Do horses have emotional attachments to humans? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 07-19-2011, 12:32 AM Thread Starter
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Unhappy Do horses have emotional attachments to humans?

I got my horse “Pusher” in April of this year and by May the vet was telling me “There is nothing more medically that can be done, Pusher is blind” That statement hit me in the chest as hard as I have ever felt. From the first onset of equine uveitis they spent a full month trying this drop, this ointment, these shots, and these pills. I was spending 6 hours a day at the barn, at first just holding a scared 1000 pound 12 year old Tennessee Walker who just weeks before came into my life, (not by my choosing but his). He would lay his head on my shoulder not for physical support but in my heart…emotional. Over the next 4 weeks while he could not go into the sun, we walked from one end of the barn to the other learning new commands and engraining my voice into his head. The voice that has been there along side him during this heartbreaking time for me and a life changing time for him.
On his first outside journey we put him in with an ex pasture mate who he got along with. I even put bells on her so he could hear her anyplace she was in the arena. All was going great until all the horses in the stable reacted to seeing the new 2 day old filly, the noise was unreal. Pusher totally freaked out and started to trot running into the fences and barrels. I went in and he came to my voice with his call “Pusher come”. I held his halter and rubbed his neck to sooth him until the next round of whinnies started. He came off the ground and my hand slipped, he did a midair turn as he went to run his hoof connected to my midsection and I was down. After regaining some air I was able to get to a crouching position and noticed Pusher with his head down using a back and forth sweeping motion looking for me, he could have run to the other end of the arena but he didn’t. When I could speak I told him I was ok, and he came to me, as a mother horse would do, he nudged me to “help” me get up, instead knocking me back into the dirt. This continued several times until help arrived and it took 3 of them to hold him back away from me. Luckily I was only bruised, and recovered.
Since that time I have been told horses have no attachment to humans, that they don’t feel a connection like a dog would, many people have told me to put him out to pasture and worse.
I guess my question is…if he felt nothing for me why did he come looking for me? I need to hear your stories of inspiration and know retraining him is worth what I believe it is. We have started riding in the ring but now he keeps laying down while I’m on his back and the pressure from the family and friends is getting worse. Even people who have been around horses all their lives have told me “they are just a big dumb animal” I don’t believe it, I know he feels something. Please help!!
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post #2 of 16 Old 07-19-2011, 01:40 AM
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Somewhere on here is a thread about a blind horse. In Horse Videos? you might even try to contact the owner of that horse, she obviously has an incredible bond. I shall look and see if I can find it.
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post #3 of 16 Old 07-19-2011, 01:42 AM
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I think this is it. hang on, I goofed.
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post #4 of 16 Old 07-19-2011, 01:44 AM
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post #5 of 16 Old 07-19-2011, 02:17 AM
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I believe that horses have a bond with people, not every horse, and not every person - but many do. It may not be on the level that we think it is, but it is there on some level.

My fear from your post is that he is laying down while you are riding him.
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post #6 of 16 Old 07-19-2011, 08:46 AM
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Not sure where you are in NC, but when I lived in the Triangle area, I used to volunteer at a therapeutic riding program called CAN-TR. For many years, we had a blind mare called Phoenix, who had previously been an eventing horse but lost one eye completely and was blind in the other. She was a very successful therapy horse and I occasionally rode her out on trails in a group. You might try contacting the women who run CAN-TR to ask them about their experiences with Phoenix. This is the website: About CAN-TR
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post #7 of 16 Old 07-19-2011, 09:27 AM
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I truly know and understand your heartbreak with Pusher going blind. I had a beautiful bay Appy gelding that was truly a jewel of a horse. I rode him in a couple of parades, my Granddaughters rode him on the trails and we all rode him bareback around here at home. I let a couple of green rider friends ride him. We, too doctored his eyes with medications, but he went totally blind. I just could not bring myself to let him go "over the Rainbow Bridge" as long as he was sound otherwise and happy. My QH mare literally became his "seeing eyes" and nutured him like a mare tending a foal. It was amazing to watch the two interact with one another. I discontinued letting anyone ride him, including me for fear he'd hurt himself or one of us. We kept him another 3 years after he went blind. Then one morning we found him with a fractured pastern from injuring himself so we had to let him "cross the Bridge".

Sending you mega-{{{{HUGS}}}}
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post #8 of 16 Old 07-19-2011, 09:36 AM
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Of course they can bond with humans. Comparing to dogs doesn't work as dogs are normally in your company for many more hours a day than a horse is, for one thing. I had a blind horse, ERU cost him his sight in both eyes very gradually which may help as far as adjusting to it. The temperament of the horse will also be a factor. Sudden sight loss seems to be the hardest for them. If your horse is flighty I would be cautious turning him out as that can end up in disaster. Use caution when handling during excitement as well. He will draw from your leadership but sometimes things may overwhelm him, as you discovered. *I had to put my blind appy, Cheno down this summer due to arthritis issues. He was 31 and had been totally blind for probably 6 years. I discovered his sight issues about 11 yrs ago. He was a calm horse in pasture with his buddies and only had to be separated in the last 5 due to weight issues more than sight. Changes in the herd also were a factor. I wish you all the best with your horse. Do what is best for him even if it hurts. Not all of them can be happy sightless.

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post #9 of 16 Old 07-19-2011, 12:17 PM
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*I have done a LOT of research into animal emotions and intellect in general and I can tell you that horses are just as capable of feeling the same type of emotions as we do as almost any other animal is. The problem with people is that they often have some sort of 'high and mighty' complex and are convinced that we humans are special for some reason or another and that all other animals are just instinctual machines. This is absolutely 100% ridiculous. Are their emotional responses exactly the same as ours are? No of course not, not anymore than individual humans respond exactly the same way. However from what I have found animals do experience a huge range of emotions that are a lot like ours, in fact most animals probably have MORE profound emotional responses to many things than we do. So is your horse bonded to you? I would say 100% YES, that horse loves and was extremely worried about you. Most people will tell you otherwise but don't listen to them, if you do some research you will find that most peoples opinion and views on what animals are and are not capable of are behind by YEARS to the point of still being stuck back in the days when people considered it a fact that animals could not feel physical pain. I would encourage you to look in to animal emotions, there are a lot of very enlightening studies and anecdotal examples that could not only confirm what you already know you have with your horse but could also be used if you find yourself in a position where you are defending your choice to not give up on him. I'll give you an example of one study that is especially pertinent in these sorts of situations. I can't remember the exact details of who did the study ( I could find it if anyone wanted) but a study was done on whether mice can feel empathy. They took two mice that had never seen each other before and put them in a cage separated by glass so they could see each other. Then they put a food dispensing device in one cage that was wired to the other cage in a way that gave the mouse in the other age an electric shock if the other mouse activated the food dispensing machine. In other words they wanted to see if the mouse would still eat if his neighbor was visibly in distress everytime he did. They expected that mouse to just keep on eating but to their shock as soon as he made the connection between his neighbors distress and him getting the food, he stopped eating. If I remember correctly he would not eat for days and was obviously prepared to go as long as he absolutely could in order to not subject this stranger mouse next door to him to further pain. The study confirmed that mice feel empathy for one and other to a WAY larger extent than anyone ever thought possible. So if a mouse will starve for a stranger out of empathy, what do you think a horse is capable of feeling? Sorry this is so long but this issue is one that I think people need to have a long hard look at, especially I'd theyre still stuck in the stoneage.*
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post #10 of 16 Old 07-19-2011, 12:39 PM
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I've had personal experience with a horse going blind. My old horse Tia was attacked my a cougar in one of oour fields, my grandpa was in the barn and he grabbed his gun and shot at it untiil it went away. However, the cougar seriously injured Tia and left her bleeding like crazy and two days later she was pronounced blind in both eyes. It was horrible! the vet told us that we needed to do lots of work to bond with her and make a strong connection. We live on a working cattle ranch... that was basically unheard of! so Tia became my personal horse and i spent months making that bond as tight as could be, and a year later i shocked people with the bond we had created!!! She would follow me around with her head on my shoulder knowing that i would lead her safely, i tought many commands and we even began riding again! So yes horses can feel and have emotions and i believe Tia really needed me there for support and she showed her gratitude by being one of the most amazing horses i've ever met and she still does!

the hardest part of riding is the ground... yup sounds about right
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