The Horse Forum banner

1 - 20 of 231 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,287 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I cannot possibly be the only adult who winces when I hear the word “bonding” as it pertains to horses.

The instant I see it written or hear it spoken I assume that the person has to be some magical-thinking, horse crazy young girl who has grown up on a diet of My Pretty Pony and Walt Disney horse movies.Usually I’m hearing something like “I’m having trouble bonding with my horse and I’m afraid he doesn’t love me but mommy won’t let me get a new one” or, even worse “Princess loves me and we have bonded so she would never, ever hurt me”It actually makes me cringe!I’m thinking, geez kid this isn’t some lovey-dovey, ‘hearts& flowers’ relationship!This is a 1000lb animal that can and sometimes will throw you across the aisleway or crush you like a bug with no warning.Fortunately I rarely hear an experienced, adult horsewoman or horseman use the word bonding in describing their relationship with horses.

Even growing up a horse obsessed little girl I never heard the word bonding used and understood quite quickly that horses were nothing like dogs with their “I live to please you” attitude.

Heck, I have often thought that if a person really wants to feel unconditional love from an animal, they’d stick with dogs instead of horses or humans!They sure are the only ones running to the door wagging their tails when I come home.And, most importantly they have been selected and bred for only two things: the desire to guard us and our property and the ability to show us affection.A horse is a whole other story.Domesticated to work and serve us, not to be affectionate or loving.

So kids, here’s the hard truth.Don’t be sad because you think you aren’t “bonding” with your horse.They simply don’t think that way.

Yes, a horse will learn to recognize us and many times even the vehicles we drive.They will whinny at us, act excited to see us and maybe ask to be let out but this is not love.When we ascribe human emotions to animals we tend to misunderstand the true nature of the relationship.

At best, we can teach a horse to trust us, respect us as their boss mare and enjoy all the good things we can provide them even if it’s as simple as a treat, feeding or a head scratching.A horse that has been treated badly or is naturally standoffish can learn that humans aren’t such bad creatures to be around and can learn to trust.

Try to accept trust and respect as a pretty good alternative to all this talk about “bonding”.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,670 Posts
I too can stand this "bond". A simple search on Instagram will reveil teens literally SPOONING THEIR HORSES (like laying between their legs) while they are laying down. And they do things like lay under their horse and let them put their hoof on their head or stomach. When asked why they are doing it or told that it's dangerous they already respond that "_____ would never hurt me! We have a bond! " or "your not a real horseman unless you trust your horse and of your not doing this your not a real horse person". Then it's typically followed by some vulgar cursing and name calling...
Posted via Mobile Device
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,406 Posts
I too can stand this "bond". A simple search on Instagram will reveil teens literally SPOONING THEIR HORSES (like laying between their legs) while they are laying down. And they do things like lay under their horse and let them put their hoof on their head or stomach. When asked why they are doing it or told that it's dangerous they already respond that "_____ would never hurt me! We have a bond! " or "your not a real horseman unless you trust your horse and of your not doing this your not a real horse person". Then it's typically followed by some vulgar cursing and name calling...
Posted via Mobile Device
Or the people on instagram with their horse "hugging" them.

We have media to blame for this. "Black Beauty", "Flicka". Are allllll to blame
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,269 Posts
I don't have a problem with the term bond. A bond can be a lot of different things. You can call yourself the alpha mare and do that sort of silly baloney that could get you kill. Don't hate the term hate the actions. As Shakespeare wrote "What is in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet" and as Forrest Gump said "stupid is as stupid does".

I think there are "bonds" that exist between horse and rider. To me a bond is one in which your horse performs an action even though you have miscued or been late in a cute. Think a show jumper who has their rider misjudge striding but still gets them both over the jump. This bond is the result of hours of work and work is the key word. The problem is that some people think that a bond is the result of giving a horse whatever it wants. This gives the rider a false sense of security. To me a bond with your horse is when your horse goes above and beyond what you have asked because you have consistently asked for a behavior. The horse gets it right even though you bungled the request. The result of you both knowing the lines and expectations.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,469 Posts
I too can stand this "bond". A simple search on Instagram will reveil teens literally SPOONING THEIR HORSES (like laying between their legs) while they are laying down. And they do things like lay under their horse and let them put their hoof on their head or stomach. When asked why they are doing it or told that it's dangerous they already respond that "_____ would never hurt me! We have a bond! " or "your not a real horseman unless you trust your horse and of your not doing this your not a real horse person". Then it's typically followed by some vulgar cursing and name calling...
Posted via Mobile Device
You will never be a REAL OLD horseman pulling all that crap, that's for sure.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
106 Posts
I feel like some of what your saying isn't entirely true. Like, yes- all that horse spooning, and hugging, and whatever is just dumb and dangerous! But, I feel like you can have a bond with a horse. Like, yeah. they aren't going to roll on their backs waiting for a tummy rub but they do, in my opinion, love people. People don't breed highly aggressive horses who 'look pretty'. Its unethical. You don't get on a horse without having some level of trust in them. They are our horses and we are their humans.

In my opinion, my horse loves me. If not love, he likes me…a lot! Horses are not just work animals. Chevy is my companion, parter, and best friend and I would have to say that we make a great team. The people who don't feel that way about their horses seem to have a relationship with their horses that isn't even close to as strong as I have with Chevy. They are a part of ALL of our lives and for many equestrians, they make our lives whole. I feel like if you give a horse enough TLC, eventually they will care for you.

Here are horses who have saved their owners lives. I feel that if they save their owners life, they love them at least the teensiest tiny bit. Or at least see them a member of the 'herd' and, ya know what, that's enough for me.

Horses Saving Human Lives?! Horse Heros. | Horse and Man
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,406 Posts
I think humans are the ones who need the companionship, not the horses. Horses don't actively seek out approval like dogs do. Horses don't want to crawl into your lap and cuddle. You are NOT that horses companion. You're the thing that feeds it and sits on it's back. Humans are the ones who do all the caring, not the horses.

I don't think horses have the capacity to "care". Caring takes rationalization, which horses don't have the ability to do. They don't have the ability to give two craps about any other animal outside their own basic herd/maternal instincts. That horse would be just as happy without you as it is with you.

Yes horses give us meaning, horses give us a reason to get up everyday, shoot horses even saved my life. But I am not foolish enough to think that they "appreciate me", or even think of me in that way. Even rescue horses, they are happy.....to be fed. Horses don't have the capacity to understand outside their own basic instincts and needs. They just don't.

People fail to realize that horse companion relationships are one sides relationships. YOU are the one who needs the horse's company, that horse would be just fine without you. That horse doesn't care for you, it's only used to you. It's nice to think that horses give back the compassion we give them, but it's simply not the case.

The most bonding you ever get out of a horse is when you have a horse really tuned in. The horse knows what you expect when you expect it and behaves accordingly. Now THAT is the kind of bond I like. A horse that respects me and listens.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
17,293 Posts
I'd like so see The Black Stallion pulled from shelves. One young gal of 12 had this idea she could "tame" my big gelding. She was taking lessons but no matter what I told her about equine behaviour she tuned me out and seemed to think she knew better than I. One day said horse nipped her. The timing was wonderful because I was about to tell her I wouldn't be able to teach her any more. The nip was her wakeup call and she was then willing to listen to what I said.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
12,698 Posts
I strongly believe you should ride the training, not the bond - but that doesn't make a bond evil or nonsensical. I have told people before that if they wanted a bond, they should get a dog...and yet...

Mia & Lilly were corral mates for about 4 years. When we sold Lilly - to a lady who lives about 2 miles from here - Mia stood against the part of the corral closest to where she last saw Lilly and whinnied and nickered thru the afternoon and into the night. The next day, less so. After 3 days, she stopped going there and calling. When she saw Lilly about 2 years later, they weren't entirely certain where they knew each other from, but they definitely were very curious about each other - and Mia is afraid of strange horses!

Caring? If not, she sure faked it well.

It is much less so with horses to humans, IMHO. Still, as you own them & ride them & spend time around them, you will find you interact easily with some and with difficulty with others. Trooper is better trained than Mia, and will obey me more consistently - or used to, although Mia has improved a lot - but Trooper takes no pleasure in my company. Trooper thinks my youngest daughter is a minor deity, and he is the only horse she is interested in riding, but Trooper wouldn't give a rat's rear if I fell off the end of the world. I'm pretty sure he'd give me a nudge...

Mia seems to enjoy my company, at least somewhat. Part of it is that she is a nervous horse, and she feels safer around me than anyone else. Part of it is that she has obviously been taken care of by humans, because she thinks generic humans do good things for horses. But while Trooper will say, "Waiting for orders. I'll do what I must!", Mia will say, "What are WE doing today?"

She acted that way even back when she was a spook monster, who bolted and spun and squirted diarrhea like crazy...so no, a "bond" does NOT make you safe. She was dangerous for me to ride, even while 'liking' me. But honestly, if I didn't feel some connection to her, I'd have sold her off years ago!

I hate the way "bond" is used and sold. But that doesn't mean horses have no more feelings than a motorcycle. If that was true, I'd be out of horses by now. Hay is $17/bale, and we expect it to break $22 this winter. The horses cost too much if they are just tools.

A few years ago, I was digging a small ditch across the corral. I started in the middle, and worked both ways out. As I was working, Mia came over and watched for about 5 minutes. She sniffed the shallow ditch in obvious puzzlement. Then she went to the far end of the ditch, and began pawing at it, swapping front feet about once/minute. She wasn't a very good digger, but she was trying. I don't know what others would call that, but it kind of seems like a bond to me. :?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,073 Posts
I don't think horses have the capacity to "care". Caring takes rationalization, which horses don't have the ability to do.
I hate all the ridiculous "bonding", Disney mumbo jumbo too, but I don't agree that they are just work animals capable of nothing but trust and respect. For example, I had a mare that for whatever reason chose to trust me. She had been beaten up and sold drugged at a sale. I never coddled her, she was very respectful, great under saddle, did whatever I asked, just a reactive type. I had dropped her lead on the ground and she was grazing after a ground work session, and I was crouched down, checking something out. Someone had left the gate open and the whole herd unexpectedly came running right at us. She sidepassed over top of me and stood there while her buddies ran by, making sure I was safe.
So explain that one to me? Cant chalk it up to respect or trust, it wasn't a job or something she was ever trained for, and it went against her natural instinct.

I think horses can form relationships with other horses and sometimes other animals, like people. is it a "bond" like Disney? Nope. But it is more than a respectful animal that views you as a strange sort of food dispensing leader.

Take Pickles as an example. I was selling a broodmare for my bo. A reputable breeder offered to trade a two year old for her. We're standing in a massive field of hundreds of acres with 10-15 10 month-3 year old fillies. All had minimal handling and people experience, only there for the grain in piles on the ground 30' away from us. There were 4 of us there, and this ridiculous looking 10 month old, pot bellied baby walked over, stood right next to me and let me put my arm around her. One of the ugliest babies I've ever seen. I really didn't want her. So why me? She ignored 3 other people, and left her feed to stand with me, and I had nothing to give her. My BO bought her and told me I had to have her. She's been the easiest horse to train I've ever owned. She steals the BO's gloves and fencing equipment and dumps it in the waterer, tries to undress guests wearing interesting sweaters. Never has tried any of that on me. So why?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,800 Posts
It's a shame that this term - "bonding"- is so often mixed with naive ideals, lack of common sense and humanizing a horse. It undoubtedly leads to dangerous situations and it scares me how many people claim to have a bond, yet lack basic horsemanship knowledge or even a clue about herd psychology, safety around horses, etc.

However, horses are strongly motivated by their herd instincts and, if a person approaches them just right, they are open to seek a relationship - or a bond, if I may. They do have their emotions, their choices, their likes and dislikes, and they may as well choose to open more to a special person, if an intuitive approach is combined with good skills, common sense, timing, etc. Bonds should not be idealized, romanticized and taken out of context. They are a result of the right actions at the right time, of mutual trust, of a healthy dose of respect, of motivating the horse just right.

Me? I'll just let myself to stir everything up a little and say that I have a bond with my boy. It was born very soon after our paths crossed, just by knowing he'll be a very special horse in my life (don't you sometimes get this unmistakeable feeling?), and by observing his attitude towards me. Nevertheless, countless hours of both work and even more of just being by his side at the pastures are what actually made the bond work. Had I just implied that he must like me as I liked him back then, I might as well not be around anymore.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,406 Posts
As with any other animal, horses have their own personalities. Likes and dislikes. Some horses you can really push on, others not so much. Some horses prefer apples over carrots, some don't like either of them. Horses are unique in themselves.

Obviously horses will work with certain people better than others. Because their character traits click better. Some horses prefer females to males, shy types over outgoing types, etc. I firmly believe they see and sense body language we don't even know we are displaying. Since that is how they communicate with each other after all.

I hope that puts some sort of an answer to your "why" Blue.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
22,320 Posts
I'm with you. 99% of the time, the word "bond" implies the rainbow farts and all that jazz.

HOWEVER, there are some true instances of bonding that doesn't follow that implication. Those of you who have known me for very long would likely agree that I can't stand that "my horsey LUVS me" crap, but I believe that a horse can and will bond with a person.

I have a special bond with Dobe. He can be obnoxious and frustrating at times, but nobody would ever say that he's spoiled in his behavior. He'll tolerate being ridden and handled by others but he and I just sort of "fit", you know?

All that being said though, there cannot be a "bond" without a basis of mutual respect there.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,135 Posts
I kept several of my horses for more than 20 years of their lives. I trusted them to campaign with them. I trusted them to carry my students. I trusted them to carry my DD's, even when young, on very long trail rides.
I have NEVER thought it was a good idea to sit down underneath ANY of my horses. It's not that I didn't trust them, but a small move for a horse can accidentally be a big HURT for me.
Love your horses. Groom them, pet them, ride them. Show them kindness. If you want a bonding animal, get a puppy. Then you can lavish love on an animal while you're watching tv.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
83 Posts
Why must we throw out bonding completely? Bonding does not always mean that you need a dog salivating at your very presence, it can merely mean a forming of trust and expectations of eachother.

Though I know it's because she learned that I would not hurt her, I had an incredibly trusting mare....she was abused when she arrived at the barn to be boarded. Hated people, despised them all. Would kick, bite, rear, charge if you approached her with a saddle or even a halter. Her owner dumped her there eventually after she disappeared and stopped paying board.

I wanted a challenge so I took her under my wing. In a few weeks she went from squishing me against the gate and biting me when I tried to pet her, to following me around without a single rope or bit of tack on her. In another few weeks I got a halter, lead rope, and myself on her. I rode her around for 15 minutes, letting her choose the course. She didn't mind, and the next day when I arrived with the halter she walked up to the fence to greet me. I was one of the few people that had treated her kindly and consistently. I ended up spending hours and hours a day at the barn-- the horses have free choice to go into the stable, into the stalls, or go out to 20 acres of pasture and woods. I'd follow the herd around and sit in the grass and let the horses sniff me. I wasn't a threat to them, they would approach me for petting and scratching, they didn't mind my presence.

I'll let you know that I didn't use treats as a reward, she wasn't food motivated, she was driven by pressure like all horses are. Pressure pressure pressure and then when she did what was expected she would get a release of pressure. That's not to say that I would go out in the field and chase her until she obeyed me, but I'm saying I would give her opportunities to do things, then if she ignored them all, I'd make it harder for her. "Fine, if you don't want to do this the easy way, you just picked the hard way"

It wasn't hard. The horse trusted me. She would fall asleep when I was grooming her, she'd let me lean on her (once I was waiting for her to have her hooves trimmed, and I was standing in the stall with her while leaning on her, and it took a long time so I ended up falling asleep on her, lol), stand behind her and comb/braid her tail, I could really do anything I wanted. Bonding doesn't mean that the horse adores you with all its heart, the horse doesn't have to be a Disney character, it just has to TRUST you. It's just all about trust and leadership...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
83 Posts
It's a shame that this term - "bonding"- is so often mixed with naive ideals, lack of common sense and humanizing a horse. It undoubtedly leads to dangerous situations and it scares me how many people claim to have a bond, yet lack basic horsemanship knowledge or even a clue about herd psychology, safety around horses, etc.

However, horses are strongly motivated by their herd instincts and, if a person approaches them just right, they are open to seek a relationship - or a bond, if I may. They do have their emotions, their choices, their likes and dislikes, and they may as well choose to open more to a special person, if an intuitive approach is combined with good skills, common sense, timing, etc. Bonds should not be idealized, romanticized and taken out of context. They are a result of the right actions at the right time, of mutual trust, of a healthy dose of respect, of motivating the horse just right.

Me? I'll just let myself to stir everything up a little and say that I have a bond with my boy. It was born very soon after our paths crossed, just by knowing he'll be a very special horse in my life (don't you sometimes get this unmistakeable feeling?), and by observing his attitude towards me. Nevertheless, countless hours of both work and even more of just being by his side at the pastures are what actually made the bond work. Had I just implied that he must like me as I liked him back then, I might as well not be around anymore.
I absolutely agree with you. He must have really learned to trust you. Also, I adore your profile picture. That looks like a bond to me ;)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,800 Posts
Thank you. :) When this picture was taken, we visited the sea for the first time together. I had set him at liberty to which he responded with lovely responsiveness to anything I proposed, and, at last, fell asleep by my side as I had decided to sit by the shore.
 
1 - 20 of 231 Posts
Top