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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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!
 

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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.
 

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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).
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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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!
 

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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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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.
 
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I've had two that showed a special bond.

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 -


 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
What great stories! I'm beginning to think at least some of the special bonds are due to the humans allowing it.

And poor DiDi- I wonder if having a foal might fix anything? I admire your courage, Barry, and your affection for this most difficult mare.
 

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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...?!
 

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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!
 

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Beling.
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.

We need to find an answer.
 

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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.
 
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