A confidant and recognition are important to us humans. But is this also true for horses? Do they get jealous when they have to share their human or other animals and resources?
According to some studies, it seems reasonable to assume that herd animals have human-like emotions and reactions. Does this include jealousy?
We answer these questions and more below. Among them, how jealousy manifests itself in horses.
In this article you will learn if horses are jealous, how jealousy manifests itself and how you can prevent it. We will also explain what measures you can take in case of negative feelings and how you can prevent them.
Are horses jealous?
Yes, horses can be jealous. Just as with humans, however, this manifests itself very individually.
Some become aggressive when jealous, while others are sad and withdraw.
Who are horses jealous of?
Basically, jealousy in horses, just like in humans, is individually different and depends on many factors.
This also applies to the expressions of jealousy that you as an owner can observe and to which you should react.
But first, let’s clarify what horses are jealous of.
Jealousy of other horses
Jealousy of other horses is often based on individual members moving up in rank and thereby enjoying advantages in the herd.
These are resources, such as the best food, more attention from humans, variety and employment.
Was a horse previously the favorite, welcomed first, ridden daily and pampered?
If so, the animal may react negatively to a newcomer for whom it is put on hold.
Fights and aggression are not uncommon when this occurs. Likewise, the horse that was previously kept alone or preferred may withdraw and appear offended or sad.
What does not occur, on the other hand, is that horses are jealous of achievements and successes.
However, direct contact and extensive engagement with them, as well as rewards, can become resources that your horse defends.
One possible reason for this jealousy is that your horse has only had people as real contact.
This is often the decisive factor when pure box keeping is practiced. This does not create a social structure in a herd, which is appropriate for horses.
With the right approach, however, you can prevent conflicts even in such a situation and even use jealousy as a basis for improving the attitude.
But more about that later.
Jealousy of humans
When a horse reacts jealously to other people, this is always a warning sign.
Are you having a conversation with another person and your horse tries to separate you or even reacts aggressively?
Then two reasons come into question.
First, your horse may perceive the other person as a threat to you or himself.
Aggressive behavior or incorrect, or overly aggressive, body language can create fear in flight animals.
Secondly, your horse may become jealous if you do not give him enough attention because of another person.
Both cases are comparatively easy to prevent.
When you bring strangers near your horse, you should pay attention to the right body language and the correct procedure.
If the animals do not perceive the new person as a threat but as an enrichment, jealousy is not to be expected.
Everyone should therefore introduce themselves in a friendly and careful manner, ideally bringing a gift to welcome them and thus making their positive intentions clear.
Otherwise, do you pet your horse, groom it for a long time, and give it attention and pet names? But now you are engrossed in a conversation with a human?
If so, jealousy can also arise, especially if there is a lack of social contact with other animals.
If you devote yourself to your horse as usual and only talk to others on the side, you prevent this. The new person is then only that: new, but no competition.
In general, however, you should get to the bottom of the problem. Horses that are jealous of people are often lonely.
They only have their reference person as social contact and therefore concentrate too much on this person.
Jealousy of other animals
Whether it is a donkey or a dog – if a horse perceives another animal as competition, it can react jealously.
This may be for popularity and attention, better food or greater involvement with the animal.
For smaller and weaker animals, this can be fatal. A horse that is aggressive because of jealousy can go on the attack and drive away the competitor or try to eliminate him.
How does jealousy manifest itself in horses?
Just as with humans, jealousy manifests itself in different ways in horses.
It depends on the character of the individual animal.
Some horses withdraw and “sulk”. Others become aggressive and attack, or push up and try to drive the troublemaker away.
In either case, jealousy is accompanied by a change in behavior.
The cause is basically fear of loss. So your horse isn’t trying to annoy you or others or being possessive – often negatively connoted.
Instead, it is suffering.
Possible reasons for this could be that the horse is generally insecure, does not get along with conspecifics or is lonely.
This makes it all the more important to take the appropriate countermeasures.
Again and again, and unfortunately still, it is said “It just wants attention”. This implies something negative about the horse.
However, wanting and demanding attention is not negative, but deeply natural in many living beings.
In other words, your horse is not jealous because it wants to annoy you. It is simply reacting to a change in circumstances and needs security from you.
With that, we’ll launch into tips for dealing with equine jealousy.
Here’s what you can do: 5 tips to deal with jealous horses.
The headline should better read: How can I help a jealous horse? Because that’s exactly what you need to do.
This help can be quite different.
Tip 1: Be fair
Sudden changes please very few people.
When integrating a new animal or adding a new person, be fair to your horse.
It is an adjustment for everyone involved that takes some getting used to. Try to be as fair as possible to the ones you already have.
They should not receive less attention or be set back in any other way.
Tip 2: Find the cause
If your horse seems to be acting jealous or changing his behavior, you need to look for the cause.
Have you been with your horse less often and for shorter periods of time lately? Has it been receiving less attention?
Are you stressed or nervous?
Have there been other changes, such as a new animal or a new home in your horse’s life?
The better you know your horse, the easier it will be to prevent jealousy.
Tip 3: Good social contacts
A horse kept in a group has conspecifics around it and forms relationships with them. It is therefore not dependent on humans for the most part.
In addition, there are social contacts that a human cannot replace.
This provides the best basis for not viewing the reference person as a resource and not allowing jealousy to arise.
Tip 4: Offer variety
If you get your horse used to different people, animals and influences, new contacts are not automatically negative.
They are then a normal part of life and are not competition.
It makes sense, therefore, if you always bring visitors and allow your horse to get to know them.
Tip 5: Set boundaries
Even a jealous horse should know that rules and boundaries apply. In the case of aggression, you must therefore intervene carefully and calmly, but firmly.
It makes sense to reward gentle approaches. However, if you notice that a situation threatens to escalate, calm your horse down and leave the situation together with the animal.
This makes it feel taken seriously, but also lets it know that attacks will not be tolerated and are not necessary.
De-escalation benefits everyone.
Horses and jealousy
Horses can be jealous, but they also have good reasons for it.
As soon as you understand them, you can deal with them much better and find an individual solution.
Intervening preventively and sparing your horse jealousy can prove to be effective.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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