Last Updated on February 21, 2022 by Allison Price
There are many strong opinions about this topic. Some believe horses can love their humans. Some horses only love their own herd. It all depends on how you define love.
What’s your definition of love?
Merriam Webster defines “love” to be “a strong attachment for another person arising from kinship or other personal ties.”
We humans have an unfortunate habit of using the term “love” to refer to anything, from emotional dependence to attraction. This article will focus on the love that is based on trust, mutual respect and loyalty. We also want to emphasize the need to protect one another’s mental and bodily well-being. A strong friendship between humans, a happy marriage and a stable equine partnership are all possible with love.
Types Of Love:
There are many types of love. Here are some examples for animals. Familial love is when one is willing to risk their life for the ones they love.
The next step is the eternal love of a life-long friendship.
Herd love is most common in horses. They share their lives and help each other to avoid dangers and predators. A hierarchy is established based on wisdom and earned respect. This is covered in more detail in our article “The boss mare: What she means to the herd.“. Some will argue that it is instinct, not love. Some will argue that once you are part of the herd you will become part of its love bond.
Do animals have love, and affection?
Animals have the ability to form bonds with their owners, including trust, affection, and loyalty. People believe horses think differently than humans. They lack the awareness and ability to understand the significance of a bond, and therefore invest less in it. They believe that animals follow their instincts and do not have reason but go with the flow.
Are horses capable of showing love? Your opinion will be yours. This is all I can do.
A 14-year-old girl proved to her parents that she could train and care for her own horse. She was surprised to find a gorgeous bay filly, 18 months old. She tried to climb out of the trailer’s feed doors, cutting her face badly enough to require stitches. The filly’s first encounter was with the girl. She had to follow the vet’s instructions and then take care of the little horse for several days. The filly eventually started to trust the girl after a while.
The girl continued to work with the filly for the next two-years. To earn her trust and respect, she used groundwork. The farrier could safely do his job because the filly was also educated. She was an American Quarter Horse registered mare, and her goal was to become a show horse. They also worked on showmanship and halter skills.
Flash forward two years…
The filly is now three years old and ready for saddle. One month is left until her sweet 16th birthday. The girl suffers a grand mal seizure, which is tragic. Doctors tell her they cannot find the cause of the seizure. She was diagnosed with epilepsy.
It would be devastating for most 16-year-olds to be told that they wouldn’t be able drive. For this young lady, however, the most difficult part was when her doctor said she would not be able to drive. She assures her parents that she won’t give up riding. She tells her parents that epilepsy does not define her. However, like every determined teenager, she continues riding.
Her parents were reluctant to allow her in the barn or ride until they noticed strange behavior in their filly, which has been with them for two years. It all starts with little things. The filly is sitting in the stall next to the daughter and the girl stares blankly into her eyes. The filly walks alongside her and, for lack of a better term, gently pins her to a wall. The filly holds the girl upright until help arrives.
The girl may also be in the pasture with her dad when she experiences another seizure. The filly leaps over the girl, keeping all the horses away from her, until someone she trusts is there to help her. Because her sister and parents were the only people she would let near her in these circumstances, I said “someone she trusts”. They had to get the horse and move her, in case paramedics called.
Her parents were told by service animal trainers that seizures can only be detected by certain animals. A dog can become a seizure-service animal only if they have been trained and have a natural instinct. They are shocked that the horse is able to learn seizure service by himself.
Is it love or instinct?
Her parents have made some compromises and pleaded with her, but she is now able to continue training her filly. She will be supervised at all times and no barrel racing or jumping. The father of the girl would say that the horse she was training with had never seen her step sideways to hold someone on her back. My daughter will lie down over the mare’s neck when she has a spell.
The filly and the girl continue to train hard and ultimately win Grand Champion All-Around Mare at State Fair. They also earn several AQHA points across multiple disciplines. The doctors have been able to identify a combination of medications that can control seizures. This is fantastic because the girl can now get her Equine Science degree from college.
Four years later, college has passed…
The girl is now living in another state and runs a training facility. The mare is nine years old and only sees her on rare holidays. The mare is a hard worker and the girl pays for professional transportation across the country to be with her. This allows them to share their time and help new riders learn about horsemanship.
Tired and ready to lay down, the mare walks off the trailer. The girl responds, “Hello Coffee!” The mare’s head rises and she immediately begins to look around. The mare trots over and touches the girl’s chest. She then “hugs” her shoulder with her throat latch. They are back together. They were together for four long years.
This story ends with herd love.
We can now fast-forward seven years. After introducing horses to new equestrians, the girl’s life is transformed and she moves to another state. She has come to the conclusion that her beloved mare is worthy of her rightful retirement in the rich grass pastures where she grew up.
She takes her horse home. It’s a beautiful day and the windows of the pickup are rolled down. The trailer and truck pull onto the dirt road that leads to the ranch. The mare begins whining for all she’s worth. She knows that she is home somehow. She knew it was home even though it had been seven years.
A herd of horses is waiting for them when the trailer pulls up to the pasture gate. The majority of the horses in this herd were raised with the mare. The girl gives the horse a hug, kisses, and then unloads her. The herd did not squabble; they went to “grooming her”. It is a welcome home sign.