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Today we tell the tale of a remarkable young woman who believes her horse knew she was gravely ill – and hammered the point home by ejecting her out of the front door twice in the space of a week.  

It was only when Libby Dodes was rushed to hospital to be x-rayed for a suspected fracture that medics realised her pain was actually due to a huge tumour in her abdomen.

While it might be easy to dismiss the timing of the fall and the medical diagnosis as coincidence, this is not the first time that animals – and indeed, horses – have been credited with detecting illness and disease.

In fact, numerous scientific studies provide compelling evidence that animals can sniff out problems that only tests can reveal to humans.

Dogs are probably the best example of this and their disease detecting skills are well documented. In fact, dogs are now trained to smell several types of cancers, including melanoma, breast and gastrointestinal cancers as well as infectious diseases like malaria.

Elsewhere, the silky ant can identify the scent of breast cancer in urine; the African giant pouched rat sniffs out tuberculosis; honey bees recognise SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19; and there’s even a worm-like creature the size of a sand grain that has proved itself capable of detecting pancreatic and breast cancer cells.

While studies of horses recognising illness are few and far between, a quick Google search throws up a number of anecdotal experiences including the case of a woman whose horse kept nudging her breast with increasing intensity. After several weeks of this “uncharacteristic behaviour,” the woman went to her doctor who discovered tumours in that very same breast.

Of course, there will be sceptics, but isn’t there always? And isn't love also a mystery – and quite often a stranger to reasoned thinking – so why not believe?

Quite often these days we're told we should to listen to our horses more. Well, Libby might not have heard Coco’s concerns immediately, but she sure got the message in the end.

So, well done, Coco! And all the best, Libby!

  • To donate to Libby's Go Fund Me page click here.



The history of man and horse is a long and illustrious one, but sometimes this relationship can chart an especially brutal period in time. The story of the Ojibwe Horse is one example of this.

While it’s easy – and makes a lot of sense – to presume that modern life played a major part in driving this breed close to extinction, there were actually other more shameful factors at play.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, restrictions were imposed on the movements of Indigenous peoples in Canada, including the Ojibwe. These policies intensified with the implementation of the Indian Act of 1876, which granted the Canadian government extensive control over Indigenous peoples' lives, including where they could live and travel.

During this period of colonisation and the imposition of the reserve system, there were instances where Indigenous peoples' livestock, including horses, were confiscated or killed as part of efforts to control and subdue Indigenous populations.

Ojibwe Horses were referred to as "Indian Ponies" that were "small and worthless" for farming, something encouraged at the time. Larger stock was subsequently introduced, and the Ojibwe Horses were pressed into other uses. Nearly all were killed.

Today, the Indian Act remains in place and continues to govern Indigenous lives with ongoing impacts on First Nations cultures, economies, politics and communities. Many groups continue to work to address inequities built into the Act that have prevented generations of Indigenous people from receiving rights and benefits due to them.

Of course, this is not a story confined to Canada, and though it would be nice to believe we live in more enlightened times today, this remains a debatable point. However, news of another Ojibwe foal being born is a cause for celebration and hope.  So, let’s hang onto that hope. 


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