Horses really are pets - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 63 Old 12-28-2013, 12:39 AM Thread Starter
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Horses really are pets

I've only been a horse owner for a couple of years, but recently I've realized that most horses I know really are pets. Big, expensive pets. Which is not a problem. And if I come back one day as one of these horse-pets in a next life, that will be pretty pleasant.

I wonder what percentage of horses in the developed world actually do something like 'work' for a living. Including all the lunging, trailering, riding, training, etc, pretty much any time they aren't being left to their own devices in stall or pasture. I'll even consider 'part time' or 10-20 hours a week as a real, working horse! My guy wouldn't make that cut off if you consider the weeks at a time he winds up having off when my work schedule gets crazy. How about yours?

What percentage of horses (not counting feral mustangs) do you think really work for a living? How many do you think are pets? How many are in that sorta grey area where they're just 'there' in a pasture somewhere, but not really cared for? Are there studies on this somewhere? I seems like there ought to be, but I'm not familiar with any myself.

I'd bet less than 5% of horses in the US really 'work' for a living, and of the remaining 95%, I'd be inclined to split them 50/50 on pets and 'just existing.' No numbers or data to back that up at all, just an idea I've been kicking around based on the fact that out of about 100 horses at my facility, exactly zero work for a living, and I've only ever met a couple of equines that really did! About half seem to be pets, and the others are there, and their needs are met, but they don't seem to fill much purpose for their owner(s) and just stand in a pasture eating grass for weeks or months at a time. Nothing wrong with that from a horse point of view, of course.
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post #2 of 63 Old 12-28-2013, 01:00 AM
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I can't speak for others but my horses are most definitely not pets. They are livestock.

They don't come in the house, sit in a chair with me, or sleep on my bed. They are in the pasture waiting on my pleasure, whether that be to breed a mare to the stallion, or the mare is carrying a foal to deliver in spring or waiting for me to saddle up and go for a ride or to a show or to help someone with their livestock.

My horses are very well cared for, they have a barn, fresh, clean water 24/7, free choice grass and or hay 24/7, and they are fed a good, healthy diet, kept up on their vaccines, deworming and farrier work. They are groomed and petted and trained, but they exist for my entertainment and/or use.

Don't make the mistake of thinking I don't love my horses, I do, very much. But they are not pets who are not expected to do anything to earn their keep.

My dogs are pets, they are fed, allowed in the house, on the bed, on the couch, the chairs, whatever. They do nothing to justify their existence and they truly are my pets.

My barn cats, while cared for and loved and petted and well fed, are not pets. They are expected to keep this place rodent and pest free for their keep. If one disappears, I miss him but I do not mourn his loss as I would my dogs.

I love my chickens, but they are not pets. Their job is to lay eggs. When they stop laying, their job is to become dinner. My life would be missing something vital if I no longer raised chickens and could no longer laugh at their antics, but they too are livestock.

Just because most people in this country do not "work" their horses as automobiles or plows doesn't make them strictly pets. They are expected to provide entertainment of some sort to justify their existence. Just because we do not chose to eat them when they're too old to work or entertain in some fashion doesn't make them pets.

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post #3 of 63 Old 12-28-2013, 01:17 AM
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By the OP's definition, my horses are "pets." They do not train or work 10-20 hours a week. When I'm competing, I'll put 10-20 hours on them during a weekend. But that isn't every weekend.

I don't consider them pets in the way my dog, fish, tortoises, or snakes are pets. Those animals are amusements and/or provide me companionship. They don't work a bit. My reptiles obviously haven't worked a day in their lives. My dog's "work" (obedience training) is just because she enjoys it and it keeps her from eating my house. My dog is a prime example of a pet because she exists to comfort me. I snuggle her after work; she sleeps in my room (on the floor in a crate). I baby talk her sometimes, because why the heck not.

I have a different dynamic with my horses. My horses are expensive toys -- well oiled machines. I keep them around to fulfill competitive goals. They receive excellent care, because they would cease to perform well if I didn't care for them. I spend time and effort training them so they'll be better performers. It isn't like that "dog-like" love doesn't exist -- it just isn't my primary feeling toward them. Companion love comes second after performance.
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post #4 of 63 Old 12-28-2013, 02:22 AM
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To some people, they could be pets I suppose? To me, no, they are my fitness equipment, lol.
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post #5 of 63 Old 12-28-2013, 02:29 AM
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I love my horse, and he certainly is spoiled. I consider him part of the family just like my dog. But then again I'm a teenage girl, so there's that factor. Stitch makes me happy, in the 6 months I've owned him he's provided me with so much endless joy, he's more than a horse, or piece of farm equipment to me. He's my friend and partner.
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post #6 of 63 Old 12-28-2013, 03:34 AM
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My horse is no pet. Sure, I love him and provide him with care and everything that he needs, but he sure as is no pet. In the off season I usually don't train up to 10 hrs a week, but I don't think that anything under does not qualify as work either.

My boy is naturally a worrier, very nervous fellow and if I left him to his own accord whilst "riding" (not engaging his mind or asking much of him) then he would probably get so lost in his own mind worrying about where his buddies are or what's going on with others in the aisle way that he'd be extremely hard to handle.

Unless I work him.

When I get on, I let him know I mean business. I expect that his mind be engaged and keep it as such so that the above doesn't happen- and it never does. So yes, my horse works for a living and no I don't think he's a pet. Best friend? Probably. But still no pet.

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post #7 of 63 Old 12-28-2013, 04:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Sharpie View Post
... 'work' for a living ...
This could be a very amusing discussion about how will view the world, our own lives, and our horses.

To me, there is a big difference between "working" and "working for a living", and there are certainly many different opinions of what "for a living" means in the case of a horse.

To me, if we look at it in the same way we look at our own work, in a business sense, a horse can only be "working for a living" if it generates income/revenue/service that covers its care and feeding. A lesson horse "works for a living". A horse pulling an Amish buggy "works for a living". A ranch horse working cattle "works for a living". Our horses certainly "work" when we train/ride them, but they don't "work for a living".

Yes, in most cases they are just big pets, but you'll find very few horse owners that will admit to it.

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post #8 of 63 Old 12-28-2013, 08:12 AM
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Mine is a pet. A well behaved part of my life that brings me joy.
She is a companion, I sit in her stall and read while she eats her hay.
She is a partner with my daughter- the tack goes on and here comes the work face.
She is a partner in crime when I ride, because she knows we are going to explore and work her brain-
For my mother in law she's a dog, she yells "granny's baby, come get your cookie...." And that 1000 lb crazy girl that was seconds before playing chase with the wind will come head down making nice to get a vanilla wafer and present her head to be scratched.

In the end- she is ours- she asks that I make sure she is well fed and taken care of, I ask that she gives me a feeling of goodness....whatever definition that is doesn't matter to me
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post #9 of 63 Old 12-28-2013, 08:23 AM
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IMO any working animal is one that brings in money (lesson horses) or one that makes work possible (police horse). If your horse is a pet you could run your everyday life without them. While they might work hard they are still something you do for pleasure.

There are probably more working horses then 5% of the population, can't forget lesson horses! I'd say maybe 20% work, 20% are somewhere in limbo and the other 60% are kept for pleasure.

Oh yes, and I know by law horses are livestock animals.
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post #10 of 63 Old 12-28-2013, 08:48 AM
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We 'use' our horses. They make our living. We do not eat if they do not work. We raise them and train them to sell them. We have a set of trail horses that work more days a year than they rest. [They are booked to go out later today with riders.] They are livestock and not pets.

I love them dearly -- some more than others. They are very well cared for. They are slick and fat in the summer and fat and fuzzy in the winter. They like their jobs as ranch horses and trail horses -- but their job is to do what we need them to do.

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