How to make a horse more like a dog - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 24 Old 06-02-2016, 04:56 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Northern MN
Posts: 34
• Horses: 4
How to make a horse more like a dog

Some people's horses love attention, like my yellow lab. My horses are not like that, not at all. They're great once I start working with them - good ground work, bareback riding, saddle/bridle riding, all is pretty good. But they'd way rather just be with each other all the time. Humans are nothing but a nuisance to them, it seems.

Is it just a personality thing? Or just a normal horse thing (they're herd animals, etc)? More importantly, can I change it?

Quick useful background info:
Neither my wife nor I grew up with horses. She's had a few lessons lately and lots of experience shadowing other people in the last couple years. I like horses enough and find it fun to make progress with them, especially for my kids' sake.

Cyclone: approx 15 year-old red mare QH, we've had her 1.5 years. no training but mellow and pretty nice to ride, great for kids. SUPER buddy-sour.
Minnie: approx. 5 y.o. gray mare pony. ours for 1.5 years. some training. gets buddy-sour, but she's the friendliest of them all.
Echo: 11 y.o. buckskin QH. came from a ranch with over 30 horses, used a bit for high school rodeo. We've only had her 3 months. She just had a foal.
Cash: new colt. 2 weeks old. really cool animal.

Cyclone is the main focus since she's so stinking buddy sour and bratty UNTIL we start riding. Then she's awesome. I'm concerned about Echo too because she's not as lovey-dovey as we want her to be, but I'm hoping that's just because she has the colt glued to her side.

I'd love to hear from some of you that developed good relationships with "older" horses. Anyone turned a buddy-sour brat into a loving puppy?

JAultman is offline  
post #2 of 24 Old 06-02-2016, 05:07 PM
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Just south of sanity
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You don't want your horses to act like dogs, because they're not dogs. If you want undivided attention and slavish love, stick with dogs. Horses prefer their own kind, because they're herd animals and there's safety in numbers.

You're a predator (human) trying to get prey (horses) to 'love' you. Doesn't work like that. Horses can be and are affectionate but only on their own terms, and they'll never have the same mindset as a pack predator (dog). If you want a horse that will leave the herd when it sees you, you're wasting your time. Even my mare, who definitely likes people, would rather be with other horses.

Respect and trust is what you're looking for in a horse, not slavering devotion. Once you have their respect and trust as an honest and fair leader, they'll go through fire with and for you. But never, ever mistake it for the kind of love a dog will give you. That kind of mindset will get you killed.

A bond with a horse is formed by time, fairness, respect and trust. They don't automatically trust and respect humans, unlike dogs who are specifically bred to integrate and work with humans. Puppies automatically attach to humans, whereas foals are born wild and we have to teach them to be tame.

You want the truth? You can't HANDLE the truth!
Speed Racer is offline  
post #3 of 24 Old 06-02-2016, 05:16 PM
Green Broke
Join Date: Feb 2014
Location: Harrisburg, PA
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If you want an equine that's more like a dog, buy a donkey - you won't even be able to take pictures of them because they'll have their nose directly in your face and following you.
Mulefeather is offline  
post #4 of 24 Old 06-02-2016, 05:21 PM
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Northern Utah
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Comic is really buddy sour...however, he's also a big "puppy".
As long as he's out in the pasture with his buddies he's always the first one to come up to see if you have treats (or to steal your hat!). He's in your pocket if you are trying to fix sprinklers, clean troughs, or catch. He walks up to me every time and drops his head into his halter. He's also good for me to take him into the barn alone to trim his feet. However, we had to work up to this.
Now, same horse, try to take him out of sight of his buddies... talk about a fit. He gets nervous, fidgety, calls, paws, paces. If we are riding out in a group no way can you ride him off on his own. He has his favorite buddy (my husband's mare) but as long as he is with one other horse he is fine.

Now take my husband's horse. She's independent. You can ride her out on her own. She'll ride away from the group with very little problem. BUT... she is the hardest to catch. She is very standoffish. Even when you just go out to give treats she comes close enough to get a treat but when you reach out to pet her she backs away. She has to come to you and get attention on her terms.

My father's horse, Red. He rides out on his own. Couldn't care less about the other horses. They will be in a group on one side of the 5 acres and he'll be way off alone. He is also very easy to catch and likes attention.

My point is, all horses are different and have different personalities, just like dogs do. Some are in your pocket and some won't give you the time of day. The more you work with them the more they will respond to you BUT you can't force a horse who doesn't care about being loved on to want to be pet and fawned over. You can make a horse less buddy sour and more independent with lots of one on one training and riding but some horses, like my Comic, will never be totally independent.

Riding: The art of keeping a horse between you and the ground. ~Author Unknown
BoldComic is offline  
post #5 of 24 Old 06-02-2016, 05:26 PM
Join Date: Oct 2014
Location: Central Hill Country Texas
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I have a couple of horses who will leave the herd to be with me, so I have to respectfully disagree with that part of the above post.

I don't know why they do it. Maybe it is just curiosity on their part, but we have one in particular that if my husband is putting up a new gate, is literally there, looking over his shoulder, taking his hat, licking his hair, picking up his tools with his mouth.

He can be quite the pest sometimes; tell him to move off and he will, but he stands out of the space bubble just watching doesn't go back to the herd, would rather just watch the strange human I guess. Might be coincidental, but he is also our smartest horse. He is fine out alone with a rider.

I do however agree that you need to see them as horses, respect them as such, and give it time for that trust to build with consistency and fairness, in discipline as well as in care.

“You spend your whole life with horses and just about the time you think you have them figured out, a horse comes along that tells you otherwise.” –quote from my very wizened trainer

Reiningcatsanddogs is offline  
post #6 of 24 Old 06-02-2016, 05:31 PM
Join Date: Jul 2008
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Some horses have a more dog-like temperament where they seem to really enjoy being around people and will hound you for attention. But that's not really something that is generally desirable in a horse. When an animal weighs 1000 lbs or more, you really don't want them walking up and trying to sit in your lap.

Where a lot of people run into trouble in trying to make horses be "in your pocket" is that the horse loses all respect for your personal space. Even if they don't act maliciously, a horse can easily hurt you badly by stepping on you or bumping you and knocking you down or nipping/biting on you.

Speedracer is right, if you want an animal that will act like a dog and be devoted to you and follow your every move, you're better off sticking with a dog. It's better for the horse and for you to appreciate the bond of respect and trust that comes with having a respectful horse. I've dealt with far too many horses that started out as "dog-like pets" that ended up VERY dangerous because they had no respect.
smrobs is offline  
post #7 of 24 Old 06-02-2016, 05:37 PM
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Just south of sanity
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There are odd ducks who like to hang around humans, especially if that human is doing something more interesting than they are at the moment. Doesn't mean they 'love' you, though. It just means you're marginally more interesting than grazing/playing with their buddies/napping.

My mare is very independent, and I keep her separate from the geldings because she's mean to the old guy. I don't for a second think she prefers me over them, although she's very curious and affectionate, and I have no trouble taking her off the farm and riding out with a strange group of horses.

I never forget they're horses regardless of how funny, cute, or seemingly affectionate they're being. They're prey animals with a high flight instinct, and a will to survive over everything and everyone else. That should always be in the back of our minds because they're not dogs, they don't think like dogs, and although we can train them to not give in to their natural instincts when upset or frightened, they'll never be entirely safe or trustworthy because of those instincts.

And as smrobs stated, you most certainly do not want a 1,000 lb 'dog' coming at you to play or mug you for treats because they can and will hurt you, even if they have no intention of doing so.

You want the truth? You can't HANDLE the truth!
Speed Racer is offline  
post #8 of 24 Old 06-02-2016, 05:40 PM
Join Date: Oct 2015
Location: Utah
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I don't know if I have any advise, but I can offer my experience with the two horses I have now. Though I do second what has been said above.

My QH gelding really could care less about affection. He has ALWAYS been this way, 13 years with him hasn't changed anything. Rarely does he want to be touched, except for when he wants his bum scratched haha. He doesn't hardly even look at me when I go to the barn. The only time I even remotely get attention from him is when he's hungry and knows I'm feeding, but even then it's just a small nicker and he walks away and waits to be fed. The neighbor's wife who used to live next door tried to "make friends" with him and was so offended that he didn't like her. I tried to explain that he's just not a "people person" and treats me the exact same way, but that was a conversation over the head He is very good to work with (most days) and really he does enjoy a good face rub now and then (after I've caught him), especially when I've got the lavender oil out, but would really prefer to be left alone. I don't take offense or feel bad about that, it's just the way he is.

On the other hand my mini is a lap horse. In my short life have not run into another equine more affectionate. She whinnies the second she hears me open the gate and is standing up on her hind legs looking over her stall door for me, feeding time or not. Often if I sit down in the pasture, she comes trotting up to me and needs a rub. She will usually ignore her food until I have left just to make sure she doesn't miss out on any petting. I have recently been ground driving her around town, and the biggest problem I am having is her wanting to turn and greet everyone we pass.

So I have one of each, I am more than willing to bet that it may be a personality thing. But try spending more time with them, just tie them up and do nothing but groom. As far as I know most horses enjoy that time

Duggan & Miss May
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post #9 of 24 Old 06-02-2016, 06:14 PM
Green Broke
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: New South Wales, Australia
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I wanted a sort of best friend horse. Prior to the one I have now, I had this mare who was just moody and unpleasant and it never was nice being around her. I worked with her a lot and go great ground manners but never friendliness. So my next horse I wanted one that would be my friend.

My horse is like that and was like that from when I got him (besides a few catching issues at first). Now he neighs to me when I call him and comes trotting or galloping, he is a bit in your face, the kind of horse who sticks his head in car windows to see what you're doing and where you've hidden the carrots etc.

Obviously a big part of his personality is food based, but it's nice.

The point is that this is his natural personality. He's not trained to be like this he just is.
Saskia is offline  
post #10 of 24 Old 06-02-2016, 07:06 PM
Join Date: Apr 2016
Location: Southeast USA
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My friendliest horse, the one that always meets you at the gate and loves to hang around people and see they are doing, is also the peskiest of the bunch. I'm not sure if it's just his personality, or the fact that he is half-pony, or the fact that I got him when he was a yearling. He seems to think people are his best friends, but he's not always convinced that he has to obey. On the other hand, my least friendly horse, the one that grudgingly lets you halter him, behaves perfectly and respects every command. I think I prefer the aloof respect I get from him.
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