The Scent of Coffee

Lunesdale Silver BelleI returned home from being gone for several hours, and I headed toward Lunesdale Silver Belle’s paddock to throw her some hay.  She met me at the fence as usual, and I blew into the nostrils she offered me in greeting as I usually do.  She immediately shook her head and blew out her nostrils, spattering my face.  I laughed and told her “That was new!”, and she shook her head and blew out her nostrils again.  Obviously she didn’t like my breath!

Just before I came into Ellie’s presence, my husband had asked me to get him a cup of coffee in his to-go cup.  I had sipped a bit of it to make sure it was hot enough for his trip, and I could still feel its aftereffects in my mouth.  I don’t drink coffee, so it isn’t something Ellie would normally smell on my breath.  Perhaps it was the coffee that bothered her in our breath exchange.

A study from a university in Brazil has documented the effects of coffee on horses, or more specifically coffee husks which were used as bedding.  “In the first 12 hours of the study, the horses were not particularly interested in the husks, but after eating just a few they quickly developed a preference for them over hay.  Within 48 hours, all the horses developed a number of signs consistent with caffeine overload, including excitability, restlessness, excessive sweating and increased heart rates.  Bloodwork taken 56 hours after the horses were bedded with the husks revealed levels of caffeine nearly 25 times higher than levels considered toxic.” (1)  All the horses returned to normal when access to the coffee husks was removed, “although the researchers note anecdotal reports of horses dying after prolonged exposure to coffee husk bedding.” (2)

Ellie’s reaction to my coffee breath reminded me of this study and its findings.  Ellie is one of my fell-born ponies, and this isn’t the first time I’ve wondered if fell-born ponies are indeed different from other Fell Ponies.  Ellie has shown before that she has an ability to detect things that aren’t good for her.  Her immediate and unmistakable response to the smell of coffee certainly made an impression on me (and especially my face!)  Coffee isn’t usually a part of my diet, but I’ll certainly be more careful in the future about having any on my breath when I greet Ellie nose to nose!

  1. Barakat, Christine and Mick McCluskey.  “Too much coffee?”, Equus magazine, issue 415, April 2012, p. 17.
  2. Same as #1.

© Jenifer Morrrissey

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Breeder of Fell Ponies, teamster of work ponies, and author of Feather Notes, Fell Pony News, and A Humbling Experience: My First Few Years with Fell Ponies. Distributor of Dynamite Specialty Products for the health of our planet and the beings I share it with.
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