My mare Sour convinced me that a horse and human can bond.
When I first met her, she had a terrible reputation. She had been screwed up by a 'cowboy' who wanted to train her quickly, and would do anything to get away from a human. She would run until she collapsed, bite, kick, rear, buck, and even lunge at people with her teeth bared. Everyone said that she was a monster horse and hated her. People would fight over who had to feed her because she'd try to attack anyone who got near her.
When I started working with her, it wasn't like she just saw me and went 'THATS going to be my best friend' and suddenly did everything I wanted. It was like a normal human human or human dog bond. It grew with time. There was no doubt though, that she tolerated me better than anyone else. Maybe it was because I was small and unintimidating, maybe it was because she should sense my patience and gentleness. Either way, she let me come into her life.
It took time and a lot of stubbornness, but she began to calm down and become a civilized part of society. She now allows people to come catch her, or lead her around. But when she's frightened or nervouse, she always comes to me. I've always been her advocate when no one else was willing to give her a chance, and she knows that I'm on her side. Now that doesn't mean we don't fight sometimes, or that she doesn't challenge me- she's thrown her share of fits and has her off days. She's naturally an extremely hot and dominant animal, but she will do things for me that she won't even think about doing for anyone else.
She's now in training to be a buggy horse, and she's doing beautifully. But only if I'm there.
First was my mare that was "cowboyed" before I got her. Couldn't catch her, etc. After years of working with her I became the only one who could stay with her and the only person she would tolerate.
I free leased her twice when I was in college and both people HATED her. First was to my good friend who ran a breeding operation and wanted her to ride when her mares were heavy in foal. THAT didn't work. Sky was constantly fighting to get in with her stud, would jump fences to get to him, and would throw Nance if she took her out on the trails. Total nightmare. Then the next one was a family friend who took in three of my horses, they were great people and loved my other two horses but Sky wouldn't listen to them, acted like a bronk, jumped their fences, and refused to be caught. I brought her home and she was a doll for me.
Then Rooster. He was so soft and gentle with almost everyone but he hated other horses and doted on my daughter. He was happiest on the porch with us. When he got old we pulled him out of the pasture because he was so miserable and would stand by the gate waiting for me to come out. Night and day he stood on the porch watching me through the windows waiting for attention. Now we had 10 other horses then and he would never walk out to visit them or even flip an ear in their direction. When he had his last colic due to bad weather he went down next to the porch and called out to me for help. When I went out he put on a show letting me know where it hurt. As soon as I went to call the vet he jumped up and wobbled towards me calling to me for help. Broke my heart! Hub thankfully came home right then and ran in to call the vet. I stayed out in the rain where he was down, he insisted on having his head in my lap and snuggled next to me all covered in blankets. He made it through it and I spent two days and nights sleeping with him in the barn. There will NEVER be another horse like him for me, 1 in a billion. This is a special bond -
My first horse is a mare. An Arabian. An orphan. I committed the 3 sins of first horse ownership when I got her. Unbroken. YIKES! I didn't know what I didn't know. I really went to look at her because my trainer at the time recommended her because she was "ready to be trained". 3 1/2 years old.
I went to look at her in her stall. She stuck her head out and put it on my shoulder, at which time I promptly turned into a puddle on the floor. Needless to say, I got her and whe wouldn't let me touch her at first! Lots of errors and progress later, she and I saw each other daily when I was training her, and as often as possible later. She learned to come running to me with a little training, and runs to me fast when she hears my whistle, even with NO treat.
When we were first cantering, the saddle came loose. I felt it start to slip, and told her verbally to stop. She did, balancing me and the saddle the whole time. It was amazing. Another time, on the trail, she slipped in the mud and I thought she wouldn't be able to get up with me on her, so I bailed... and got caught on the horn by my chap strap. Hanging upside down, I told her to stop, which she did, with my arms around her neck. My strap came loose (threads gave) and I dropped to my feet, safely.
She is now 26 and follows me like a puppy, still. She is queen of the pasture, and bosses the other horses around. She lets me do anything to her, and lets others ride her, no problem. But for me, nothing is off limits. She hurt herself badly and allowed me to treat the wound without a halter or lead. Talk about a bond...?!
I've had a couple horses with whom I've had a special bond with. The first was my western pleasure mare I got when she was 6 months old and I was 13. Being a kid, I spent every waking moment with that girl and she loved me to pieces. She would follow me everywhere, I could take off running, she'd follow me having great fun! Getting off the bus, a lot of times she'd be waiting at the top of the driveway in her pasture. We'd race home(she always won!).
My second strong relationship is the mare I have now. She broke her leg the day after I bought her and we've been through thick and thin together. Both she and I have messed up working our way towards having a good relationship, but we have always been forgiving of each other.
When she is scared or unsure, she will run straight to me if I am outside. I never really thought she liked me as much as I liked her until I kept her at my friend's hayfield overnight as we played around with other horses and roamed around in the high fence. When I went to catch her the next morning, she was wayyy out there in the pasture. I hollered at her and whistled. I'll be danged if she didn't come hauling butt to see me! She was so relieved I hadn't left her alone, I got special attention when I went outside for anything at all for a few days afterwards, lol.
There have been other instances where she would turn to me for comfort. I can also get more out of her than other people, although not many are allowed to ride her, and no one is allowed unless I am there watching what they are doing with her.
We competed at an Extreme Cowboy Challenge series last summer. Josie had never been exposed to most of the things there and only had 26 rides in a year on her, very sporatically. We went through the course better than people on broke horses because she has such respect and is willing and confident that I wouldn't get her in a bind. She can trust me and through her ability to trust me, I can trust her.
Another ridiculous story.... Josie walked on some dog kennel panels and got a piece of wire stuck between her hoof and shoe. Well, she went to walk off, was caught, and kicked at the panel until it came loose. She still had a long piece of wire caught in between the hoof and shoe. When she figured that out, she took off running around and around the house, the wire spanking her in the butt as she went! I was wondering what to do, stepping out in front of a galloping horse didn't seem like a good idea. After she had passed me a couple more times around, I hollered at her, standing off to the side, she came running up covered in sweat, sides heaving, and allowed me to figure out what happened and fix the wire. It was lodged in there, I had to get some wire snips and cut the long pieces off to pull the rest of it out. She was unharmed physically, but probably scarred for life mentally, lol!
We have called the vet for a string of tests. She has almost stopped eating and is highly aggressive towards the geldings.
The suspicion now is some source of physical pain rather than a behavioural issue or perhaps even a combination of the two.
When I touch her neck and her flanks, one can feel the trembles.
Is there such thing as a "special bond" between a horse and a human if it is actually more or less the norm?
Sure, I have a twelve years' worth of stories about the relationship I have with my horse, but in my view, if you didn't have a relationship or a "bond" or mutual affection and respect for an animal you'd owned for twelve years, that would be concerning. Is it just your expectations? I expect a connection with my horse and if I just didn't get on with or -- after giving it a good amount of time -- connect with an individual horse, quite frankly I'd sell it. Luckily I know the kinds of horses I like so I've never bought one I didn't. Someone at my barn commented that I must be very brave to ride bareback (i.e. Like my avatar photo) and I said, "The way I see it, I've had this horse for years... if I *couldn't* ride her bareback, that would be a worry."
Conversely, if you *expect* to have an adversarial relationship with your horse, as many people sadly seem to, than someone who doesn't must appear to have a "special bond" with their horse.