The Smell of Horse

By Patty Wilber

I left a little fold up umbrella on the counter last week and it got stuck in a sweatshirt that I took to the barn.  I put on the sweatshirt when the wind picked up,  but left the umbrella down there  a day or two before I remembered to bring it back to the house.

I put in in my backpack.

I took it out at work and holy cow!  It smelled like the barn, big time (or powdered horse poo more likely.)

The smell of horse!

I also went to California last weekend for Thanksgiving and  I noticed  how different it smells in the San Francisco Bay Area ( greener and like flowers and fog) compared to the East mountains of New Mexico (Pinon trees if it rains! Sharp dry and dust if not).

I grew up in Livermore, California.  When I go to visit, despite the fact I have lived in NM longer than I lived in Livermore, Livermore smells like “home”.

The smell of roasting green chiles in September is the scent of New Mexico for some.

It turns out the nose detects odors (oh you knew that part already?)! –here’s the cool thing– Once detected, the olfactory nerve routes signal into the limbic system of the brain before the cortex knows about it.

Yeah that was interesting. Or not.

What this means is the smell triggers emotion (the limbic system) before it gets to the thinking part of the brain (the cortex).

This is why smell can make you cry! Or laugh!  Or remember your first kiss.   Different people prefer differing odors based on their experiences. (That’s interesting isn’t it?).

Not a fan of the smell of tequila.  Bet you can figure out why all by yourselves!

The tang of dry grass reminds me of summer in Livermore and the summer meant horses. Neat how I got back to horses, eh?

Here are some  horse smells:

Manure.  Most horse folks agree they kind of like that smell.

Horse pee (on your shoes in winter), which you can’t smell until you go to the movie theater and it warms up.  Most people agree they could do without that one.

The scent of a horse.

Horses of different colors smell different.  I just looked it up and several people agree but no one knew why. Has to be related to metabolism and enzymes function, which is a result of differing genes. Gray horses and Palominos (especially wet Palominos) smell similar to me.  I don’t think I can tell my horses apart by their smells, but I bet some people can do that!  Our sense of smell apparently peaks at around age 8, so kids should be best at the Smell that Horse game.

Leather.  (and whips…lol). Neat’s foot oil.

Sweaty horse saddle blankets. (yuk).  Mule folks claim mule saddle blankets don’t stink.  Or at least not as bad.

Winter blankets.  Buckshot’s  (the stallion) blanket definitely smelled musky–testosterone?

That black gunk in the bars of their feet.

That is one big foot!

Hay! Alfalfa!  K31! Orchard grass!

I think the smell of the horse itself is my favorite, but that horse-y manure smell of my umbrella was pretty good.

What is your favorite horse smell?




About BlogPatty

Here's the skinny: I have a thing for horses. They make sense to me. I have a small horse training business (it's a "boutique" training business, not because it's super fancy, but because the horses get a lot of personal attention). I also go by Dr. Wilber, and teach biology full-time at a Central New Mexico Community college.
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7 Responses to The Smell of Horse

  1. suzette says:

    you are so right about smells bringing out emotions. The smell of a horse always reminds me of my grandma’s which is a very special memory! Have a great weekend! See you monday

  2. Sue Farrell says:

    For me there’s nothing like the smell of a beagle puppy. Maybe all puppies smell the same, but I’ve only had beagle puppies–so that smell is just wonderful to me.

  3. Sherry Meagher says:

    The smell of horse is in my house just about every night… where that boy has left his shoes/boots and pants!

    One smell that I really like is the smell of newly cut hay. Ah, that takes me back! The last time I went home (upstate New York), there were fields of hay that had just been mowed. Wow!

    Patty, you’re right about the smell of pinon after a rain. When it’s raining, I want to be home. Wet pinon trees smell much better than wet concrete!

    Good luck in Las Cruces!

  4. Sharon says:

    I agree with Sue concerning soft little beagle puppies. And clean cat feet smell good too. An old cowboy I know told me that gray horses have a bad smell to predators, and a dead one is no good for coyote bait because they won’t touch it. I know Luci’s gray mare stunk when she got wet down for a bath.

  5. Patty says:

    Hi everyone! I was away all weekend in Las Cruces at an ACTHA event –talk about the smell of dust!

    My cat’s feet always seem to have the scent of kitty litter…

    That is very interesting about the gray horse being lousy coyote bait! Makes sense to me though!

    My mom always made me leave my barn shoes outside–mine stunk from manure and foot sweat. It was a nasty combo.

  6. Laurie says:

    I haven’t been around horses for YEARS (darn!), yet I dreamed I was brushing a horse a couple of nights ago and I could SMELL that horse. It was a lovely smell and it made me homesick. Weird, eh?

  7. Patty says:

    Hi Laurie–that is a nice story. Kinda gave me goosebumps for some reason!

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