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In Great Britain a person who breaks horses is called a horse "gentler." Henry Blake is a 46-year-old farmer in Wales who, after a lifetime of gentling, has written a book called Talking with Horses. One section is a dictionary of horse English in which Blake has sorted out 47 messages and 57 submessages from snorts, whickers, whinnies, neighs, squeals and screams and a variety of accompanying horsey gestures.
"At first," says Blake, "I concentrated only on the sounds. Then I decided to write down the various messages and work out from observation how a horse conveyed them."
For instance, when a horse rubs you with his nose and whickers gently, or catches your shirt in his mouth and tugs, he is saying "I like you" or "I love you." In fact, according to Blake, horses have 30 different ways of expressing affection, which beats out most humans by at least 25. When two horses meet in a friendly way, "Who are you?" is expressed by a series of sniffs followed by gentle blowing. Harsher blowing means hostility or fear.
Another section of the book is devoted to how to act like a horse. Making a young horse feel secure, says Blake, is accomplished by approaching him slowly, blowing, then gently caressing his side with one's fingertips and, finally, placing one's hand and arm across his back and leaving it there. These movements, he says, simulate the meeting of two horses, their gentle nuzzling and, lastly, the familiar posture when they stand neck over withers.
Like most people who spend their lives near horses, Blake prefers them to humans. "Horses," he says, "are kind, honest, reliable and predictable. None of these virtues are found in human beings."
It was a big week for international displays of bad-tempered tennis. At the British Hardcourt Championships in Bournemouth, Patti Hogan hit a ball over the grandstand roof in anger at a linesman's call. Guillermo Vilas, Argentina's No. 1 player and the tournament's top seed, had to be ordered to finish his opening-round match after protesting a call in the first set. "Our Roger" Taylor, Britain's perennial favorite, walked off the court during a match with Manuel Orantes after three bad calls, and Ilie Nastase was disqualified by head referee Mike Gibson for "persistent arguing" of line calls during his quarterfinal match against Patrick Proisy of France.
Said Nastase, the roaring Rumanian, "I will not accept a bad call no matter how unimportant the point is. We are playing for money these days."
(One imagines Lenin spinning in his tomb.)