Horses have long been valuable and reliable friends to humanity and have benefited humans throughout the ages. They have featured in almost all aspects of human existence, from historical battles to pulling carriages laden with construction materials. This might lead you to the question, “Do horses like humans?”
Research shows that horses are more relaxed around people than when they are alone. Horses have a long history with humans, but they do not form attachment bonds. Instead, horses regard humans as a ‘safe-haven,’ and the relationship between a horse and a human is one of love and affection.
I feel that this is an interesting topic that is worth exploring further. So, let us take a deeper look into this unique bond between horses and humans.
Do Horses Have Feelings For Humans?
In research undertaken by Linkoping University in Sweden, researchers set out to discover whether horses could form an attachment bond with horses and their owners.
They discovered that horses displayed elevated heart rates when they were separated from humans. However, they (horses) did not display any preference towards their owners over total strangers.
The researchers from Linkoping University, Sweden, worked with twenty-six horses and their owners to determine the owner’s training methods and then monitored the horses in various interaction scenarios.
The Swedish researchers began their research with the belief that positive reinforcement training on a horse was more likely to lead horses to form a strong attachment with their owners. Their tests illustrated that irrespective of who the human was, the horses were calmer and more relaxed around people than when left alone.
The horse’s heart rates increased when they were separated from humans and decreased when they have reunited with a human once again.
This study illustrates that horses were left distressed when they were left alone, but when they were in the presence of humans, they calmed down and felt more at ease.
In a separate study performed by the University of Sussex and Portsmouth, horses were shown pictures of people with happy and angry facial expressions. They also showed the same horses’ pictures of the same people with neutral facial expressions.
They discovered that the horses that viewed pictures of people with negative facial expressions felt more threatened than those with happy or neutral facial expressions.
In these studies, researchers observed the eye movements in the horses and discovered that horses tend to view hostile and threatening objects with their left eye.
When training a horse, it is essential to remember that you should always project calmness, confidence, and kindness. The horse will feed off your positive emotions and view you in a positive light, and you become a source of calmness for them rather than frustration and nervousness.
Are Horses Loyal To Their Owners?
Many dog owners and dog lovers would say that dogs are man’s best friend. However, horses are just as loyal and faithful to their owners for horse owners and horse lovers. This is much because horses have excellent memories.
When you make a horse your best friend, they tend to remember that for all time. It also hinges on how you treat your horse as well. If you neglect your horse and treat it poorly, then that experience is what your horse will remember, and it will affect your relationship with your horse in the long term.
When you treat your horse well, with the kindness and affection it deserves, your horse will reciprocate this back to you, and it will react positively towards you in return. Horses tend to remember people and specific encounters in places.
They become nervous and agitated whenever they are around people and places where they have had a negative experience. With proper training and positive reinforcement, such as affection or food, they will follow your command and start to develop an everlasting bond with you.
How Do You Let Your Horse Know You Love Him?
The sure way to win a horse’s affection and trust is by giving him the right amount of focus and attention. So, how do you achieve this if you are entirely new to horses? Well, I’m going to provide you with a few simple ways to earn the attention and affection of your horse and guarantee that he will remain loyal to you.
1. Spoil Them With Special Treats
Much like humans, the way to a horse’s heart is through food. So, spoiling them with treats like carrots, apples, strawberries, watermelons, peppermints, and bananas might win over a horse’s heart and their trust. Try to keep away from treats that contain high sugar levels, as those are not especially good for a horse’s health.
2. Mix Up Your Riding Routine
When you use the same old training routine every day, your horse will surely get bored and will start to feel unchallenged. So, try to mix up your training regimen each day and week so that your horse feels challenged and does not start to tire quickly of the same old boring training routines.
Try to introduce new exercise routines or even ride out to new areas that your horse might be unfamiliar with.
3. Give Your Horse A Good Massage
There is nothing that beats a solid massage for your horse. You can buy a good book or a “How to” video on some basic equine massaging techniques and practice those techniques on your horse once a month, or once a week even.
Your horse will benefit from these massaging sessions, with healthier blood circulation, relief from pain, as well as helping your horse to relax and sleep more soundly.
4. Giving Your Horse Premium Quality Feed
The proverb “you are what you eat” remains valid for humans and horses. And a great way to show your affection for a horse is to feed him with the best quality feed and hay that you can buy. Feeding your horse premium quality feed leads to a healthier horse and a stronger digestive and immune system.
5. Spending Quality Time With Your Horse
An excellent way to strengthen your relationship with your horse is to spend quality time with them when they are out of their saddles. Take them out for a stroll in the fields, and hand-feed them, and you will most surely create a deeper connection and bond with your horse.
6. Try Out Different Activities
You will never know whether your horse likes groundwork, agility, or trail riding unless you allow them to experience it for themselves. You should always switch out and try different activities with your horse. For him to remain active and healthy, trying out different activities will keep your horse happier vibrant.
7. Protect Your Horses Future
Our horses are our best friends and sometimes our partners in life. So, it is apt to show our horses that we love them by guarding their futures.
If you decide to sell your horse, you must ensure that he is going to a good home, where he will receive the best love and attention they deserve.
If you choose to lease out your horse, check to ensure that he will be put to good use and not abused and neglected.
What To Do If A Horse Approaches You?
If you are new to horses and you’ve never been confronted by a horse before, it is essential that you stay calm and do not react in a manner that can intimidate your horse or frighten him off. Instead, it would be best to learn to read their body language to understand them better.
Just like us humans, we can read and recognize our fellow friends, family, and strangers through body language; we can similarly read the “body language” of a horse to understand better what they are trying to convey to us. So, how do you read a horse’s body language?
Recognizing your horse’s body language can help us understand when your horse is afraid or frustrated early before their behavior starts to get erratic and defensive.
1. Understand What Their Ears Are Saying
Understanding what a horse’s ears are saying helps understand when your horse might be angry and about to kick or bite. When a horse’s ears are facing forward, he is alert or paying attention to what lies in front of him. When the ears are pinned back and close to the neck, he is angry and almost ready to bite.
When their ears are turned to the side, the horse is relaxed or asleep and might not be paying attention to what lay in front of them. You probably do not want to walk up to your horse and touch him, or he might get startled and respond by running away, whirling around, or even striking out.
In this situation, when their ears are turned to the side, it is best to call out his name, make a noise, but don’t approach him until he indicates that he has your attention.
2. Understanding Your Horses Head Carriage
The movement and position of your horse’s head can say a lot about their mood and what they are thinking.
When your horse’s head is lowered, it indicates that your horse is feeling good and relaxed; his ears will also hang to the side. If your horse is standing in his stall or in the fields with his head lowered, then he is either sleeping or resting. By calling his name, you can safely approach him without startling him.
When their heads are elevated, he is looking out at something in the distance and is trying to ascertain whether he needs to flee, ignore it, or investigate further.
As his owner or handler, you should understand that he is not paying any attention to you, and he might be readying himself to bolt off. It would be best to regain their attention by calling out their name to avoid them bolting.
When your horse’s head is slightly lowered, and his neck is moving from side to side, this is often an aggressive sign and is used by stallions that are herding an un-cooperative mare or fighting.
When you see a horse do this, it is not a positive sign, and you have to determine why your horse is aggressive to diffuse the situation. This can mean that you have to regain his attention by moving them out of the area or just getting clear of him.
3. Understand What Your Horses Eyes Are Saying
The movement of your horses’ eyes can tell you what they might be thinking and where their attention is. The tightening of the muscles around the horses’ eyes is a subtle indication of stress, discomfort, or fear.
You might notice this as wrinkled eyelids or tightness at the corner of his eye. If you can learn to understand this signal early, you will be able to respond quickly to prevent bigger issues later.
If your horses’ eyes are darting rapidly from side to side, he is probably afraid and is looking for an escape. This signal might precede a bolt. However, if your horse is feeling trapped, he might respond by kicking or biting in a bid to escape. You need to remove him from the area or keep him calm to resolve the situation.
When the whites of your horses’ eyes are showing, you have to understand this signal appropriately. In some horses, the opaque white portion of the eyeball surrounding the eyeball, known as the “sclera,” is always visible.
This is especially true for Appaloosa Pintos with patches of white on their faces. The “sclera” is visible in some horse breeds when they are either startled or somewhat alarmed.
Generally, when your horse has gotten agitated enough to the point of exposing the whites of the eyes, he is already distraught. If the ears are also pinned back, he is angry.
When he is also snorting or trembling, it is an indication that he is scared. In either scenario, you have to act fast, reassure him, or distract him enough to prevent him from bolting off or making some defensive move.
4. Understand What His Body Whole Is Saying
Sometimes it becomes necessary to see the bigger picture to understand what your horse is telling you. Reading your horse’s entire body will tell you when your horse is scared, nervous, or just curious about you.
When their movements are stiff, and their muscles are rigid, it is an indication that he is hurting, stressed or nervous. When he is scared, you can work with him through the problems using some desensitization.
It is easier to do when you start just before he feels like bolting or when he starts to buck to gain your attention. If fear is not the cause, you may need to check your horse for backache, dental problems, or lameness.
When your horse is trembling, it is always an indication of fear. Very nervous horses might start to tremble when exposed to something unfamiliar. But this is most visible with rescued horses that have been previously abused and are afraid of being handled.
A nervous or afraid horse that starts to tremble is either about to run off or protect himself. You need to cease whatever you are doing and allow your horse some time to settle down whenever you see this.
As soon as he is relaxed, you can slowly introduce him to the object or situation that startled him. It would help tremendously if you were calm and quiet with him, and he will sense your attitude.
When you have an afraid or nervous horse, it can take a lot of patience and time when working with them. You may want to get an experienced horse trainer to aid him in working with their issues.
When a horse reaches out to touch you using his muzzle, he is trying to bite you or nip at you. Or it could be that he is curious about you. Another probability is that he is just nervous, and he needs some reassurance.
At this point, you must know your animal deeply to know the difference between him being curious or nervous.
Horses are highly sensitive animals, and they can sense when something is wrong with them or their environments. They also have feelings like us, and they respond to their environments based on their feelings and intuition.
When something does not feel right, they will make it known to you. You need to be able to read and understand these signals in advance to know how to respond to your horse before the situation can worsen.
When you give your horse the attention and affection it deserves, you will have bonded with it for life, and it will forever be loyal to you.