Thursday, December 26, 2013

Horses Do Love Their Peeps

No, not those kind of peeps... though some really do like those, too.  I mean their people, their owners, their humans.

We board horses here at this farm, horses with private, individual owners as well as racetrack layup horses.  Based on my interactions with, and observations of, these horses, I believe unequivocally that horses really do love their people.

I have observed horses who become "depressed"-- not clinically, not call-the-vet/off-their-feed depressed, but just a little mopey-- when their humans are absent.  Whether for a week when the human is away on vacation, or for longer periods when humans find that life (family, work, weather, etc.) interferes with their ability to get to the barn for longer than the horse is used to, the horse who is looking for his person is less bright, less ebullient, less himself than when his person comes to call.

The horses on this farm live lives of ridiculous leisure-- 7-14 hours of large-pasture turnout, big box stalls tucked in out of the weather, clockwork-regular feedings and treat-ministrations-- but the ones who are looking for their people shuffle out to turnout or in from pasture like little kids being led to Sunday school on a bright June morning that appears better suited to a game of pickup baseball.  They're reluctant, listless, less interested in the usual routine activities that make them happy.

I think that's one of the primary symptoms of depression, isn't it?

Lest anyone believe that it is just the treats and the grooming that makes these horses so value the arrival of their humans, I assure you that I perform the role of daily waiter to all and masseuse to many, and they still light up like Christmas trees when their actual, personal humans arrive on scene.  Even the track horses who are here for a rest, a break from the daily grind of training, and who really seem to settle in and enjoy that break, go running for the driveway end of the pastures when they hear the familiar sound of their trainer's truck and trailer pulling in.  They look at me eagerly as if to say, "Hey, yeah, thanks for the hospitality, but my real person is here!" So while, yes, the treats and the attention that human owners bring is appreciated, but there is more to the relationship than just that.

I love you.  You!

I saw a little of this last week when I finally got to get back to my own BBW after too many weeks away from regular handling and attention-- the change in body language and attitude after I really spent some time being present with the boy made me feel both guilty at how absent I had been, and really, truly loved for how warmly he welcomed me back.

Our presence in their lives makes a world of difference to them.  Really.  It's not just about the peppermints... though we should never forget them.


  1. I stopped working Hudson when the weather turned cold and dark AND when I had to put her on antibiotics AND when she displayed hind end soreness. She seemed so down, isolating herself, not coming in when I was around. Then I worked her yesterday for just 20 minutes and she immediately was brighter and cheerier, and it has carried over to today. It's amazing what a little devoted attention and a job will do for a horse.

    1. Fantastic, isn't it? What a privilege to be needed by these amazing creatures...