Horses Feeling Eachother's Pain? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 09-14-2010, 04:23 PM Thread Starter
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Horses Feeling Eachother's Pain?

The horse that I am currently riding sometimes acts a little sore on her right front. It only happens when she is on hard ground (ex. concrete, the barn driveway), and she is totally fine in the indoor arena (which has rubber footing). She has been completely checked out by the vet and ferrier and they do not see anything wrong with her...

The only thing we can think of is that she is feeling the pain that her mother is having right now. Her mother has been lame on HER right front for a couple months now, (at first the prognosis was grim, but she is doing much better now).

I have heard of this in humans before, like with men experiencing morning sickness when their wives are pregnant, or twins feeling eachother's pain.

...But have you ever heard of horses feeling other horses' pain like this?

No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle. - Winston Churchill
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post #2 of 15 Old 09-14-2010, 04:29 PM
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Horses aren't human and don't think like us, so there's no way she's mimicking or feeling her mother's pain.

Sounds to me as if she's sensitive to hard surfaces like concrete or asphalt. She might be thin soled, which could account for the ouchiness she shows on concrete/asphalt.

I'm surprised your vet and farrier couldn't put two and two together concerning her sensitivity to hard surfaces and none on softer surfaces. I'd be looking for new horse care professionals.

Remember, horses are livestock, not hairy, 4-legged people. They don't have 'sympathy pains'. They're incapable of that kind of complicated deduction.

Last edited by Speed Racer; 09-14-2010 at 04:32 PM.
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post #3 of 15 Old 09-14-2010, 04:50 PM
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The above is SR's firm opinion on horses, I just read same from her on another thread (talking with Herdbound), but I must say that there are many, like Herdbound & myself, who find many instances of high intelligence in horses, & thus don't assume any demarcation line that a horse cannot cross.

You can google & find a horse genius or two in history, who solved complex math problems, knew languages, etc.

This is a running disagreement amongst horse folk, with every degree of opinion included between the poles.

It's a good opportunity for you to monitor the two horses, to do your own detective work for answers.
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post #4 of 15 Old 09-15-2010, 11:49 AM
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Wasn't the horse who "solved complex math problems" just incredibly well trained and sensitive to the subtle visual cues he was receiving from his owner?
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post #5 of 15 Old 09-15-2010, 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by thesilverspear View Post
Wasn't the horse who "solved complex math problems" just incredibly well trained and sensitive to the subtle visual cues he was receiving from his owner?
Even if that were the case, wouldn't the horse have to have some intelligence in order to learn the cues? There is a definite rift in the horse world, between those that see a horse as a beast and nothing more, and those of us who see it as something more intuitive more intelligent.


–noun 1. capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding, and similar forms of mental activity; aptitude in grasping truths, relationships, facts, meanings, etc.

I have seen ALL of these attributes displayed in horses. I have seen them in varying degrees, meaning that some possess more than others. Same as in humans. I do not see a horse as a four legged hairy human either, I see it as a horse. A horse to me is intelligent, capable of reasoning, remembering, and feeling. Yes feelings. Horses feel nervous, horses feel anxious, horses feel excited...if they feel these things...can they not also feel Emotion, even in humans, is a result of certain physiological releases and responses in the body. The horse experiences a "likeness" to these in some degree.
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post #6 of 15 Old 09-15-2010, 01:58 PM
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I never said horses weren't intelligent. I just said there is no evidence they can do long division.

In some ways, they might in fact be more intelligent. If we had the perceptions of body language they do, it would be far easier to pass that long division test you never studied for if your mate across the room was good at long division. :)
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post #7 of 15 Old 09-15-2010, 03:49 PM
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Herdbound, great post, imo.

If humans are smarter than horses, why is horsemanship a life-long learning curve, with transformation of the human into a horse-man?

If humans are smarter, why are so many humans asking others for help with their horses, because they don't know what to do? Horses know what to do with each other just fine.

Silverspear, there was a horse who merely acted upon his handler's barely perceptible cues in order to give correct answers. Proof was, horse did nothing when he couldn't see his handler.

However, there was another horse who was the real deal. I wish I could recall his name, but maybe if you google... This horse could do math far better than the average human.
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post #8 of 15 Old 09-15-2010, 04:22 PM
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There is a horse on youtube ...
YouTube - LearnWithShiloh's Channel

This horse is asked questions and responds by picking the correct card...I can't vouch for the validity of this nor if the horse actually understands what it is being asked. BUT it shows the signs of intelligence even if it is just using deductive reasoning to receive a treat. Using deductive reasoning is a sign of a higher form of intelligence. There are humans who have been born with mental disorders that don't even possess the ability to use deductive reasoning.

But this went way off track from the original post. That is hard to say if a horse has sympathy pains. We had an Arabian who was the lead mare of our herd. She was in a pasture with a horse named Moon. One night she went down the trail they normally use for water and something spooked her over an embankment she unfortunately empailed her rear end on a log...she had to be euthanized due to her injuries. Making a long story short, when we moved all of the horses back to that pasture, they to this day refuse to use the trail that Bella empailed herself on. They traveled that trail all of the time before, it was the main way in and out to thier water supply. After Bella had her accident they made a whole new path about 20 feet to the left of the old one. Why? Most of the horses weren't with her when she fell, only one, so the others had no knowledge of what happened on that trail...but somehow they makes you wonder just what does go on inside of them.
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post #9 of 15 Old 09-15-2010, 05:54 PM
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No, the horse is not feeling sympathy pains. How do I know that? She only shows sensitivity when on a hard surface, whereas her mother is lame all the time. This is called deductive reasoning. No reason to get emotions involved.

(Although I will say I agree with SR. To an animal showing pain is weakness; they wouldn't een "feel sorry" for another animal in pain, let alone have sympathy pains).

Besides, most types of lameness will appear worse on a hard surface. It is probably the start of something that isn't bad enough for the vet to detect yet.
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post #10 of 15 Old 09-15-2010, 06:47 PM
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Young horses try to gain sympathy from their alphas all of the time, by lowering their heads & moving their mouths in a suckling fashion, the message being, "Don't hurt me; see, I'm just a baby!" It works, or else they'd drop it.

For a fun video of a smart horse, Patches is all over the web. Plus the genius horse is Beautiful Jim Key, about whom a book's been written; it's on

Fascinating story on Moon & the herd, Herdbound!

Last edited by Northern; 09-15-2010 at 06:56 PM.
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