Do horses know their family members? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 06-26-2010, 03:24 AM Thread Starter
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Do horses know their family members?

It was posted on the "horse raped" thread that horses don't know their family members, but my experience of a mare & her two sons, over years, belies that. She acted like a mom to them always-- would step in & ferociously defend them in their fights with other horses. It seems that they always gave her the deference due a mother, too; never any dominance moves that I remember. Anyone have experiences on the subject?
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post #2 of 11 Old 06-26-2010, 03:41 AM
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I think it depends on the situation and the horse. Usually, the longer a baby is with its mother, the more chance they will remember each other.

Being in a human enviorment, babies are usually removed from their mother during weaning and aren't put together again. Some people do put their weanlings back in the herd with their mom, but I have seen foals who couldn't care less about their mom and couldn't distinguish her from other horses.

On the other hand, I know people who don't truly separate for weaning except by putting a fence between the mare and baby. These horses usually bond strongly with their ofspring, because the baby just becomes a member of their herd. The baby's instinct to look to its mother for guideance strenghtens the bond, in my opinion, to be more than just another buddy in the pasture.

This is basically just my experience and opinion with mare/foal relationships
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post #3 of 11 Old 06-26-2010, 03:59 AM
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my next-door neighbors have two mares and they just happen to be mother and daughter, the 'foal' will hide behind mum when nervous and mum seems to be protective. Foal is 17 years old! and mum is 25.

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post #4 of 11 Old 06-26-2010, 07:17 AM
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I sold one of my foals at 6months when the mom and baby met agaim by pure coincidence 2years later they were screaming and trying to get to each other it was sooo cute though!!

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post #5 of 11 Old 06-27-2010, 08:52 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for contributing--very interesting! Knack, foals separated from moms couldn't be expected to recognize them later, but did the moms recognize their own foals? Anyone else?
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post #6 of 11 Old 06-27-2010, 08:54 PM
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I don't know about recognizing family members like people do. They do recognize members of their own herd though I really don't think they think of them in terms of mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son.

Always remember that feeling of looking at a big, open country over the ears of a good horse, seeing a new trail unwind ahead of you, and that ever-spectacular view from the top of the ridge!!! Follow my training blog: http://robertsontraining.blogspot.com/
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post #7 of 11 Old 06-27-2010, 09:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Northern View Post
Thank you for contributing--very interesting! Knack, foals separated from moms couldn't be expected to recognize them later, but did the moms recognize their own foals? Anyone else?
In the my particular case, no and yes. The mare was a first time mother and wasn't the greatest mom. I think she probably did, but didn't care about the baby and just saw him as another member of the herd.

I think it just depends on the horse and how they choose to react to their baby.
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post #8 of 11 Old 06-27-2010, 10:40 PM
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Agreed with smrobs.

My Arab gelding Playboy practically raised Zierra - him and Zierra's dam were about as "enemy" as horses can get, and Playboy basically "stole" Zierra and raised her in the pasture - Playboy has been top dog every where he's gone, and Zierra could do anything from nibbling his ears to stealing his grain (ironically, it set her up badly later in life when she went to a boarding barn and realized you can't do that with ALL horses).

Anyway, they were finally separated when Zierra was 5 years old because I rehomed Playboy. Then about three years after that, his home fell through and I ended up bringing him home.

Here are some photos from those first few minutes - if this wasn't horses recognizing each other, I don't know what is. There wasn't a squeal not a snort, not a single negative action. They both perked their ears and IMMEDIATELY began grooming each other after three years of not laying eyes on each other!










I'll also note that Zierra practically hates other horses and is extremely standoffish. I haven't seen her meet a new horse yet that she didn't pin her ears and run away from. So I know for fact she recognized him anyway!

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post #9 of 11 Old 06-27-2010, 11:50 PM
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I don't know, when tens came here from the U.S. Her half brother myles instantly started calling and trying to get to her, and he got all excited and followed her everywhere. He never did this to any other horse, but he grew up with rrna and she was always the herd leader. So I doubt they thought of eachother as 'half-brother' or 'half-sister' but they did reconize eachother as herd members after about 6 monthes.
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post #10 of 11 Old 06-30-2010, 12:25 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks so much, everyone!
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