Do you think your horse loves you?

honetpot

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So only humans have feelings such as love, grief, friendship?

How arrogant of us to think that.
I listened to a Radio 4 program today about human cat relationships and, there were several qualified experts who take part in behavioural studies, and they said conflict comes mainly when owners expect too much. Since cats have lived in homes for over 4000 years and horses until about 50 years ago were mainly work animals I do think people interpretations of equine behaviour are seen through what they would want, or do not want, which when you consider they are a herd herbivore, is asking for trouble.
A horse can feel unstressed and relaxed in your company, you hopefully are a source of food and protection from predators, even if they are only the man made kind. Its wise in survival terms to have something that gives you food and safety, and maybe scratch your favourite place, but love I don't think it's a concept they have.
I had a little mare that every gelding she met 'loved' her, they deferred to her knowledge and calmness, she made them feel safe.
 

smiggy

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Such a difficult question.
im a scientific person who works with animals and I get really cross when colleagues discuss conditioned responses and refuse to admit that animals have feelings. Of course they do, they might not have the romanticised versions of feelings that we imagine but they certainly feel happy, sad, scared and I would say love. How arrogant are we as a species to think that we alone experience emotion?
how many people would deny their dog loved them ? I know mine do and I know that they have loving and varied relationships with each other.
I don’t know that my horses love me but I hope they like me and they certainly do stuff to please me.
two of my mares really love each other. One was away for several years and when they were reunited it was like a Disney film. Now one of them is a loving auntie to the others foal, despite being the boss mare in a herd situation.
 

skint1

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Smiggy I believe you! My tb mare was away from the farm where her bestie lived for nearly 4 years and showed no signs of being bothered. When they were reunited I can only describe what I saw between them as real happiness. A cross word never passes between them and they are never far from each other. Don’t know what we will do when we lose one of them.
 

holeymoley

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I think he likes me more than other humans and he definitely knows that I’m his. He adores me when I’m making up feeds but absolutely hates me if I take too long or faff about when he’s hungry.

I have noted that he has a very bonded relationship with my husband though, he really likes him. Occasionally he will join us on foot hacking and my horse would much rather listen to him than me!
 

Illusion100

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Mine is slightly obsessed with me yes.

Won't let anyone near him unless he is in a routine with people he knows. Will refuse to be caught/rear or bolt with "strangers".

When I have been too unwell to look after him, at times it takes at least 2 people he knows to get him from a to b.

I've had calls to "come deal with my horse". Get there and he calms down immediately. Told to "go get my horse from field" because they didn't want to handle him.

He doesn't trust many. Always get a call from him when he sees me on way to get him from paddock, if he is too close to gate he circles to make sure me meets me a few seconds before I open gate.

In stable, he is very trusting with me. If others come in, he needs a headcollar on otherwise he will panic.

In short, a drama queen
 

SatansLittleHelper

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I don't know if horses feel "love" in the way we do but they definitely have deep affection for each other so I don't think it's too much of a stretch to think they can extend this to their human relationships..?? I think my boys "love" me in whatever capacity they feel...they definitely both "like" me alot and display deep affection.
 

Mule

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Nope, but he does welcome me when I bring him food. I have a retired horse who is very affectionate but I definitely wouldn't call it love.
 

windand rain

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Like others I am pretty sure its not the human version of love but they do connect to want to protect you Old girl saw me fall through the fence and came over pushed her head down to help me up. The naughty one follows me around even coming away from food to be with me (he is a pig usually) and is much nicer to me and his other human friend than anyone else. I guess if you consider love as the opposite as hate then yes because they sure can hate some people
 

DabDab

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Such a difficult question.
im a scientific person who works with animals and I get really cross when colleagues discuss conditioned responses and refuse to admit that animals have feelings. Of course they do, they might not have the romanticised versions of feelings that we imagine but they certainly feel happy, sad, scared and I would say love. How arrogant are we as a species to think that we alone experience emotion?
how many people would deny their dog loved them ? I know mine do and I know that they have loving and varied relationships with each other.
I don’t know that my horses love me but I hope they like me and they certainly do stuff to please me.
two of my mares really love each other. One was away for several years and when they were reunited it was like a Disney film. Now one of them is a loving auntie to the others foal, despite being the boss mare in a herd situation.
Absolutely. It's something that interests me so a few years back I had a trawl of scientific papers and there is little consensus, mainly because human definitions of emotions (or even the definition of emotion itself) are not widely agreed on. However, what is agreed on is that some animals certainly have much the same physiology as humans in terms of the bits that we know are responsible for human emotions. So they are theoretically capable of the same range of emotions as humans.

The real question is how much of what we call love is a natural human emotion, and how much is societal norm/training/whatever.
 

I'm Dun

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I would have always said no, but now I have a gelding when i have mainly only had mares and i would say its a yes or whatever the horse version of that attachment is, always happy to see me, will chase others off to be near me, affectionate, knows i am his person etc, not to do with food either as lived out most his life and food never came into the equation, if they were fed the herd were all fed together, never separately.
I have had since birth though so maybe something to do with that?
If I didn't have this horse i would have said a definite no for every other one i have had in my life.
This. I've had many horses over the years and only one that i felt had a really deep connection to me. My other two like me and trust me to care for them and never ask them to do anything they cant, but my old boy is different. Other people comment on it when they see him with me. I dont know if its love as humans think of it, but its as close as you can get.
 

scats

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Interestingly, if you asked me whether my dogs and cats love me, I’d say yes. Not sure why I feel like horses don’t have the capacity to ‘love’ if I’m absolutely certain cats and dogs can. Perhaps they can.
 

Rosietaz

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Don’t know about love. My riding horse “loves” me when I bring him dinner. My youngster follows me around the field like a dog. He gets jealous when I’m sorting the other horses out. At his first show I asked a friend to hold him so I could take his travel boots off and he got pretty upset thinking I was leaving him. Took the rope back and then was fine. Not sure if it’s love but I like to think that he sees me as a valued herd member!
 

Casey76

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I think it’s more a case of Stockholm syndrome. Initially the horse will do what we want to appease us, and as long as we bring food and water they become dependent on us as providers. Until, if we are lucky enough, they start to seek us out for affection.
 

Ellibelli

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This is a lovely video, but it looks to me like the donkey lives on its own without another donkey as a companion? I could be wrong of course and I hope I am. I think its often this kind of scenario that makes owners think their horses love them. I have a friend that keeps her horse on its own through the winter, but it has a companion in the summer. She says she prefers him in the winter as he is so pleased to see her.............. doesn't seem to care that the horse is miserable for the remaining 23 hours of each day!
 

Antw23uk

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No ... as proven this morning when i found him in the neighbours field after he jumped out of his own! who knew the bugger could jump ... im on his case now!! :)
 

Megan V1

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I don't know if they love me but my old mare I bred will always come to me and rests her head on my shoulder or nibbles my sleeves, she does not look at anybody else and would walk away if they walked towards her in the field. One of my minis is also very affectionate but she is the same with all people she just loves human contact.
 

throwawayaccount

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i'd like to say my mare loves me. since i've got her, we've been in and out of the vets and therefore she's had a lot of boxrest. i've spent a lot of time with her on the ground as a result, sometimes simply just sitting with her while i'm working or grooming, scratches, talking etc. after 2 months she was wrapping her head around my neck, pulling me close to her for cuddles. i'd say i'm relatively in tune with her, as i listen to her. for example, if i'm scratching her and she is enjoying it, i'll then ask her if she wants anywhere else scratched. and she turns around for me to scratch other parts, or she turns her head to knock where she wants a scratch, ie her leg, or she shoves her bum to me lol. when we are able to, we play in the field or the outdoor(before it got too deep and soggy) just walking around together, chasing each other etc. whenever she's in the field, i whistle her and she comes cantering up to me.
when i'm crying or upset, she lets me cuddle her and tries to make me laugh, ie tries to groom my hair, play with my glasses, my zips etc. she's very intuitive and has such a pure soul. i love her to pieces and would do anything for her. i tell her this about 5 times a day. i would say she understands :)
 

Asha

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id say some of them do show love. Im basing that on watching them behave naturally. So a mare gives birth , she loves and protects that foal, theres no disputing that . How does she show 'love' her ears are forward, she gently nuzzles foal and knickers to him/her. Do any of mine show this to me, some yes. Asha without doubt loves her daughter and grand daughter. She is always talking to them, ears forward happy to be in their presence. She does the same to me, as does Aria and even more so the foal Amara. These 3 are the first to come over and want interaction.
 

southerncomfort

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To be honest, I'm not sure it really matters to me whether my ponies love me or not.

You can love someone but not trust them and feel anxious when they are around.

On reflection I think I'd far that they trust me and feel relaxed in my company.

I think when you've had a horse from a young age and you have to ask them to put themselves in positions that would make them vulnerable to predators, that level of trust is truly humbling.

They don't acquiesce because they love us but because each time they've trusted us, nothing bad has happened and it increases their confidence in us.

If you have a horse that likes to be in your company, is relaxed and content and will trust you get them through an unfamiliar or worrying circumstances, do you need it to be based on love? I don't think I do.
 

Ambers Echo

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Dunno - have a go at defining what love is and I'll let you know 😉

There is a very deep sense of companionship between me and Arty, different to the others and to other horses I've cared for. I might be deluded and it is purely cupboard love but I'm pretty sure I'm not. Even with horses that are not her, I'm fairly certain that the relationship quite regularly runs deeper than 'this creature feeds me'.

One of the things I love most about horses is their emotional intelligence and their instinctive need/willingness to form (sometimes quite unconventional) relationships.
This!
Horses clearly form close bonds with each other and with other animals. Why not with people? I also think horses enjoy being with people who they feel secure and comfortable with, who they communicate well with and who they trust. Why should not not be considered 'love'.
 

Bernster

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Not sure I’d call it love but they def do get attached or feel some form of affection towards people. Not Finnegan - he doesn’t give a toss! But new boy seems much more cuddly and likes horses and people. I got my first wuffle last night 😍
 

Errin Paddywack

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My mare has finally decided she likes me, used to be very aloof but now I do get a nicker from her. I have had a very strong connection with a couple in the past but I don't think it was love on their part.
My great- grandfather was by all accounts a bit of a horse whisperer and he worked with a horse that would only be handled by him or he would put up with his eldest son. He was driving him one day and had a bad accident, head injury I believe. When found he was taken off to hospital and the horse followed. It then waited at the hospital until the son went and collected him. Story goes that he then basically starved himself to death. Great-grandad was very badly hurt and in hospital a year so my gran said so they never saw each other again. Horse was called Satan presumably because of his reputation. I guess that might be love.
 

Annagain

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I try not to anthropomorphise but I think when you send so much time with another being, it becomes inevitable.

I definitely think there's more to my relationship with Archie than me being the bringer of food. He will choose to stay with me in the field rather than go off with the other horses - I often have to shoo him away to get out of the gate and he stands staring at me as I walk away. This is without food. He gets one treat when I catch him but nothing once he's already with me. I also get a whinny when he sees me in the morning when he's in. He doesn't whinny at anyone else (we have a rota for turning out) so it's more than an "I want to go out" thing.

I'm not there with Charlie yet but he has got a lot more attentive to me since Archie came back from his holiday. I think Charlie got used to getting all my attention while Archie was away and now he's back, he doesn't like sharing me. His attention is more playful (grabbing my hoody strings or coat zips) than affectionate at the moment though.

Of the three, Monty is the least affectionate even after 20 years. He's an absolute darling to handle but tolerates it all good naturedly rather than appearing to crave my attention like Archie does and Charlie is starting to. He wouldn't stand with me in the field if there were horses to grump at, once the food is gone (he has a small feed with danilion atm) he's happy to wander off.
 

Ambers Echo

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The most affectionate pony I ever knew was a Shetland I'd had from a yearling. She was impossible to keep in or out of any field so she was essentially free range - either down on the yard or up on over 100 acres above the yard. Wherever she was, she would come running to say hi when I arrived. She was never fed so it wasn't food! I remember seeing her up on a ridge line, thinking she'll never hear my call. But as soon as I shouted her name, her head popped up and she came hurtling down the hill, leapt the stream at the bottom and up the other side. She ignored everyone else. No idea why she liked hanging out with me but she clearly did.
 

Charley657

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This is a lovely video, but it looks to me like the donkey lives on its own without another donkey as a companion? I could be wrong of course and I hope I am. I think its often this kind of scenario that makes owners think their horses love them. I have a friend that keeps her horse on its own through the winter, but it has a companion in the summer. She says she prefers him in the winter as he is so pleased to see her.............. doesn't seem to care that the horse is miserable for the remaining 23 hours of each day!
I thought that too but there is a video on TikTok where a woman shouts for her donkey and it reacts the same way if not more when it sees her, its very heartwarming. It lives in a herd with horses (not sure if there are other donkeys) as you see them in the field together in the video. Its my favourite thing to watch as I have never thought donkeys showed any regard for humans before that.
 

smolmaus

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Interestingly, if you asked me whether my dogs and cats love me, I’d say yes. Not sure why I feel like horses don’t have the capacity to ‘love’ if I’m absolutely certain cats and dogs can. Perhaps they can.
I was thinking about this recently as well, more in the context of mostly-outdoor cats compared to house cats and I think a lot of it comes down to just time spent with you. A mostly-outdoor cat or a horse has a life that you aren't part of. You're an occasional visitor who provides food and friendship, maybe like your favourite work friend who you see socially sometimes. A dog or an indoor cat you are family.

Maybe someone should do the experiment and live in the field with their ponies for a year in a tent. Dibs not me tho.
 

milliepops

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I was thinking about this recently as well, more in the context of mostly-outdoor cats compared to house cats and I think a lot of it comes down to just time spent with you. A mostly-outdoor cat or a horse has a life that you aren't part of. You're an occasional visitor who provides food and friendship, maybe like your favourite work friend who you see socially sometimes. A dog or an indoor cat you are family.

Maybe someone should do the experiment and live in the field with their ponies for a year in a tent. Dibs not me tho.
if there was a good 4g signal I'd totally volunteer! current status would mean I'd have to do it with the retirees who have a phone mast next door :D
 

DizzyDoughnut

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My old pony I think liked me, he trusted me and would come to me if he was scared of something and once when then newly acquired feral pony kicked me in the field he came charging over and circled me acting as my bodyguard while I got up and hobbled back to the gate to stop feral pony coming near me.
The once feral one knows I provide food and resuce him from any situation he might have got himself into. I can always tell when he's done something stupid because he's suddenly nice to me, when he doesn't need me he couldn't care less if I was there or not.
My borrowed cob has attached himself to my OH within a day of arriving.He is genuinely so pleased to see him his whole being brightens up if my OH appears and he follows him round like a big dog.
 
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