As you may have noticed, I've found the stallion episode in the movie Buck to be a source of much reflection.
I may be going out on a limb here, but I believe there's a place in our dealings with horses for righteous anger. These creatures are not cause-and-effect Pavlovian automata who ineluctably respond in such and such a way because of their treatment and training.
We live in a world where the creative principle is a preference for good over evil, order over chaos, life over death, health over disease, cooperation over conflict, love over hate. Every living being knows this, and although all are caught in a web of necessity where death and destruction must be tolerated or even meted out, none are satisfied with this condition. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail until now. (Romans 8:22)
There is a community of morality (as it were) which subsists, not only among humans, but among all creatures, and especially among creatures who live together ostensibly in friendship, such as humans and horses.
When a horse steps radically outside of that community, one can treat him like a passive conglomeration of species-specific characteristics, shaped by experiences, and powerless to direct his own life. "This horse is this way because he has never been taught respect, etc."
Or one can say, "Damn it, you bastard, I hate you, what did I ever do to you? So what if you're all so instinctive and quick, I can't help it if I'm a measly pathetic human and stupid as well, and I don't care what anyone did to you in the past, that doesn't give you the right to turn around and terrify others." And then you can throw things at him and shout a lot. Which is not in the least tiny bit like the 2x4 treatment.
No one got angry at the colt when he attacked the cowboy. It was all, "Well, no wonder, there you go, that's what happens when you have a horse like that." Say you were a criminal who had been orphaned and then raised by a gang on the streets and taught that aggression was a virtue and retribution a duty - what if you then murdered a boy because he was wearing the wrong colors and looked at you wrong. Who's telling more truth - the person who says, "Well, there's no way he could do any better, he's a dud because of his background - it would be kinder to execute him"? Or the person who rages, "How could you? How could you kill my son who never harmed you? Would you like it if I killed you? You have destroyed my life!"?
I'm making the claim that horses understand righteous anger. And maybe they understand an angry person a lot better than they do people who seem to go randomly from calm to predatory, from fearful to hostile, from passive to controlling. We are not angry with our prey, only with our fellows.
I'm saying that, for all their terrifying strangeness, horses occupy the same moral sphere as we do. And by "moral," I don't mean a set of rules - I mean our shared inheritance of a world fallen from paradise, and a shared desire to in some way, as much as possible, return there.
I absolutely don't blame anyone for not taking on responsibility for the horse in the movie. I would not be willing to do so. But it's an eye-opener to me to see how profoundly that horse was treated as a mere product of its circumstances - how there was no expectation that an appeal could be made to something inside the horse, something which has nothing to do with training or usefulness. If that horse had to be destroyed, as it did unless someone was willing to make it a huge priority in their life, then please don't let him go down as a "good little horse" manqué, but as a brilliant, misguided, desperate criminal who could have been a contender.
That horse got me rattled about George again. I was out feeding last night, and George - who gets very bent out of shape about food when it's cold and wet - was crowding me. I didn't like the way he was acting and told him so. I may have stamped my foot. I said, "Why don't you go vent your frustration by chasing the mares like usual?" So he did. And I was given space and peace to put his food in his bucket.
Circumstances prevented that horse from amounting to much in his life, but through the movie, he'll reach many more people than if his life had gone smoothly. Perhaps he'll end up fulfilling his potential in this way.
One thing I've learned is that we're klutzy and clumsy and slow-witted, and that if horses give us a break, it's not because we've learned to be smart, it's that they've decided to be kind.