Humanizing Your Horse
By Carole Herder
It has been said that we should not use anthropomorphism on our horses – do not put human emotions, behavior, or personalities onto our horses.
We differ so much from these creatures that are such a huge part of our lives. We are predatory, they are prey. We rationalize and analyze and think logically, they are simply flight or fight. They live to eat, socialize and breed. Our lives are an incredibly complicated long list of relationships, bills, ambitions and plans. So while I understand the insistence not to turn our horses into little puppy dogs, I do think there is a certain level of emotion in them that we can directly relate to. Fear, need, joy, curiosity, and playfulness are some of the characteristics that no-one can deny horses have. What about guilt? Rage? Love? Do they plot and scheme? How many times have you heard someone say, ‘I swear he did that on purpose?’ While I don’t think horses plan ahead, as they live for the moment, they are definitely not machines and have many similar traits to us.
I came across an unusual case recently that reeks of jealousy. A friend of mine had a bad fall from her horse and it knocked her confidence for a loop. A colleague of hers very kindly lent her a lesson horse to help her get herself back in the saddle. This horse proved to be worth his weight in gold and was a true gentleman. My friend regained her confidence and within a few weeks she was back trail riding, jumping and galloping across the fields. There was only one problem – her old horse HATED the new horse. She discovered this one day when her own horse viciously attacked the new fellow.
Needless to say, she did not put them together straight away in the paddocks. She had had many previous horses on her yard, either stabled or friends’ horses on holidays, and her horse never had a problem with any of them. He established his dominance over the herd and all continued as normal. However, with this new loan horse, my friend’s luckless equine took a massive dislike to him, for no apparent reason. The new equine was elderly and had no interest in taking over the herd or stealing the mares, or even the food. All he wanted was a quiet life. But every time my friend tried to put them together, her old horse attacked him violently, again and again. To the point she had to rescue him numerous times and ended up leaving them separate altogether. She was really very astonished by it all.
After a chat with one of her instructors she was told, ‘It’s jealousy’. My friend thought she was talking about the other horses and explained previous behavior and the new guy’s good intentions. But her instructor said to her, ‘No, it’s jealousy, of you’. My friend was speechless as her instructor went on to explain how her old horse watched her intently every time she groomed, tacked, rode, and fed the new horse and it started to dawn on her that she might be right.