A Horse's Mind, and their bond with humans
I have been struggling with this for a while now, especially now that I have a horse that I raised staying with me and I love him more than anything. Are horses actually....capable of loving us back? I know we have a common belief that they do, but how can we know? Their minds do not work the same. Not just love towards humans either, but to other horses. How are we to know it is not just a survival instinct? Horses run away if able, so what does that mean? I desperately want to believe the bond I feel for my horse is mutual, but I can't help but question things.
Horses don't love people in the sense that we love things. They depend on people for their survival, that is why they get excited when you bring them food.
Animals can and do bond with humans, but the problems start when people anthropomorphize them and believe they love in the way we consider human love. They don't.
It's not that they're incapable of feeling deep emotions, but to equate it with how humans feel is where the disconnect occurs.
I had a deep bond and mutual affection with my heart horse, but at times he was much more interested in other horses than me. That was fine, because they were his own species and of course he related more to them than to me.
It doesn't cheapen or make the bond any less special to realize that horses (and other animals) don't love us the same way we love them. It's still a bond, and has importance to both human and nonhuman alike.
I have never seen a horse run a fenceline in a tizzy for hours screaming for a human when other horses are around but I seen it when humans are around trying to calm the horse down when another horse leaves. Kind of explains it.
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I guess it depends on your definition of "love". Here's mine, in relation to the ones I "love":
someone I want to spend time with
someone who'se company makes me happy (most of the time LOL)
someone who'se physical touch comforts me
someone who'se personality enriches my life
someone who I count on to make me feel better when I'm worried, stressed or sad
someone I would miss if they weren't around
someone I remember with a fond emotion
Based on these definitions, yes, I do feel that animals can "love" a human, or a number of humans. I've seen these qualities displayed from many animals that I've personally owned. Does that mean that their natural, wild instincts don't kick in every now and then? No. But do all the humans in your life (with which you share a "loving" relationship) stay right by your side 24/7? No. We all enjoy a measure of independance.
But that doesn't mean we don't love each other.
Every time that a horse allows you to touch it, tie, tack it up and ride it, you should feel deeply honored. It's amazing that one animal, born to flee anything that might try to contain it, would allow another animal to do all that, and would put his life in your hands. No greater honor can be had.
Like SR said, they don't "love" in the same way we do.
I'm sure they "love" in a way that's completely alien to our way of thinking...but I'm pretty sure it's not an "OMG! You're my BESTIE!!" kinda love.
I know that my blind mare really depends on me, is glad to see me everyday, and is careful to keep me safe even when she's feeling silly, and that's our sort of love. She misses me when I'm gone and is thrilled when I come home...but she IS blind. She knows I'll take care of her and that I'm her "eyes".
I wonder how different our relationship would be if her sight was fully functional.
I think my favorite thing is when she goes out of her way to keep me safe and obviously recalculates an action because she's realized that doing that action would endanger me. But it's not human-love.
Of course, I do love feeling like she "loves" me back and there's certainly nothing wrong with thinking your horse loves you but it's important to remember that animal love=/=human love.
And animals certainly love in an animal way, however there's no way for a human to know or truly understand what that way is.
I have xP
^^^I knew someone was gonna say that!
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I think Tiny put it perfectly. It's humbling to know that such a beautiful animal that could kill us or outrun us, would allow us to bond with them.
With Henny, I know there's a bond between us. He looks to me for guidance and protection, a leader. His left eye looks down a little as a result of his head injury. If I walk to the left of him, he's a calm boy and keeps his head as close to me as possible. When I'm walking on his right, he tries compensating for his eye and as a result is more panic stricken trying to get a decent view on his left while also trying to keep an eye on me on the right. My heart feels for him.
I remember the night he got hurt. I stalled him alone with hay and water while I went to go get my horsey friend down the road and trying to not have a panic attack. Whenever we came back to check on him and call the vet, he called out to me the second he saw me. Tore my heart to pieces. He was alone, eyes twitching uncontrollably, and he could barely walk. He found comfort in me. He knew that I meant safety, and that is what he needed most at that time. Even though he could barely walk, he loaded up in that trailer because I asked him to. That's what I think is love to them. Doing something for you that they don't HAVE to. Following your guidance and instruction because they believe that is what's best for them.
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