Pet companionship is one of the most fulfilling parts of our lives. Knowing that you can come home after a long day and see the happy face of your animal friend helps many people get through the tough times in life. Horses may not be a traditional pet in any sense, but horse owners can feel just as strong of a bond with their horse as they would with any animal. But is that love reciprocated?
The answer is complicated. Humans have a range of emotions and a depth of emotion that is not easily found in other animals. What we consider as a bond to another human or animal may be more complex than what other species can feel. Horses can trust humans over time as they feed them and take good care of them. Some horses can even remember owners years after they had sold them.
However, some horse behavior is still a gray area. Horses can be possessive over humans when a new horse is introduced. Yet, it may not be the same kind of possessiveness as a child would have when a new baby is born. Instead, it might be territorial possessiveness, where a horse feels like you belong to it and not to the other horse.
Although horses may not experience emotions to the same extent as humans, they are herd animals. They are sociable and can bond with each other, as long as they are not fighting over who is the leader. Horses may look at humans as similar to their herd leader — someone who has the authority to tell them what to do but will not harm them. Still, in a herd of horses, if the leader becomes ill, dies, or leaves the herd, another horse will replace them. Horses may feel similarly toward humans who no longer care for them.
Even if horses are not as emotionally attached to humans as we are to them, that does not mean that they have no feelings toward us. Science is still discovering more about animal emotions, and there is always the possibility that horses feel more than we understand. Regardless of whether your horse companion feels the same as you, you should not love it any less; treating a horse well and building a bond will still result in a loving relationship.