The ‘L’ Word

No, not ‘love.’  The other one.
Are horses loyal?
It took me quite a while and a lot of thinking out loud before I figured out my opinion, which is:

Yes, with some stipulations.

I don’t think it’s the same kind of loyalty as given by Man’s Best Friend.  Most dogs are unconditionally loyal and loving, or have allegiances that are easily won by the right bribe.  It’s usually food.  I think they have a pretty simple, “You did something for me, therefore I love you” outlook.
Food and bribery might work to get a horse’s attention, but I also think that it’s the food that they love, not whose hands are delivering it.
With horses, it’s something different.  It’s an allegiance won out of respect and trust.
My pony will come running to anyone that rattles the right feed can.  Doesn’t mean she likes them or will give them the time of day once the food is gone.  (And she usually doesn’t.)
But she willingly comes to me, no treats or bribes required, knowing that coming to me almost always means work.  And she does it.  Happily.
To me, that says, “Loyal.”
The things she’s done for me…I’ve asked her to do stuff I probably have no right to ask.  And she does it.  Because I believe she trusts me.  I’ve tried very hard not to ask her to do what she can’t do, or to put her in a situation that breaks that trust.
My reward is that I can trust her to do what I ask.
The end result of that sort of trusting partnership is a mutual respect.  I don’t let her get into bad situations, she does her best to take care of me.
That sounds pretty loyal.
Maybe I’m just anthropomorphizing (Yes, I just used that work before 7 o’clock in the morning.  Never mind I had to look up how to spell it, and I have a hard time actually saying it…), but loyalty is one of those qualities I hold in very high regard, so maybe this is just my wishful thinking impressing that upon my beloved animals that are such a huge part of my life.
If that’s the case, there could be far worse things in this world to be delusional about.
Or maybe, to some degree, I’m right. 
(Mimi, please keep this in mind next time we part company and you’re deciding whether or not to leave my pathetic butt on the ground and head for the hills or not.)
Your thoughts?

4 thoughts on “The ‘L’ Word

  1. I think there is definitely some degree of loyalty going on in a good horse-human bond. And if I'm wrong, I'll totally stay and enjoy the delusion with you!

    When I got Desire just over a year ago she was 8 months pregnant and wouldn't give me the time of day other than at feeding time. She came from a place where she was well cared for but was one of many horses, and her behavior reflected that. As my trimmer said, “she doesn't know how to be a little girl's spoiled dream pony yet!” With time (and lots of groceries) Desire started to relax around me, enjoy me scratching her fat belly, and started to take interest in what I was doing around the place besides when I had a bucket in my hand. I took that as a sign of growing trust, and I think with trust loyalty also grows. We helped deliver her (first) foal and she trusted us to handle her filly right away. Now she is my no. 1 saddle horse and is quite a spoiled dream pony though I'm not so little a girl anymore. I know my feelings about her have been all over the place but after our first 50s together last weekend I am feeling more loyal to her than ever and I hope she feels the same, to whatever level a horse can.

  2. I agree, loyalty is a big part of the bond we build with horses. Like Mimi, Rose will come up for anyone with food but she turns tail and runs off if she's decided you aren't worth her time. It took Rose and I a couple years an a lot of arguements before we reached a truce and even longer before we were able to build a good trusting relationship. She's incredibly loyal to me and I to her and I think we both know it. Hell, she gets jealous if I spend time with other horses and tries to dump other riders… I suppose her version of loyalty. But like Mimi we both have to place a lot of trust in each other to go down the trail like we do and I think over time that does build up that relationship. We both know that to some extend we will do all we can to help the other.

    Course, like you… I think I find all the qualities I like in people in my horse… or maybe it's the other way around.

  3. Our mares sound so similar! Mimi gets sooooo pissed off when I ride another horse. She doesn't try to buck other people off, but she just doesn't perform. I've also had less than half a dozen other people actually ride her in the 15 years I've owned her.

    Can't tell you how many times I've thought or wished more people were more like my horse!

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