Love vs respect - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 21 Old 02-19-2016, 04:14 PM Thread Starter
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Love vs respect

Can horses love? I'd like to think so. If a dog, a cat, and a human can feel love, why not horses? It seems a bit egotistical to think that humans are the only ones capable of true emotion. A lot of people say That a horse can only respect you, but shouldn't there be more? Is horse riding just another example of man's domination? Are horses just another creatures we've broken and bent to our will? I don't want to believe that. I may be naive, I may live in unicorn land, but I still want to believe that somewhere behind those big brown eyes, lies the ability to love. Can somebody answer me this, can a horse feel love?
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post #2 of 21 Old 02-19-2016, 04:22 PM
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i will say no. even though a horse may enjoy your companionship and feel nice or safe when near you, it does not feel love like a human does. neither does a cat or dog.
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post #3 of 21 Old 02-19-2016, 04:23 PM
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Originally Posted by GoyaGreenJumper View Post
Can horses love? I'd like to think so. If a dog, a cat, and a human can feel love, why not horses? It seems a bit egotistical to think that humans are the only ones capable of true emotion. A lot of people say That a horse can only respect you, but shouldn't there be more? Is horse riding just another example of man's domination? Are horses just another creatures we've broken and bent to our will? I don't want to believe that. I may be naive, I may live in unicorn land, but I still want to believe that somewhere behind those big brown eyes, lies the ability to love. Can somebody answer me this, can a horse feel love?
This was one of your questions in your other post, and was answered by several people including myself.

Speaking in terms of cognitive function, there is a reason humans are where they are in the world. And animals where they are in the world.

Horses don't experience the same emotions that humans do and they do not experience them in the same way. So you can't really compare their "love" in human terms because it is not the same.

Horses (in most cases) are a willing creature by nature. They survive best in a herd situation. In every herd, there is always going to be a leader and there's going to be a pecking order. Horses instinctively look to have that herd dynamic. When you bring a human into the picture, that human normally takes the place of the leader in the herd. When done correctly, those actions cause the horse to instinctively respect them and follow them.

Does the horse nicker in greeting and come over to see you when you arrive? Some do. Is it love? Not really. They are happy to see their leader but it is not the same same way that a parent loves their child, or a husband loves their wife. Your horse doesn't think about you throughout the day and wonder how your day is going. They don't worry about you when you don't show up after work like you normally do. Etc.

Horses do make and have friends; likewise they have other horses they don't like and don't get along with. They may be sad or distraught when you take away their friends, but have you "broken their heart"? No. Not in the human sense.

Originally Posted by GoyaGreenJumper View Post
Can somebody answer me this, can a horse feel love?

Not in the way that you want to think that they do (anthropomorphism).

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It is not enough to know how to ride; one must know how to fall.
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post #4 of 21 Old 02-19-2016, 04:41 PM
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I do not believe that you will get any different answers this time than you did on the other post.

Horses are horses, they are not people, they do not think, act, behave or understand the world the same as people, and it is both foolish and dangerous to talk about a half ton flight animal, in human terms.

A horse will feel safe with it's leader, it will respect it's leader, but it will not 'love' them. I do believe that a horse and rider can develop a bond, that horse will be a great partner for one person, but maybe not another, but that comes down to respect, familiarity, partnership.

I think that we kind of do horses a big disservice when we put all these human attributes on them, because it is in a way lazy, and it is dangerous. You need to learn what their actual needs are, to keep both of you safe in all your interactions.

“Never attribute to malice that which can be attributed to stupidity”
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post #5 of 21 Old 02-19-2016, 05:04 PM
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Well....scientists think they have figured out that "love" is nothing more than a learned behavior triggered by oxytocin, vasopressin and dopamine in the brain causing a "bond" to form (like a drug addiction).

So in that sense, if a horse has a dopamine dump when he is with you, then yes by this theory, he could technically "love" you, in essence forming a bond whereby he wants to be with you.
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post #6 of 21 Old 02-19-2016, 05:07 PM
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Horses can form a very strong bond with another horse, or another animal companion like a goat, that is as much like love as the human emotion. I also think horses can become quite fond of, and trust, a rider. Call it love if you want. A horse is not going to give its life to defend you or pine away if you leave. Some dogs are capable of this, but not a horse.

Social species are capable of intense affectionate relationships with other individuals in their group. However, that is not the relationship horses have with humans.

It is the major part of being a good animal trainer: being able to think and feel like that animal, and put your human ideas aside. The opposite of anthropomorphism, but it is not a denigration in any way of that animal or its species.

People who believe animals "can't feel the way we do" are just as blind as those who believe that they can.
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post #7 of 21 Old 02-19-2016, 06:11 PM
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Its not egotistical to think humans can perceive emotions more than other animals. There are lots of attributes that are human attributes. Like the ability to act ethically. The ideas of moral. The idea of cruelty. The ability to reflect on the past and change the way you perceive it. The ability to logically plan for the future. The ability to understand the world through science. The concept of beauty. There are lots more. These are what makes us people.

Animals have their own attributes that are theirs. Such as horses have such an amazing ability to read body language - and its universal, all horses speak their own instinctual language. Dogs have a deep sense of pack loyalty and the ability to work as a strong team. All animals have their own attributes, many that we don't share.

I believe that our version of "love" was developed because it needed to be. It's often thought the first, and sometimes only, love that humans experience is the love between mother and child. This was developed as a tool to ensure the survival of ourselves/offspring. Humans look after children for an exceptionally long time compared to many other animals and our children are born incapable of being independent for some years. It is essential that we have unwavering care for our children - and they do their part by sticking to parents.

Horses... bit different really. Foals are semi independent from birth, and within six months they can live on their own. As they grow their learning and protection doesn't only come from their mother, but the herds they live in.

Even if it could be established that horses feel love for each other I think it would be a big stretch to include humans in that. Horses do not live with humans, they often live their lives with their herds, in their paddocks, their lives. They see humans for a couple of hours out of the day when we ask them to do unnatural things and then they go back to the field. They like us because we make them safer and we feed them. That is why they, at times, will chose to hang around us. We teach horses that we are dominant, safe, reliable, by training them, which is really a form of trickery. It's not like a kid going to school where they are given information. We come up with strategies like increasing pressure, lunging, tools to increase our strength to I guess trick the horse into thinking we are stronger than them. We use their natural instincts to run, move away from pressure etc to gain control. It's not an equal, loving relationship between owner and horse.

If ever there was an argument to be made for animal love I think it would be with dogs. And they are interesting I think. The devotion many dogs show towards their owners isn't replicated with other dogs in my experience. It seems dogs show a different form of devotion to humans than to animals. Part of that, I believe, is because of generations of breeding animals that work well with humans. Its now instintctual for a dog to connect with humans, to bond with them - that is how their breed has been successful. We reward this behaviour.

For how dogs feel, blind devotion, endless admiration, always wanting to be someone - some might call that love, but it's different to how humans feel it. It's not respectful and reflective. It's raw, and animal, they love their relationship to people rather than the people themselves, because they way they are they can't know us.
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post #8 of 21 Old 02-20-2016, 09:52 PM
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No, I don't think horses feel "love". But sometimes, I'm not even sure humans do. Why do we "love" certain people? Because they bring something to our lives that we like. That can be lust, in the case of a young couple falling in love, or friendship, because you like being around that person for whatever reason - they make you feel good about yourself, they make you laugh, they "get" you... I'm not at all certain there is such a thing as altruistic love. Motherly love is probably the strongest of all, and that is just biological programming.

Now dogs, (I agree with Saskia here, again :) ) they are a special case. Their devotion is infinite. They are actually be capable of self-sacrifice without even a second thought. They miss us, they pine for us when we're gone... I have one dog that is so attached to me that it cries when I leave (I can't even describe the sound... like a shriek accompanied with excessive runny eyes, just like tears). If I'm gone several days, even though he is home with the rest of the family, he is depressed and clearly dejected. It's almost unhealthy.

Horses, on the other hand, like us for a reason. Either because we have food, because we have the power of opening that stall door to let them out, because we know where to scratch them or just because the view us as leaders. But I think they move on fairly quickly to the next person to do all those things for them. It doesn't mean we can't have a bond with them, just that calling it "love" is just not recognizing their nature.
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post #9 of 21 Old 02-21-2016, 04:44 AM
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Although we should not put human emotions on animals there have been many instances where by animals have pined and died when their owners have died, more with dogs than horses.

I do know of a case where a mare and gelding had been together all their lives. At the age of fourteen the owner put the mare in foal. Whilst the mare was at stud the gelding wasn't eating despite other horses being with him.

She returned and he was back to normal. When she foaled and didn't want him around he just gave up and died. The owner swore it was of a broken heart and the vet couldn't find any reason for his death.
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post #10 of 21 Old 02-21-2016, 05:30 AM
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We think we are the only ones capable to love just because we were able to put a name on it, to rationalize a feeling. I don't think it gives us the rights to judge and the capability to understand how those feel who cannot put that into words. :)

I have come a long way, to surrender my shadow to the shadow of my horse.
/James Wright/
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