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Do Horses Miss Their Owners and Like Humans?

If you have a special horse in your life, you’ve probably wondered if they miss you when you’re not around. While every horse owner wants to believe they do, we must acknowledge they do this in their own unique way.

Most horses do miss their owners who take care of them on a daily basis. Horses are creatures of habit, and they will grow to rely on the routine you establish for them. When that routine is disrupted, horses may show signs of distress and general unease.

Some people believe horses only miss their owners because they bring them food. However, horses are known to recognize a person’s voice, face, way of walking, and characteristic behavior. Your horse will instantly know when someone else shows up in your place and will feel your absence.

Do Horses Like Humans?

Because horses are a different species and don’t speak our language, the answer to this question is not straightforward. Scientists are skeptical of whether horses are able to form attachments the same way we do. However, horse enthusiasts have no doubt horses do like some people and dislike others.

Many experts believe that horses like humans they associate with positive emotions. Research has shown that horses remember past interactions with humans and will change their behavior accordingly.

In other words, your horse remembers how you treated him in the past, which will determine whether he likes you or not. A study conducted by the Universities of Portsmouth and Sussex revealed that horses recognize human facial expressions. They can tell when a person is being threatening or kind, which is an adaptation that helps them predict human behavior.

The same study also demonstrated that horses react differently to positive and negative facial expressions, as well as to humans they had previous interactions with. Hence why it’s essential to keep your cool when working with your horse and reward him for good behavior if you want him to like you.

Woman stroking her draft horse
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Another study found evidence that the heart rates of horses and humans show similar patterns depending on the nature of the emotion experienced. From these results, we can conclude that horses like being around humans expressing positive feelings.

5 Tips to Make a Horse Like You

Now that it’s clear horses like certain humans better than others, let’s discuss a few ways to make your horse like you. If you pay attention to these areas, you will already be a step closer to the magical bond you’re striving to achieve with your horse!

1. Be consistent and predictable

Gaining your horse’s trust and respect is one of the first things you must do to make him like you. If you’re consistent in your training and daily routine, your horse will be able to predict your behavior and learn to trust you. Learn more about this in our guide on 10 ways to build trust with your horse.

2. Stay positive

Try to maintain a positive attitude when you’re around your horse. Horses naturally pick up on your emotional state, and if he sees you in a positive light he will want to be near you.

It’s not always easy to stay calm and cheerful, especially when you’ve had a bad day. If you’re feeling frustrated and angry, try to clear your mind and relax before you meet your horse.

3. Spend quality time with your horse

Try to find time to just go out and be with your horse, without asking him to work. Hanging out on the pasture or the stable is a great way to develop a friendship with your horse and he will look forward to seeing you even more.

4. Groom your horse

Take the time to give your horse a full groom on a regular basis. Grooming is not only great for spotting small injuries and problems with your horse, but also as a bonding exercise.

Grooming has been shown to reduce the horse’s heart rate, which suggests they enjoy the activity. Try to figure out your horse’s favorite spots to scratch and he will be grateful for your effort!

5. Reward positive behavior

Rewarding is the best way to encourage good behavior in your horse. You can use food, scratches, verbal praise or a break from the exercise to tell your horse he has done the right thing. Pay attention to timing, as you only have a few-second window in which your horse can pair the reward to the behavior you want to encourage.

Also Read: 8 Signs a Horse Likes You.

Do Horses Become Attached to Their Owners?

Woman and horse with their foreheads touching
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We know that horses can form strong attachments with other horses or animals. Some famous racehorses in history were difficult to handle or refused to race if their animal companion wasn’t nearby. However, do horses become attached to their owners?

Opinions differ regarding whether horses can become attached to their owners. They certainly show affection towards their favorite humans and many believe horses can form strong bonds with their carers.

Equestrians firmly believe horses can form lasting attachments with their owners. However, a 2020 study by Swedish researchers came to unexpected conclusions. According to the study, horses consider humans “safe havens”, but have no particular preference for their owners.

The research involved 26 horses and their owners and observed the animals in different scenarios. Overall, the horses were more relaxed around humans compared to being alone in an unfamiliar environment.

The heart rates of horses consistently increased when separated from humans, and decreased upon reunion. This occurred regardless of whether the person was a stranger or their owner. While this study shows interesting results, there are countless examples of horses bonding with their owners in the equestrian world.

Also read: 15 Signs a Horse is Happy

How to Tell if Your Horse Has Bonded with You

When you’ve earned your horse’s trust and affection, he will most certainly let you know. There are clear signs that indicate your horse has bonded with you.

One of the early signs to look out for is your horse walking up to you on the field. He will turn his head and ears in your direction when you show up and follow your every move as you approach.

Other than being generally focused on you, your horse will follow instructions promptly and respect your dominance. He will gladly follow you around in the arena and look for your guidance in scary situations.

A less obvious sign that your horse has bonded with you is him relaxing in your presence. He may also scratch your back as you groom him, indicating he considers you a buddy. Read our guide on 7 ways to bond with your horse to learn more.

Do Horses Feel Love for Their Owners?

Most researchers are skeptical about horses feeling love for their owners. It also depends on how you define love, but horses probably don’t feel love the same way humans do.

While no scientific evidence shows that horses can feel love, emotional connections are certainly important to them. There are studies that suggest horses rely on their owners for comfort and value the connection with them.

What we can say is that horses definitely have the ability to feel and show affection. Although this is slightly different from the affection of a dog or a young child, it can be observed every day on the field and during handling. Individual horses also differ in the ways they express affections, just like other animals and humans do.

Woman and horse bonding
AnnaElizabeth photography / Shutterstock.com

Accomplished trainer and horseman Franklin Levinson shared some wise words in his book “Way of the Horse”. He believes “love, respect and trust are basically the same thing for a horse” and must be earned by humans.

Also Read: 5 Ways Horses Show Affection Towards Humans.

Are Horses Sad When You Sell Them?

Many horses seem to be down when they are sold, especially if they had a good home. They will likely wonder where their friends and carers have gone, but most settle down after a short time.

It’s safe to say that horses feel the absence of their owners and usual routine when they arrive to a new place. However, they are also good at developing new bonds and habits shortly after a big change.

Can Horses Recognize Their Owners?

Research suggests that horses recognize their owners the same way they recognize members of their herd. Similarly to us, they are able to match visual and auditory cues to specific individuals.

One of the first studies to provide evidence for this was conducted by British scientists Dr. Leanne Proops and Dr. Karen McComb in 2012. In the experiment, two people stood on either side of a horse while the scientists played a recording from a hidden speaker.

In most instances, the horses recognized the familiar voice and looked at the person it belonged to. On the other hand, when they heard the voice of an unfamiliar human, they didn’t look at either person.

In another experiment, the researchers had two familiar people stand next to a horse. Again, the horses could match the voice to the familiar face, demonstrating their ability to recognize people.

Can Horses Remember You?

There is plenty of evidence that horses can remember humans, even after years of separation. This is especially true for people they had very positive or negative interactions with.

Horses have an excellent memory that preserves their experiences in an unaltered form. In contrast, our memories change slightly every time we think about them and attach feelings to them.

Equine memory is an extensively researched topic. Scientists agree that horses remember humans just like they remember other horses. Auditory cues and past experiences play a big role in helping horses recognize who the individual is.

To learn more, check out our guide on how smart horses really are.

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Comments

Valerie

Monday 11th of October 2021

Waiting to see if my horse missed me when I get back from my trip!

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