There been times I was rode cross-country and the wind’s shifted to where I can smell one of those smells that can make a horse nervous. Generally, it’s the stink of javelina-pigs, those beady-eyed varmints that will blindly charge after anythin that scares ‘em on account of they can’t see hardly anythin and they believe the best offense is a strong defense — a behavior that’s guaranteed to make almost every critter high-tail it in the opposite direction from ‘em. But sometimes, it’s big cats.
Big cats may, or may not, leave a horse alone. Mostly it’s may, and that’s mostly reassurin. But it’s best not to hang around to inquire of the cat how it’s feelin about horses that day. Big cats got big, powerful paws to grab at a horse, and also big, powerful teeth to eat a horse, plus they smell like somethin that eats horses, and they can run fast enough. I never met a horse that’s got eaten by a big cat, and, well, I guess now I couldn’t meet it if it’d already been ate, anyhow, could I? And I also never met a horse who’d been partially eaten. Nor attempted to be eaten. But, like all the colts back at the ranch where I was raised, I heard the stories. And like all horses, I know it deep down inside my own bones that there are some critters a horse ain’t meant to mess with.
Thusly, I can comprehend it when a horse gets a bit twitchy when the wind blows the wrong way and he gets a whiff of somethin cat-like. Only, it’s funny when the horse is my buddy Coors Light, and when the whiff of whiskers that set him to twitchin belong to a barn cat.
Coors Light don’t like barn cats. I don’t mean don’t like like he’ll drop-kick ‘em if they try to climb up his tail, which is reasonable even for a well-mannered ranch horse like me. I mean don’t like as in if our own bucket gal’s got cat scent on her hands, not even a actual cat actually IN her own hands, he’ll snort and back off from her like she herself was a mountain lion. Which she ain’t. Or if the horse prancin trainin lady’s got one on her lap while he’s engaged in a prancin lesson and he sees it, he’ll blow out through his nostrils and show it the white of his own eyes. It makes the prancin trainin lady laugh on account of Coors Light’s mostly near as bomb-proofed as me, despite the limitations of his birth and upbringin.
The main difference between a proper mountain lion-cat and a barn cat is a lion cat wants to call ya dinner and a barn cat wants to use ya for what the people call a jungle-gym and pretend to call ya dinner while also callin ya friend. Mostly barn cats want to be friends, though they have a downright pestersome way of showin it.
Maybe Coors Light’s twitchy on account of we ain’t never seen the actual barn cat around here, only smelled it, and it smells like plain ol’ cat to my nostrils, which is to say it smells like barn-cat kibble, not like it’s freshly grazed-upon horse flesh. Original Coors claims that it ain’t a barn cat at all, it’s a people-barn cat, and that’s why we never see it. He says he’s seen it sittin in the window of the people-barn, lookin out at us, and that it never gets let out to hunt neither pack rats nor horses. The only thing I need to know about the windows in the people-barn is, if it’s dark in the mornin, when the people-barn window flips on bright like the dawnin sun, it’s feedin time.
Or maybe Coors Light got mauled by a barn cat as a colt. And by mauled I mean maybe it swatted at him and scared him off all cats for life. There’s far sillier stuff a horse can fear, for far sillier reasons.
So in the meantime, in Coors Light’s Ayrab-horse mind, the invisible barn cat’s likely growed into a lion of legendary proportions. And I can’t deny it ain’t, myself. At least that’s what I like to convey to him, even though it generally ain’t funny nor good manners for a horse to poke fun at whatever may spook another horse, lest it set to spookin him, too.