In the comment thread of the previous post, Kris made the statement "Can't imagine the closeness you must experience on a horse."
That comment highlights something that I've noticed while riding horseback. I've experienced more, and closer, encounters with wildlife traveling on a horse, as opposed to hiking on foot. Deer, elk, and black bears seem to react differently to the horses . I've stared a blacktail deer down on the trail not 20 feet in front, while we both waited for the other to get off the trail. I watched a young bull elk parallel us on the trail. When riding in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness last September, we got closer to Mule Deer does and fawns than I would have ever imagined. Rather than getting spooked and hightailing it out of there, they would just watch us pass by. I did try to take several photos, but was rather amazed at how well they blend into there surroundings, as few off the photos turned out very well.
The black bear encounter was a bit unique. My nephew and I were riding on a logging road. Coming around a bend, we spotted a bear in the road, about 50 yds away. It was just watching us. As black bears can run very fast for a short distances, we stopped, dismounted, and unholstered our sidearms. After a few moments, the bear turned and ambled off the road. We waited a bit, and chose to walk past the area, leading the horses on a foot. Not two minutes past this sighting, we found another bear walking towards us. It initially showed no sign of stopping, which, I'm here to tell you, can get the adrenalin running. Suddenly he stopped, as if just noticing us, and twirling in a cloud of dust jumped off the trail. Encounter over.
Later on we were kicking ourselves for not getting photos. However, the cameras in our saddle bags were not in the forefront of our minds at the time.
Do wild animals react differently to the presence of horses than they do to lone humans? Or is it my imagination? Despite the fact that two legged varmints are still present, my experience, albeit it limited, leads to believe it is the former.
The other noteworthy fact is the reaction of my horse. He has never batted an eye during any of these encounters. This is the same horse that will jump sideways 10 feet sideways at the sight of a blue tarp or orange traffic cone. But he's not afraid of a bear? Go figure.