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Are These The World’s Most Talented Horses?

From horses that play soccer to ones that can count, these unbelievable animals are much more than one-trick ponies.

equine soccer
In equine soccer, or "hoofball," horses with riders on their baks kick a giant ball around and score goals. (equi-spirit-toys.com)

Like millions of television viewers in America, I’ve been hooked on more than a few reality talent shows in my day. The Voice? Yep. American Idol? The OG. The Sing-Off? I take most of the credit for the discovery of Pentatonix. There’s one thing that the winners of every season of every one of these shows has in common: They’re human. Sure, humans are talented—they can sing and dance and do magic tricks and make puppets look like they’re talking. But what about other mammals? That’s why I’d like to get in front of the reality show producers at NBC and pitch the sure-to-be smash hit of 2020: America’s Got Talent: Equine Edition. When they inevitably accept, I’ll be ready with this lineup of all-star horse contestants.

Shadow is a service horse that was trained at Paws 4 Life in Arizona.

At Your Service

You’ve seen service dogs helping out people with disabilities, but what about service horses? Revised regulations to the Americans with Disabilities Act now allow miniature horses to be individually trained and perform tasks for people with disabilities. For some, service horses are even preferred over service dogs, since they live longer (up to 35 years), are able to provide more stability for those struggling with mobility or balance issues, don’t shed or trigger allergies and are, generally, less hyper than dogs.

GOALLLLL!!!!

Natural horsemanship training often uses a large inflatable ball as a desensitizing tool, so when Wisconsin resident Terry Fenwick wanted a new way to keep horse training fresh and fun, he started America’s Equine Soccer League (AESL). Equine soccer, or “hoofball,” has the same rules as soccer, except it’s horses, with riders on their backs, who kick the ball around and score goals.

Clever Hans
“Clever Hans” could read his owner’s involuntary body signals to answer math problems.

Numbers Game

More than a century after it was proven that “Clever Hans,” the horse that could do math, was actually just reading the involuntary body signals of his owner to answer complex questions, a study has shown that horses, can, in fact, count. Well, at least to three. When researchers dropped apples one by one into two buckets—three in one, two in the other—they found that 11 out of 13 horses went for the bucket with more apples in it.

Justin is a Friesian horse from Indiana that loves to paint.

Horse On Canvas

A painter was born the day that Justin, a Friesian horse from Columbus, IN, took his owner’s whip and began drawing with it in the sand. His owner, Adonna Combs, encouraged him to pursue his passion by giving him a brush, paint and a canvas. The rest was history. Justin’s paintings are colorful, abstract works that incorporate sweeping brushstrokes and hoofprints. They’re available for purchase on artistichorses.com and range in price from $75-$800.

Natalie Moore
Natalie Moore

Natalie Moore is the managing editor at saratoga living.

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