The stuff you see in movies is purely fiction. Sure, we'd all love to be Alec Ramsey and gallop bareback down the beach on a gorgeous wild stallion, but that's nonsense.
Horses can become quite attached to their person, but they don't come to your rescue and kill rattlesnakes like they do in the movies. They're never going to put you before themselves. The number one rule they live by is to survive, and it's been hard-wired into them over millions of years of evolution. No "bond" can override that instinct. Being prey animals, it makes perfect sense.
That's not to say that horses don't "love" in their own way. It's just very different than "human love".
I beg to differ. I used to drive carriage tours in town, late at night me and the love of my life (a Belgian) would sit and wait for the last families who wanted rides and try to ignore the drunks. My Belgian wear's "I bite" signs on his blinder as he had a habit of chewing on anything her could reach, especially snatching ice cream out of kid's hands xD But he never really intentionally hurt anyone. Until one night a group of clearly drunk guys came and started bothering me. The other guy I work with, who I usually talk to so drunks don't bother me, was out on a ride. I stayed right up by my Belgian and just kept ignoring them or asking them to leave. Finally my Belgian swung his head around and grabbed the hood of one of the guy's hoodies - sent him flying a good 10 feet off. I told all the guys that my horse didn't like when people bothered me, they left pretty promptly. I was lucky it ended at that, but I was pretty proud of my boy for protecting me!!
Me and my pony-love hanging out before work:
Haha - I do think a lot of movies are just fairy tale, but I know more than a few horses who'd die for their humans. Many 'alpha mare' type horses would often fight to protect their 'herd', even the two-legged members.
As for special bonds, yes horses are herd animals they are hard-wired to need working relationships, they look for and want bonds, but that doesn't mean things will be perfect. They can love you to pieces and still bite or kick. There's a lot that a bond can do, but won't replace training and proper communications.
I think I ruined "War Horse" for my husband because I could not stop myself from pointing out all the times when it was bleedingly obvious to me that the horse was exhibiting some learned behaviour in response to cues from an off-screen handler, rather than responding to the on-screen actors in a normal equine way.
Oh, that entire movie disgusted me. Even the children's book that it was based off of was less "OMGSUPERFRUITYMAJIKALHORSEYBOND" nonsense LOL.
I'm sure I ticked off the rest of the theater in the scene where the horse was afraid of the collar so the boy put it on his own neck like "See there, horsey? It won't hurt you, it didn't hurt me" and then the horse just immediately was like "herpty-derp......OKAAAAYYY". That made me want to go to Spielberg's house and dump a decade's worth of horse poop in his bedroom.
Anyway, back to the subject at hand LOL. Yes, horses will bond to people but like others have said, it is not a "majikal" bond like you see in the movies where the kid feeds the wild horse carrots or sugar cubes and talks to them and then they are suddenly the bestest of friends and ready to ride off into the sunset.
I have a "wild" horse that I got as an unhandled stud and trained myself. His previous owners tried to win him over by showing him all kinds of love with treats and talking and he repaid that "love" by learning to pin his ears and charge them so that they'd run out of his arena and leave him alone.
Now, after earning his respect by treating him as a horse in a herd where I was the herd alpha, we have a wonderful relationship. Yes, I love him, yes, he is bonded to me but there is nothing magical about it. He respects and follows me as his leader because he knows I will keep him safe and he trusts me. I respect, trust, and love him because I know his heart and what he is and isn't capable of...and I know that he'd hurt himself trying to do what I asked before he ever quit.
There has been more than once that he's kept me safe in very dangerous situations, but I know it was because he was acting on his own survival instinct and I just happened to be able to stick with him. He got himself safely out of the situation and I just happened to be with him at the end of it.
Hmmm...my mare and I get along reasonably well, but if she had a few hundred orcs after her, she'd dump me & tell the orcs to think of me as bacon...
I know this because she has thought about dumping me when a Palo Verde Tree waived its arms at her:
As for a rattlesnake, even my dogs won't save me. Daniel T. Dog once insisted I get out of bed at 2 AM. He led me to the living room, and there was a baby rattler. Dan looked at the rattler, looked at me, and then backed up & sat down to watch ME deal with the rattler.
Daniel T. Dog...he now lives at my daughters and provides limited in-home security for them & their kids:
I have to say that dan the dog does look like he would not like the idea of going toe to toe with a rattler. I can't blame him.
I don't think its a mutual love bond that I have with my horses. I love them and they trust me, there is a difference in how much individual horses trust me. I have a mare who will put her head on my chest and say "I trust you completely" I have a gelding that is trust me but its not as complete. I don't want to say that horses are incapable of love because love is a strange and powerful emotion. I have seen horses that grieve for a deceased companion just like a dog would. I don't want to dismiss the entire scope of an emotion, after all 20 years ago we would have never guessed that elephants can have PTSD. Now to suggest they don't is considered out of step. So, I would not say my horse loves me. I would say I love my horse and my horse trusts me. Trust in horses is, in my opinion, the result of respect.
My horse taught me everything I know about being around horses. He was the first horse I was comfortable around and could trust. He does (or tries to do) whatever I ask of him and in return I only ask him to do what I know he can do. I am his benevolent dictator and in return he treats me with respect and deference. What more could I ask for? I can't imagine owning a better horse. We have a wonderful relationship, but it isn't like a horse movie. I actually prefer reality over the fantasy. :)
Take it from me.. There is such a thing as a special bond.
When I was 12 years old, I volunteered at a local barn. It was my job to ride the 'problem' horses that the owner would buy and sell. I would ride anything... Until I met an unbroken, abused buckskin named Stormy. It took me 3 hours to catch him in the pasture and get a halter on him. After handling him for the first few minutes, I could tell he was just terrified of everything I was doing.
I spent the next several month gaining his trust and eventually became the only person who could handle him. The barn owner was the 'cowboy' type and decided one day that Stormy wouldn't make him money if he couldn't be ridden. So they hired a trainer. 3 grown men held this terrified horse down while they put a saddle on him. As soon as the trainer got a foot in the stirrup, he spun around in circles, leaped into the air, and then stood, frozen. This happened 2 more times before he was deemed 'the devil' and was to be sold right away to the first person with cash. There was also talk of selling him for meat.
Much to my surprise, the barn owner then asked me if I wanted to give it a try, as a last ditch effort. I was terrified but agreed. They tossed me up on his back and for what seemed like an eternity, we just stood there. I felt as though we were one being. His back molded perfectly to my body and we just walked on.
From that moment on, I was the only person who could ride him. It took some time but eventually, I could get on him bareback. People were amazed.. Hell, I was amazed! I had never had such a bond with anyone - human or animal. I would often take him out on trails alone, just to spend time together. I would sing to him and sometimes, just sit on the ground while he grazed, watching him in awe.
The barn owner ended up giving Stormy to me. We spent 5 wonderful years together and became inseparable. He was my whole world. I could move my body a certain way and he'd instantly know what I wanted. When my best friend moved out of state, I was so upset that I went to the barn in the middle of the night and sat between Stormy's two front legs and cried while he nuzzled my hair. He would also protect me from other horses if they came near me and protected me all night when I fell asleep in his stall.
Stormy was my soul mate.
When I was a senior in high school, my parents would no longer support me or Stormy. I cut costs as much as I could and got a job at Petsmart making minimum wage. But it wasn't enough. Soon I was a few months behind on my board and saw no other option but to sell my precious horse. I sold him in November of 2006 to a woman who lived about 3 hours away from me. I've replayed that day in my head a thousands times and it never gets any less painful. Stormy refused to get on the trailer and I refused to help them load him. I sat in the car crying while he fought like I had never seen him fight before. Eventually they loaded him. I remember looking up and seeing his eye peeking through the trailer window, looking for me. He was whinnying to me. He knew what was happening. As I watched the trailer drive away, I looked at the money in my hand and could not fathom how anyone could see this stack of paper equivalant to the best friend I had just lost. I knew then that I had made a terrible mistake.
I went to see him in March of 2007 for my 18th birthday. When he saw my mom's car, he ran to the fence and followed us all the way to the gate. His new owner told me she had a hard time catching him. He was such a good boy when I rode him. It was hard to say goodbye but I made myself believe that he was better off without me.
6 months later, the woman tells me she sold him. She broke our contract of "Right of First Refusal" (which gives me the right to buy him back before she could sell him to someone else). Not only had she broken our contract, she also REFUSED to tell me where he was, or even a general location. She told me that if I contacted her again, she'd file a harassment charge against me. Being young and not so knowledgeable, I thought I would have to have money to take her to court and that there was nothing I could do.
Every day since then, I've searched for him. I've called every barn I could find to ask if they'd seen him, I posted ads on CL in several states, I stopped to look at every buckskin I passed, and I spent many sleepless nights on CL and other sites hoping he'd be for sale somewhere. Not a day went by that I didn't think of him. I have felt like a piece of me is missing and have tried to fill the void in every way I could think of.. but nothing has ever come close.
A few weeks ago, I woke up at 4am thinking about Stormy. It was such a strong feeling that I couldn't go back to sleep so I opened up my computer and searched Craigslist like I had thousands of times before.. Except this time, I saw my baby staring back at me. He was for sale about 15 miles away from my house! I emailed the seller and then paced around the house all day until she emailed me back. I immediately called my mom and we went to see if it was really him.
I knew it the second I saw him. He was across the pasture when I yelled "Stormy!" and he came GALLOPING to the gate! This was like a scene out of my dreams! My mom and I looked at each other and I thought I was going to throw up, cry, and pass out at the same time.
To make an even longer story short, I found my horse after 6 years! I bought him yesterday and every time I go see him, he runs to the gate and follows me everywhere! His name had been changed to Dillon, he had been bought and sold a lot (current owner had him only 6 months) and they tell me they usually have to go catch him in the pasture.. They've never seen him act like he did when he saw me.
I'm still in shock but could NOT BE HAPPIER! Our bond is just as strong as it was 6 years ago.. as if we never left each other.