers kids a safe introduction to horses.
The Horses Thoughts
Obviously, none of us really know what goes on in those heads of theirs. We do know that they do not have the ability to reason the way that they are made out to in the book. Still, though, I find a lot of it to make sense and be very realistic.
The way they describe Beauty being weaned from his mother and not understanding what was going on. Beauty's description of the process of being broke to ride.
The way he describes things make it seem as though he appreciated the good people in his life and kind treatment.
The Horses Instincts
In the book, there are many examples of how Beauty's instinct's told him immediately if he had fallen into the hands of a good person or a bad person.
This is very true to life. Since horses can read our energy so well. They can tell by our body language and mannerisms. Beauty describes this many times describing the way his good owners acted and how his not so great owners handled him.
Though they cannot reason about it. They can't think to themselves " oh no, this person is bad, I wish I was with my old owner". They perceive things very well at the moment that they are happening, so do I believe a horse can tell the difference between a kind handler and an unkind one? I sure do.
Do Horses Really Want To Please People?
In the book and movie, Black Beauty, there are many examples of when Beauty was trying hard to please his rider or handler. He was loyal to a fault and tried to please his good handlers, and did the bare minimum he had to do without complaining about his bad owners.
He even allowed himself to be abused by bad owners. Leaving him skinny and his knees scarred. Do I believe that a horse will try and please a person? Yes, I do. If we are good horsemen and women and treat them well, I believe that they will do their best to be obedient.
As far as horses allowing themselves to be abused the way Beauty did, I'm not so sure. He allowed himself to have his head yanked up, and to be whipped and whipped to a point of exhaustion.
Not that horses are not abused, because it certainly does happen. The thing that I think isn't quite right is that he didn't put up a fight. For example, if any of those things were done to my horses they would have reacted badly. When push comes to shove they are bigger than us, and they don't have to do anything they don't want to do.
Generally speaking though, yes, I believe that in my experience a horse that is well handled will want to please its owner and handler. I have felt like I have "bonded" with some of my horses, not with all of them. Not that I don't love them or I wasn't successful with them, some horses are just more aloof and don't have the interest in connecting on that level.
All horses will "join up" which is a process used to communicate that you are the horse's leader by using the body language horses use with each other in the wild. That is establishing leadership though, that is a totally different thing. Just because you have established leadership over a horse it doesn't mean that they will try to please you, even in times they don't understand.
Black Beauty Movie Trailer
A Horse's Disposition Can Be Ruined By Bad Handling
I'm referring to Ginger, Beauty's friend in the book and movie. She was beautiful, but mean-tempered because she had never been well treated.
I don't think that many horses are born mean or aggressive. There are good and bad in horses, just like people or anything else. The majority of horses who are bad-tempered, I believe are this way because they lack trust in people.
Anyone will tell you horses learn bad things faster than they learn good things. If a horse is handled roughly or mistreated for a long period of time, it can most definitely make the horse lose its trust in people and become mean tempered. Like Ginger was in the story.
This part of the story I believe is true to life.
Ginger and The Bearing Rein Scene
Do Horses Recognize Each Other After A Long Time Apart?
According to Black Beauty they do. I have not found this to be the case. I can think of multiple times where horses have been moved away from each other. To cross paths again later and act as they have never seen each other before.
My horse Kemerton, met my friend's horse, Buddy at a farm I was working at. They were the best of friends there. Eventually, they both ended up back here at my farm. I assumed it would be an easy transition, Kemerton and Buddy had been the best of friends.
I sure was I wrong! It was like they had never laid eyes on each other before. They hated each other, to the point they never learned to get along, and to this day still can't be turned out together.
I have had two mares that have been separated from their foals to be reunited with them again at other places years later that have not acknowledged that they recognized them in any way at all.
I have two horses in my barn that came from the same place. A friend of mines farm in Florida. They lived together, just the two of them for quite a few years. First, my sister in law got one, Cool, and a few years later I acquired Finnigan. I was excited for them to see each other again. They never showed any signs of acknowledging each other or recognizing each other at all.
So, I'm not convinced they have a great long-term memory for other horses. Especially when the mares don't even recognize their own foals!
Beauty sees Ginger Again, Gingers Death
Horses Being Aware Of Death
This I know for a fact is true to life. In the story of Black Beauty, he is separated from Ginger when they are sold on to different people. Later on, Beauty sees Ginger's dead body on a wagon going down the road. He recognized her and he mourned for her.
Horses understand the death of their herd mates, when they see them they understand. I have seen a mare have a stillborn foal that was obviously mourning its death. She didn't eat, she screamed and panicked when we carried the tiny little thing out of the stall.
I have seen the opposite too. Where it was like they didn't care at all. I had two horses, one mare and one gelding that were always together, the best of friends. Unfortunately, there was a terrible accident in the field, and the mare broke her leg and had to be put down. The gelding stood quietly with her and waited for the vet to come. After she was put down though, he just walked away like he didn't care, as nothing had happened. I was shocked!
I have heard stories from many horse owners about their horses mourning the loss of their herd mates. One could ask is it just because they are herd animals and they are afraid to be alone? Or is it really they are mourning a loss? I have seen and heard of examples that could go along with either theory.
Do Horses Recognize People After Long Periods Of Time?
I have two personal stories of where for me I did feel the horse recognized me after years apart.
One was my mare, who I had from the time she was just turned 3. I spent every waking moment with her for years. Competing in shows and then she was retired after an accident we had. She stayed at another farm as a broodmare. I did not get down to see her as often as I would have liked.
Every time I did though, she would trot up to me when I called her, even if she was far away across the field. She would stay with me and let me pet her and love on her for as long as I wanted to. I know for a fact she knew who I was, I could tell.
The other horse was the stallion that I was the groom for when I was a working student. I was obsessed with him. The sun rose and set for him and I treated him like a prince. He was my baby. He didn't get much interaction besides his owner riding him, and me taking care of him. He wasn't turned out with other horses for obvious reasons and though he wasn't a mean horse. People weren't really encouraged to go pet him for the simple fact he was a stallion.
He was in the very last stall in the barn and had a turn out of his own where he could see other horses and touch them over the fence but he never turned out with other horses.
I fed him, groomed him, tacked him up, cooled him out, wrapped his legs, blanketed him, groomed him at the shows... I even drove to the farm on weekends to turn him in and out when his owner wasn't around to do it and everyone else was afraid to.
I was super close to this horse. When I moved on from being a working student, the worst part was leaving him because he had been such a part of my life for those years.
He is gone now, may he rest in peace, but the times I did go back to visit him, it was like old times immediately. He knew exactly who I was. He would put his head over my shoulder and I would hug his neck while he scratched my back with his lips. He knew me, even after periods of times he recognized me.
It could just be because I fed them, I get that. Though, I would like to think it was a little more than that.
Do I think the end of Black Beauty is a little far-fetched when he sees Joe at the auction and tries to get his attention, of course, I do. I do truly believe though they recognize and remember people who they spend a lot of time with and treat them well.
Do Horses Really Get Passed From Home To Home That Much?
I would venture to say yes. When I think of the horses I have had in my life. I have never had a horse from birth to death. I have been the second person and only other person than the original owner for just a few of them.
The majority though have seen many owners before I got them. Often times, there is no way to even track them...if they are unregistered horses. You never know where a horse may have come from or who owned it.
A lot of times, as horses age and aren't able to work anymore they are sold. Sometimes responsibly to good homes who will care for them through death. Other times they are sent to auction and end up in not so good places.
When Beauty says the story of his life is the story of the people in it, that is because horses, in general, will meet a lot of people in the course of their lives. We can hope, that most of those they meet, are good ones. That they will find peaceful endings in loving homes.
Black Beauty Coming Home to Joe
The Wrap Up
Black Beauty will always be one of my all time favorite books and movies. As a kid, I loved it because it was about horses, and he was telling his story himself and that was awesome. As an adult, I love it still, for different reasons.
It puts into perspective the responsibility that we have to treat these animals well and give them the best life possible. They can't control whose hands they fall into... they are completely at our mercy. We should not take that lightly.
I don't. The story of Beauty's life was the story of the people in it... The story of my life is the story of the horses in it, funny how that goes isn't it?
Ellison Hartley (author) from Maryland, USA on October 01, 2018:
Thank you for reading my article. I can't watch the movie without crying! I think Black Beauty is a great book and anyone can benefit from reading it, whether they are into horses or not! Thanks again!
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 01, 2018:
I loved reading the book Black Beauty as a child and I can remember tearing up at certain points in the movie as well as the book. Your personal experiences with horses regarding their memories is interesting. I am in complete agreement that horses, as well as all animals, should be treated kindly.
Ellison Hartley (author) from Maryland, USA on September 30, 2018:
Ethel, I definitely think you are right about there being more opportunity for horses to be treated poorly when they were used in place of machines. The book was written at a way different point in history. None the less, I think it is fun to contemplate how much the horses understand and what their thoughts might be. Thanks for your feedback, I'm glad you enjoyed reading it, it was one of my favorites to write so far.
Ellison Hartley (author) from Maryland, USA on September 30, 2018:
Thanks so much for reading my article. I had fun writing it, I'm glad you enjoyed it.
Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on September 29, 2018:
I loved Black Beauty the book as a child. I think parts of it are possibly more true of the era. It was written in 1877 and times have changed. I am not really familiar with horses but know dogs recognise people even after time, possibly by smell.
Thanks for an interesting read Ellison
Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on September 29, 2018:
That was very interesting to read. I remember reading this book years ago. My mother has got 3 horses, and they are all beautiful.