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LUKAS GOES ON THE ROAD WITH GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS You Can Count on the World’s Smartest Horse! Walnut, California – Lukas (http://www.playingwithlukas.com), the World’s Smartest Horse (according to the World Records Academy) and Guinness World Record Holder (“Most numbers correctly identified by a horse in one minute: 19”), is currently being featured in the Guinness World Records “OMG! On the Road” series....

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Video du Jour: The world’s smartest horse? Meet Lukas, a 19-year-old off-the-track thoroughbred that the Guinness Book of World Records has declared “the smartest horse in the world.” Lukas is able to count, identify different numbers and shapes, spell his owners’ names, and perform various tricks. On June 16, 2010, he swept the Guinness record for “Most Numbers Identified By a Horse In One Minute”–he...

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Lukas and Louis Vuitton World’s Smartest Horse in Prestige Magazine News Flash – Paulick Report, Abundant Hope, Discover Horses, Good Relationships, Relaxed Horsemanship, That’s Really Wild, Equilink Times, Horsealacious, Just Equus, Equine Chronicle, Happy News, My Horse, Equine Welfare Alliance, Horse and Friends Radio Walnut, California – Lukas, the World’s Smartest Horse (according to...

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Lukas Has Plenty to Smile About World’s Smartest Horse Grabs a Guinness   Walnut, California --- Lukas (http://www.playingwithlukas.com), the World’s Smartest Horse (according to the World Records Academy) and Guinness World Record Holder (“Most numbers correctly identified by a horse in one minute: 19”), has been featured in Caters! Caters news is the United Kingdom’s leading independent photo...

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Who is That Masked Horse?

Category : Written Words

Lukas Reveals His Secret Identity

 

“How on earth do you get Lukas to wear all those costumes, Karen?” Up until now, only Lukas’ closest friends know how this is done. Foot-long reindeer antlers, bobbing clovers that read “Kiss me, I’m Irish,” a full-size sombrero with a matching chili necklace, a hot water bottle (a big favorite the day after New Year’s Eve), floppy Easter ears with a matching flower boa, a wide-brimmed straw hat and hula skirt, a cowboy hat and bandana tied loosely around his nose with the caption “Hand over the carrots and nobody gets hurt,” and many more. Even more remarkable because I was told by the lady I bought him from that I’d never be able to get close to his ears. An odd objection, you might think – why would he care about his ears? Unfortunately, a common cruel practice by racehorse handlers and incompetent trainers is twisting a horse’s ears to obtain compliance – a very short-term and ineffective measure, to say the least. A horse’s ears are incredibly sensitive and delicate. Soft and fuzzy to keep out bugs and debris, they’re independently mobile to focus on a sound and screen out background noise to detect danger. From the first day, I talked to Lukas in a conversational manner – low murmurs and comforting drawn out reassurances – the way horse friends chat.

Figuring that fun and children go together and that laughter is a great healer, I chose costumes to represent the happy and playful side of animals. Since Lukas always wanted to do what I did, I tried on the outfits first and modeled them while doing chores so he’d get used to them. “Look, Lukas, isn’t this a cool hat? I bet you’d look soooo handsome wearing it. Let’s have a look, buddy.” Within minutes, he’d insist on parading around and showing off his handsomeness. With this, I always kiss him on the velvety spot between his nostril and upturned mouth – warm and fragrant like a furry flower.   I’ve always preferred stalls on the outskirts of boarding properties for obvious reasons – the back row suits us just fine. One day I happened to be cleaning out Lukas’ stall and I heard, “Hello, anybody home?!” Forgetting I was wearing a Halloween hat, I emerged from around Lukas. “Oh! Um! Never mind!” was her startled reaction. “I can ex –“ Too late, she had already ducked around the corner. I felt the headband with the tall felt witch hat and yellow pigtails sticking straight out from the side of my head and couldn’t stop chuckling. I heard later that she was a prospective boarder who had inquired about a stall “anywhere but the back row.”

The back row fence of our stall bordered a rarely used public equestrian path. One day Lukas was on his pedestal close to the trail – I’d had in mind to teach him to smile and salute at the same time. As I cued with both hands, the breeze picked up and I looked up just in time to see the panicked eyes of two trail horses and their stunned riders. I was wearing a jingling court jester’s hat with bobbing curlies and bells on each tip. To complete the ensemble I had on a purple, gold, and lime green feather boa (for Mardi Gras). The breeze made the boa whip about and the little jingles chime. The last I saw of them were their back-sides skittering away from us as fast as possible.

A very dignified place, we kept our antics under cover …for the most part. Except for Lukas’ birthday, he struts around noiselessly in his costumes and peers at me under the hat brims with a voluntary grin. “I’m the most handsome of all; you can kiss me now.” Once a year, he’s allowed a noisemaker on his birthday. As I pull it out of the bag, he chomps eagerly, “This is mine, all mine – bring it here!” Looking around to make sure no one is nearby, I hand it over. Ahhh, squeak, squeak, mmmm, sqEEEaak! He grinds it in rhythm as I sing “Happy Birthday” to him, and his eyes glaze over in deep contentment.

Lukas’ adventures can be seen at:  http://playingwithlukas.com

By Karen Murdock

Lukas Snaps

Category : Written Words

Lessons from the World’s Smartest Horse

And so I snapped. What’d he expect? The same boring drills every day. And no sooner did I get something right than he’d turn around and want more. This so-called trainer who never so much as hummed or looked for a little spot that needed a rub or two. Just like at the racetrack – no matter how much you gave it was never enough.  Why wouldn’t he go away and leave us alone? Karen and I were so happy without him and all of his ridiculous tactics that he tried to foist on me. Bending, he calls it! Like I can’t reach my own hock clear behind me to bite a fly already and I need his help to flex me? I think not. I don’t need to be pushed around; I’ll gladly cooperate for reasonable requests. Why couldn’t he see that? Some people look only as far as their egos.

To snap. This is a very serious condition for animals. We are taught from birth to keep our wits about us and not lose control. Even wild horses feint and simulate attacks to prevent injury. It’s risky to go all out in a confrontation – wounds and broken bones make us prime targets for hunters. Usually, animals are able to settle disputes civilly through threats and bluffing – no sense getting all banged up for nothing. Oh, I’d heard about the dire effects of snapping – wild horses running off cliffs from panic when chased by helicopters, stallions that refused to be contained in “holding pens” and impaling themselves on wooden fence stakes while trying to escape.

The last thing I remember is the flick of the whip and his telling Karen that I needed to be “more supple and engaged.” I never meant to fall. Besides snapping, falling is a most hazardous event for horses – we aren’t safe sprawled on the ground and all that weight crashing down is dangerous. But everything went blank and the next thing I knew my foot was caught on the pole. Ordinarily this wouldn’t pose a problem as horses jump over seven feet with air to spare. The angle – I was bent all right, crooked as a sidewinder – and my rage made it impossible to catch myself. I hit the ground hard and I heard the so-called trainer swear at me. All I could think about was getting away.

Running is something they can never take away from us; it’s all I had left now.  And so I ran, blindly and wildly around the arena dodging jumps and hands grabbing for my reins. Past startled riders trying to steady their frightened  mounts. I could see the alarmed look in their eyes as I careened past them. A mixture of pity and horror – a traitor to the serious atmosphere and submissive monotony. Surrounded, I stood trembling in a corner and the so-called trainer reached me first. I had been the only horse to ever unseat him and I braced myself for the confrontation I knew was coming.  All eyes on us now, everyone awaiting the clash.

The blow was not the worst I’ve felt. I’ve probably rubbed and accidentally thwacked myself harder than the so-called trainer could swing. It was the hatred and indignity of it – the black emotions behind this slap in the face. That I was a thing to be used and punished – dealt with like an object. In that moment my mind shut closed. All that I had thought before was gone. In a haze I could see Karen stride up and take the reins from his hands, felt her slide her hands over my legs to check for injuries as she motioned for him to follow us. Still shaking and gasping for breath, I wobbly went with her back to the barn.

“We are done,” she simply said to him. The so-called trainer gave me one last look of disgust and nodded, “I understand.” What would happen next?  I was too numb to celebrate and too weary to care.

By Karen Murdock

http://www.playingwithlukas.com

The Seasons

Category : Written Words

According to Lukas, World’s Smartest Horse

 

I’d give up a week’s worth of carrots to have a pair of hands right now. Just to scratch that spot on my back that’s been driving me crazy for the last 4 hours. The seasons mean more to us horses than bright scarves, new windshield wipers, the dreaded swimsuit ordeal and turning the clocks this way and that. As the days get shorter and cooler, our internal switch flips and things start to change inside us. Our coats become thicker and darker – no longer the sleek, flat look of summer and we look bundled up in our own hair. As a California horse and a Thoroughbred, I am spared a wooly mammoth likeness, however it is still an itchy and annoying mess come springtime.

Karen, my owner, does her best to help with the shedding – a pumice to pull and scrape the old clumps of fuzz away from my skin, a soft brush to rid me of its prickly presence, and smoothing with my terry towel to regain the plush shine. I often wish people knew about the importance of the seasons and how our lives mimic nature. The exuberant romping in fields during the high-spirited spring of youth, excitement and newness around every tree that is typical for this time of birth. While summer resembles the bursting exhilaration of adulthood, families and careers – relishing the seemingly infinite abundance. As fall enters our lives, we reflect and ripen – perspective and contemplation take precedence. Winter brings an individual acceptance and realization that our significance is dependent on the fulfillment of our personal destiny’s duty. Not some vague general “meaning of life” concept removed from reality, but a private culmination of countless small daily choices that produces the worth of our lives.

To distract myself from the incessant desire to scratch myself, I hang my whiskered chin over the stall door to watch the world. I take in the fervent activity around me – plump squirrels with stuffed cheeks, bumblebees intently rushing from one spot to another, butterflies and hummingbirds heralding the arrival of yet another blooming bush, and buds that whisper, “Soon, Lukas, very soon, things will change again.”  Unbelievably another birthday has come and gone. All Thoroughbreds become a year older on January 1st – to keep the age groups easily defined for race conditions, though Karen waits for my actual birthday, January 17th, to celebrate with carrot cake. I try very hard not to think about birthdays and what they mean.

The property where I now live is bordered with magnificent towering trees. Not just any kind of trees, Karen tells me, but her favorite, pine trees. It reminds her, she tells me, of a faraway place where she grew up. And almost before I can see it come and go, a look crosses her face that makes me want to cry. According to scientists, the only land mammal that sheds “real tears” are elephants; the poor things have it rough, I’ve heard. Dolphins and crocodiles are also given this distinction for water mammals by some accounts. “Tear duct cleansing” is what they call what horses do – deeming us not capable of the big five: anger, fear, worry, grief and joy. These are too complex for such simple creatures, it is claimed. Yet, new research shows that fish and even plants experience these to some degree. Aah, the folly of egotistical scientific theories. The only thing that stops me from bawling is Karen. She smiles at me, like she always does, and asks me if I want to go for a walk.

Walking with Karen – this is what I live for. Everything about it still thrills me.  And so begins our special game, so touching and familiar it’s almost embarrassing to give the details here. Karen carefully buckles my halter so it doesn’t pinch my skin – the leather so supple and well-fitting. “Oh, how handsome you are!” Karen never fails to exclaim as I nod in agreement so I can hear her laugh. A kiss completes the ritual and I feel like a fresh colt again. The first step into the sunshine when I take a huge breath that reaches down to my hooves – even the air is better out here! – celebrates the exploits awaiting us. This trip leads us along the path under the pine trees – a lacy canopy of branches above us and cushiony needles under our feet that make muffled crackling noises as we amble along. Pungent aromas from decades of decomposing layers mingle with the fragrant scent of wild honeysuckle patches climbing on the ancient winding fence. Lost in our thoughts yet still linked together, our steps fall into a matching rhythm and even our breathing follows a similar pattern. Out here on the trail with the breeze to soothe us and the birds serenading lyrically, there is nothing between us and we are recharged once again.

Four hawks nest in these trees and they float high above us scanning the fields for meals while calling for each other like children searching for their playmates. If you believe in legends (as all horses do), hawks symbolize strength and vision, and according to Native American lore they represent interconnectedness and reverence for life. Occasionally, we are treated to a fabulous aerial display of sensational swoops and seemingly motionless hovering – straight up and down with dizzying speed, sometimes so close their wings appear to touch and other times in a symmetrical loop balanced to a feather. Often, we notice that their flight has less to do with looking for food than the absolute pure joy of soaring together. When Karen and I are very still, completely absorbed with the spectacular scene, time melts away and we can glimpse into blissful eternity.

It was during one of these magical outings that I finally understood birthdays and what they mean. Karen’s love for me has given me a way to see and understand many things, and in the process, I also became more aware of feelings and developed a broader range of emotions and experiences than is typical for most horses. While this deepened bond will no doubt cause much pain upon parting, what will make it easier to bear is the precious closeness we now share and hold dear. Had it not been for our miraculous convergence and unusual combination, birthdays would only mean the passage of time rather than treasuring each and every moment together. The honor and gift of real tears comes from the depths of true love.

 

By Karen Murdock

Photo: Linda Walton

http://www.playingwithlukas.com

http://equinewelfarealliance.org

How Lukas Rolls

Category : Written Words

On the Road with the World’s Smartest Horse

Early on, we were fortunate to find an excellent horse transportation company.  Chuck Erb, the owner-operator, is just what Lukas likes: steady, friendly and fastidious.  Chuck’s massive truck pulls a trailer that can accommodate eight horses plus equipment. Chuck always makes sure, though, that Lukas travels privately with a box stall for him to move around in. Even so, the first trip we took together involved some, um, discussions. As is customary, wooden rails were attached to the ramp leading up to the stall area for safety – a hoof might slip off and a horse could fall. After securing the heavy mat and rails to the ramp, Chuck allowed Lukas to examine the set-up. Lukas firmly planted his feet and no amount of convincing could entreat him to even touch the rails. “Come on, Lukas,” I said, “you’ve done this a bunch of times before; we’re just going for a ride,” I pleaded. After numerous circles and refusals, I had a hunch. “Can we take the rails down and see if it makes a difference?” Sure enough, Lukas proudly marched right up the ramp as if he were entering a ritzy party. He seemed satisfied that we understood that he certainly did not need “training rails” to keep him in place. On every subsequent trip, he made a point of pausing at the ramp edge to assess the entire presentation and to emphasize that he could indeed do without any type of guidance. According to Chuck, Lukas travels like a dream – hardly moving or shifting – as if content in the expectation of exploring new territory.

Many animals are upset by big changes, but in all of our travels and moves Lukas wasn’t bothered a bit by this. I always informed him about our relocations beforehand, and as soon as he sees his stall signs coming down he knows the routine.  Since he doesn’t get attached to neighbors or other people, it becomes a matter of ensuring his comfort. New homes are carefully cleaned and scrutinized for sharp objects, rough surfaces and lumpy spots. My husband Doug and I usually spend two days readying each new residence of Lukas’: decomposed granite tamped down at a certain slope for optimal run-off, mats cut to exact size both in and out, fresh water outside and inside, a new feed tub, thick shavings banked (piled) up on all sides, his mirror hung at a particular angle (for wider viewing), name plate, menu and contact information for emergencies along with painted plywood surrounding the outer yard.  From our first trip, I promised Lukas that I would always be waiting for his arrival at each new home, and as soon as he’s munching hay in the trailer I speed off in my car. As soon as the horse trailer enters the unfamiliar driveway, I return his searching call with my whistles. Until he sees me, he keeps calling: UUUHUHuhuhuhuhuhu – a plaintive whinny that starts out loud and high pitched and dwindles to a little whining sound.

Released in his new home, Lukas scans the area and checks his yard. A deep whiff of air to take in the neighborhood scents, a roll in the shavings and he’s settled in, just like that.

Lukas’ adventures can be seen at http://www.playingwithlukas.com

By Karen Murdock

Lukas and the Dandelions

Category : Written Words

I hate weed-whackers. Not only because the horrid noisy contraptions spray rocks and dirt clods in every direction, sometimes even hitting me if I can’t get away quickly enough. I hate them for an even worse offense. My favorite activity is grazing and, for my palate, there are three levels of flavor: plain grass which has a common unvarying taste that satisfies when the others aren’t available, clover which is a considerable step up though is hard to find during some times of the year and the last is stuff of my dreams, the delicacy I scour the ground for: the dandelion. Disparaged as a lowly, pesky nuisance, nothing makes me happier than sinking my teeth into this tangy, delicious treat. What makes this so, you may wonder? We horses understand that grass is planted where people want it to go – a patch here for the yard, some over there to keep down the dust. Ah, but the dandelion – now there’s nature at its finest!

The glorious dandelion knows where the best soil is, where moisture is close, where the sun’s rays will hit to adequately bathe it in warmth, yet some afternoon shade will prevent scorching. And so the reason I hate the weed-whackers above all is their decimation of my beloved dandelions. Without regard, they fling the fuzzy heads in all directions as I watch in dejected sorrow. I take heart though knowing gleefully that the next wind will scatter my little gems for the rain to enliven them.

I once had the worst neighbor ever foaled in the world. The most awful four-legged creature you could imagine. A plain, surly fellow who found nothing better to do with his time than gnash his teeth toward me. It was reported to Karen by his aghast owner that I charged at this despicable character one day. I shamefully admit that I did do this – all right, with bared teeth and pinned ears – out of sheer exasperation. The very next day Karen had thirty bags of shavings delivered and set up between our stalls so I could be spared his offensiveness. I like to imagine that he has gone on to horse hell filled with whirring weed-whackers.

By Karen Murdock

Lukas’ adventures can be seen at http://www.playingwithlukas.com