Special bonds with horses?
In another thread FrancesB wrote:
Just curious, why do you think 'special bonds' are rubbish? Horses are social creatures, like us. Scientists who study wild horse behaviour closely speak of 'peer attachment' - special one-on-one bonds pairs of horses sometimes develop each other. Humans can develop close bonds with dogs if they spend enough time with them & interact with them the right way, so I don't understand why people would think it is not possible to develop a similar bond with a horse. I know we and dogs are predators & horses are prey, but you hear of horses forming a special bond with a particular horse/goat/donkey/dog - why not a human?
It got me thinking, because while I DO feel good, strong bonds with my two mares, who live at home, I have to admit that it's nothing like the relationship they have with each other.
For one thing, I am not always there alongside them. Unless I literally lived with them 24/7, I don't think either would bond with me as well as with the "horse/goat/donkey/dog". Which is just as well, as I could never play with them the way they do with each other!
I like to think I have a pretty special bond with my mare. When I first met her, she was a baby on the track. She was scared, head-shy and a bit touch-and-go with her moods. She didn't want to cooperate with her handlers and she was as spooky as a horse could be. Yet, she decided to trust me. It wasn't long before I had sole care of her. If I was nearby, she would accept anything that was introduced to her. If it came time to walk to the track, she would fuss until I was at her head and then she would walk calmly. She would jog her training miles like a good girl, but refuse to come off the track unless I was there to take her back. For some reason, she chose to bond with me over anyone else.
Then she was sent from the barn and I lost track of her for 12 years. When I found her again, she was visibly excited to see me. The first time I saw her, her owners warned me that she was standoffish and would probably ignore me. When they led her around the corner and she saw me, her ears pricked forward and she started snorting and nickering. When she was led closer and I took her line, she pushed her head into my chest and sighed. She remembered me and her sellers were quite surprised.
When I go to the barn to see her, she will leave the hay she is eating or the horses she is with, and she will trot toward me to say hello. If she's feeling feisty, she might dart away after she's greeted me and invite me to play a game of tag. She stays a few steps ahead of me for a couple minutes, and then she nickers and lets me catch her. She follows wherever I lead her and will look for me if she feels unsure. She's wary of men and will skitter away, but if I'm reassuring her, she will stand and let them work with her. Most people who meet us comment on the bond we have and the special understanding. I've known her for so long and her quirks haven't changed. I know the mare inside and out and I trust her completely. I know she will never intentionally hurt me and I trust that she will not purposely try to dump me when I'm riding her in just a halter and bareback. In return, she trusts me to keep her safe and healthy, and to work with her funny personality. In a way, I feel like the expects as much of me as I do of her and together, we're a pretty good team.
Now, I don't know if that's the same kind of bond she could have with a horse, but I'm pretty confident that no matter the relationship she develops with her herd, that it will never trump the one she and I have. She is 100% my horse and I am 100% her person.
I went for a week vacation last year. When I came back whenever I was feeding my horses (I keep them on my property) my qh would leave her bucket in mid of the dinner, walk to me, gently push me with her nose, look into my eyes, and come back to the grain. She did it for 3 days in row after I came back. It was quite touching because she's generally not a very emotional horse when it comes to kissing, hugging, fussing, etc. (unlike my paint). And mind you this horse usually eats like a vacuum machine: just sucks everything in and looks if she can get to the other horse's bucket (in case I'm not watching). So yes, I'm a firm believer that horses can be very attached to the humans (which doesn't mean I'd play with them the way they play with each other).
My horse is all the proof I need to know that humans CAN make very close bonds with horses. He is very attached to me, protects me from other horses and hides behind me when more dominant horses approach him, is always fond to follow me around and to play with me like with one of his own kind, though in a gentle manner, trusts me to do anything I'd need to do with him, shows off in front of gelding and stallions in a stud like manner when I'm around and he knows I'm watching, and, when I come to visit him and he's far away in the pastures, I just have to call his name and wait - in a minute or so I'll hear him neighing and see him coming, no matter, what is the distance between us.
About 6 months into a new relationship with a horse, I start to look at the creature fondly. After one especially memorable ride, I usually declare my close affection - even my love - for the animal between my thighs. If it does something naughty which it needs to be forgiven for, then maybe I can make my declaration even earlier. A mark of a true friendship is forgiveness.
However I have yet to feel confident that the any one of the equine objects of my affections has truly returned the emotion. Invariably they want me for the treats.
I came to realize some time ago, horses exist not to love man but rather to be loved by man.
I know my mare loves me more then she does any other creature in the world.
She and I get each other, she has not interest in making friends with anything other then herself most days.
Today when I arrived at the yard DiDi was in absolute super hype. She was boiling away with steam coming out of every orifice. The Countess had got her ready for a competition which at the last moment was cancelled. So DiDI was tanked up and ready to go, but she was not going anywhere.
I groomed her down, and wiped off the stable lick from around her muzzle.
I cleaned up her rear end. DiDi fretted and fumed. I tacked her up to ground lunge her and I led her out into the arena, just as a tractor came by to trim the hedges. At first DiDi was just a bit excited, but then when the tractor came close by the edge of the area DiDI went into orbit.
At one moment there I was in the mddle of the arena holding onto a rocket propelled four legged super machine. She was leaning into a twelve foot length of lead rope whilst she was going round in circles, leaning over at a 45 degree angle at full tilt - gallop plus rocket boost. I've never seen her go so fast and there was me hanging on to the rope for grim death.
Eventually I got her back to canter and then down to trot and finally to walk.
I could see her veins protruding from the exertion. But at least she had calmed down a bit. DiDi is like a bottle of ginger beer, from time to time you release the stopper in the bottle and the liquid foams over.
FInally I took her down to her paddock. SHe is in season again, even though it
is only Febuary. It is going to be a long summer.
I have first hand experience of a special deep bond with a horse.
My horse was desired by all for his beautiful coat. And for that reason, I didn't like him. He would blow up for no apparent reason, he'd be disrespectful out of fear, he would rather injure himself than be around or work with a human. He wasn't comfortable in his own skin, the world was out to get him. He needed an experienced hand.
So why the HECK did he choose me?
I was the beginner of all beginners. Clumsy.. goofy, forgetful, inexperienced, fearful. And yet, he felt so safe in my presence.
I could walk up to him and catch him without cookies or begging or anything. He never spooked when I was handling him even when there were tarps fluttering or people running by or dogs nipping at his feet.
We were great friends on the ground. I helped him so much with feeling safe being in the world. That no matter what, I wouldn't hurt him, defraud him, embarrass him, scare him, put him down.
I was the only one that could tend to his wounds. He'd stand there with his eyes shut tight as I cleaned out a slice on his fetlock. At first he was scared of having his face handled but I used to stand there with him, with his head in my arms, stroking his face and kissing his nose and gently rubbing his ears.
He wouldn't run away from me as I cleaned his stall, despite having another horse (a pretty mare even!) in the pen next door. He'd throw a fit when his past owner tried to put a saddle on, and I grabbed the same saddle and tried to put it on and he stood still. It was so weird.
We helped each other with lunging (free lunging, without the lunge rope) and with tempo (I would click the tempo and he'd pick it up.)
Now on his back was a different story. He was so scared.. even getting on was a challenge. So I'd always start on the ground, and then get on and do a little. He never tried to hurt me like the others. He did spook but that's the extent of it. He used to rear and buck and I once saw him drag a few people along the rail.
He's slowly getting more comfortable. Before he was a "Maggie-only" horse and now he is accepting other people on his back and handling him. He has his first lessee and he's comfortable in walk and trot. We're working on canter.
I know that I have a special bond with my big guy, and everyone says they can see it to.
Recently I moved out of my parents house and about 40 min from my horses. There for awhile I was very busy with school and work and about a month and a half went by with out seeing the two creatures I was used to seeing everyday for nearly 5 years. Even though my parents where taking very good care of them I missed them terribly.
Anyway when I got out there I called Grady in from the field I heard him whinny long before I saw him. he ran straight up to me and I hugged him and tears just started coming. He didnt leave my side all that day and when I left I cried again and he stood at the gate an winnied.. Now I make sure I go out once a week and he is always is excited to see me.
I can trust that horse with my life and have several times while out riding. he is my favorite always!
I also have a special bond with Sonny that everyone at my barn can see as well. It took me 5 years and 2 horses to find the one I have this kind of connection with. My first two horses are now with their soul owners and I was disappointed that I was missing out. When I went and looked at Sonny for the first time, my heart stopped when he looked me in the eyes. I walked up to him and gave him a huge hug and he rested his head on my shoulder and I fell instantly and completely in love.
He follows me everywhere in the arena when I set up cones or beams to use during our workouts. I can't wait to see if he does the same thing when he is out to pasture and I go out to check on him. I'm so glad that I can now finally say that I found my heart horse.
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