Do Horses Feel "love?" - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 54 Old 07-14-2012, 03:02 AM Thread Starter
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Question Do Horses Feel "love?"

I've seen a lot of posts mention horses and their capacity (or lack thereof)for affection and love. Some people say horses don't feel love like people do, others haven't challenged that idea/philosophy... So I thought that I'd start a discussion about it.

As far back as the ancient Greeks, human love was categorized into 4 different types.

Storge - Natural affection, like that between parents and offspring and siblings.
Eros - Romantic "in Love' feelings and intimate love.
Agape - Unconditional, God like love.
AND Philia - A love between friends. Aristotle defined it as a strong bond existing between beings who share common interests and common activities. It is thought profound because it is the only form of love that is freely chosen.

I know that my big boy has affection for me, and that we're friends. We enjoy common activities and common interests. We also share a deep, abiding bond. So... I think that qualifies as "Philia," which is a form of "love." So to me, yes, I think horses can "love." What do you guys think?
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post #2 of 54 Old 07-14-2012, 03:12 AM
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Funny, I've always found love an interesting area. Real love for me is based on trust and respect with a mutual sense of enjoyment, protectiveness and affection thrown in. A strong equine partnership has all these things, as does a strong friendship and a good marriage. So if that's love then yes, I think you can love and be loved by your horse - but it's a tricky term because so many people don't seem to have a clue as to what constitutes love between humans. Parents spoil their children rather than give them the firm, fair leadership and protective love they need; people throw the word 'love' around when meaning anything from attraction to emotional dependency (or both if its Twilight! ). So when people go 'but I want my horse to love me!' they often don't know what love is in the first place.
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post #3 of 54 Old 07-14-2012, 03:16 AM
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I always felt horses liked us because we feed them, take care of them, etc., etc. Felt this way for decades, never thought a horse could feel love. However, one of my horses is making me think otherwise. He has attacked a deer to protect me, that was gallant and looked so gallant when he did that. But one single action made me change my mind about his capacity to show love or "love me". Last year I went down to the pasture to let the horses up to the paddocks, he & his dad (my other horse), go trotting by to get their goodies in the paddock, all of a sudden, Indy stops and looks back at me with such a look of love in his expression. He waits for me to walk up the hill a bit towards him and he reached out with his long neck & pulled me into his crook of his neck and hugged me, for no reason. Then he trots off with his old man to the food. I am convinced that horse loves me.
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post #4 of 54 Old 07-14-2012, 03:26 AM Thread Starter
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AWESOME responses and stories! My gelding put himself between me and a bear. No, I'm not kidding. It was an adolescent bear crossing our path and Khaiyaann jumped between us with his head held so high and strong. And, like you, I have seen love in his sweet, soft eyes, and have been nuzzled and hugged for no reason.
THANKS for sharing!
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post #5 of 54 Old 07-14-2012, 03:28 AM
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I do believe that horses can love. Not in the mooshy, gooy, you're my world way. They show their love when we need most to see it. For some, it's being relaxed and calm when we're in a bad spot, others whinny as we pull in the drive after a long, stressful day. Yes, I'm sure they love the food but a good horse appreciates what he's given. They know who is the caretaker and who is the friend. They know who will end their suffering in the end.

You can try to talk about that science hogwash, but it isn't going to change my opinion.
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post #6 of 54 Old 07-14-2012, 03:54 AM
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Do you mean with humans, or other horses? I think they (and most other animals) definitely feel love for other horses...just watch the way mother animals selflessly protect and nurture their babies. I don't see any reason they wouldn't feel the exact feelings us human parents feel. I also think horses feel the love of friendship between each other, with obvious bonds between some horses and dislike between others.
I wouldn't say any of my horses "love" me in the same way, I'm sure they like me ok (most of the time!). Then again, I don't "love" them the way I love other people like my kids and family.
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post #7 of 54 Old 07-14-2012, 09:46 AM
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All animals are capable of strong emotional bonds. Where people get into trouble is anthropomorphizing that emotional response. Horses do NOT think, act, or love like humans. If you believe they do, then you're doing a grave disservice to the animal.

In order for us to truly bond with another creature, we have to understand them within the context of their instincts and how they view the world.

Love is universal, but it's not all the same, especially when we're talking about affection between different species.

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post #8 of 54 Old 07-14-2012, 10:13 AM
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Yes - I believe they do. But I don't believe it's anywhere near the level of the human understanding of it. (Heck to be honest, I don't think we understand it ourselves. When asked to define that word, you'll get a different answer from anyone you ask.) *Some* may show us on a deeper level, like waresbear's horse displayed. But as a general rule they "love" like any other species of animal. We have to be careful we don't misinterpret it to be anything other than what it is. And that will vary from horse to horse.

I know for a FACT they mourn. I've experienced that first hand and it's heart wrenching and will bring tears to my eyes thinking of that particular memory of mine. That one incident is all I needed to know that yes, they do love. Just be careful with the term :)
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post #9 of 54 Old 07-14-2012, 01:07 PM
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They certainly feel affection for some horses and some humans. When we sold Lilly in Dec 2010, Mia spent days standing at the edge of the corral where she could see the direction Lilly left. And she spent a lot of time calling softly while looking that way.

After a week, she stopped. I have no idea what would happen if she met Lilly again, but if we build a house on our empty lot, we'll find out - it is only 500 feet from Lilly's corral.

Toward humans? Affection, yes. Love? That depends on how deep the connection has to be before you call it love. When I proposed to my wife 6 weeks after our first date, I said I loved her. 26 years later, maybe I do. A lot of good times and a lot of very hard times over the last 26 years has changed what I call 'love'.

Horses have a very different way of thinking than humans do. On the whole, I think it is wrong to use words for human relations and apply it to a relationship with a horse.

I have 3 horses. The 2 geldings trust me to feed them and be fair in my treatment of them. They 'like' me, but that like would be better described as 'they are content to be around me'. The mare & I have spent a lot more time together, and have had enough 'shared misery' to bond a bit more. She will seek me out for comfort when things are bad, and acts affectionate. She sometimes sticks her head under my arm after a ride, closes her eyes and listens as I talk into her ear. When riding, we are both constantly aware of each other, in a way that is very different from any other horse I've ridden. She is by far the most human-oriented horse I've met.

But if I sold her to a good owner, would she stand at the edge of the corral and call out to me for a week? Not one chance in one thousand. We're friends, but she isn't a human and she isn't a dog and I don't think I am fair to her to apply human ideas to her actions.
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post #10 of 54 Old 07-14-2012, 01:17 PM
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I think horses and many other animals can and do create bonds which include affection, trust and loyalty.

What they lack is the awareness and the ability to process the meaning of that bond and invest more into it. We humans can invest more into our bond which creates love. We choose to invest more into this one, or not so much into that one, etc. Animals just go with the flow and follow pure instinct, not reason. I think these differences are what separates their bond from what we understand as love.

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