A country doctor’s experience shows that horses have a sense of humour and love fun. The country doc is expected to go whenever called rain or shine, heat or cold, night or day; sometimes, perhaps, leisurely, but often as quickly as possible. Through all this his horse and himself are constant companions and share together the joys and sorrows of the road. It is not strange, therefore, that an attachment of more than ordinary intensity often springs up between them, during which the man notes the almost human qualities of the horse. - Daily Examiner, June 8, 1897.
From boyhood, the doctor knew a couple of horses of much humour and intelligence and he always talked to them and trusted them accordingly. Old Ball, a fine animal who lived on a neighbouring farm was a horse of good size and especially fine head, with heavy neck and shoulders. He had done a great deal of farm work in his time, but was now too old for anything but occasional light services, so he usually had the range of a pasture in front of the house, that reached up to the yard fence. There were cattle and sheep in the same pasture.
Old Ball was noted for his cunning and clever tricks, such as opening gates and doors, pulling down bars and the like, but no one suspected him playing practical jokes on sheep when one after another was found on the wrong side of the fence. It was by his antics and evident delight whenever a sheep was not found he attracted attention. A watch was made, and soon, when Old Ball thought no one saw him, he slyly picked up a sheep by the wool with his teeth and dropped it over the fence. Then, going away some distance, he anxiously waited, evidently watching for someone to come out of the house. As soon as he saw the sheep was discovered he gave a snort and began to run and kick up his heels with delight.
Sometimes he would steal articles and hide them, evidently just for the fun of the thing. One day a heavy maul, such as is used for splitting rails and wood, was left so near the fence he could reach it. When he supposed no one saw him, he took the maul up with his teeth, carried it to the farther side of the field, carefully hid it behind the stump of a tree, and then watched the result. This time he had been seen carrying the maul away, so the men made great ado, pretending to be hunting for it, looking in the fence corners and behind stumps, while Old Ball was running, snorting and kicking up his heels with unbounded delight. Whenever they approached the maul, he tried to attract their attention to some other point.
While I was engaged in the practice of medicine my horses have had no opportunity to perform tricks like these, but many times I had seen exhibitions of intelligence and humour no less marked. I knew many horses that showed a good degree of humour as well as intelligence, but for good sense my horse, Frank, was superior to any other. When he first came into my possession, he had the habit of frequently throwing his head up, and, as his bridle was somewhat loose, the brow band would sometimes lodge upon his ear. Whenever this happened, I would stop him, get out of the buggy and replace it. He soon learned to throw the band up whenever he would like to stop and be petted a little.
One day, as I was driving along at a slow trot over a smooth, lonesome road, I dropped the reins over the buggy apron and was becoming interested in the reading of a newspaper when Frank suddenly stopped. I looked all around and over him, but could see nothing wrong, so I said, with some emphasis, Get up, Frank! But he still stood and kept throwing his head up and down. As I sat there with the paper in my hand I looked again, and especially to the bridle, but saw nothing wrong. I now, without taking up the reins, took the whip, and giving him a sharp cut, repeated my command to go along. This undeserved punishment nettled him very much, but still he would not move forward. Somehow, he had slyly unfastened the reins. When I got out to refasten them, Frank squealed with excitement. I never heard him squeal before, but now he not only squealed, but shook his head, pawed the ground and manifested his delight by every means he could command.