Horses have a very good memory. But are they also loyal and faithful?
According to a study, this is certainly true of these noble animals and can even be increased through proper handling.
How you can do that and what else there is to know about the loyalty of horses, we show you here.
In this guide, you will not only learn whether horses are faithful. We will also tell you how loyalty is expressed and how you can work on the bond with your horse.
Are horses loyal?
Horses can be very loyal and faithful to each other as well as to “their” humans.
They recognize people and familiar horses or other animals not only by sight, but also by smell, voice and characteristic movements.
They can even recognize their humans from photographs. Even when they have not experienced and interacted with them for a long time.
This was found in a study in France. However, this initially only means that they can recognize faces.
But why are horses still considered loyal?
How do horses show loyalty?
If you are good with your horse, it will make clear expressions of affection to you.
These include, for example:
- voluntary approach
- gentle nudging
- seeking physical contact and closeness
- relaxing near you
- Trust in care and treatment
So if your horse greets you and seeks physical contact, that speaks to a good bond and loyalty to you.
According to a British study, affection is also shown in humans and between horses and humans in the adjustment of the heartbeat.
If you’re engaged with your horse and your hearts take the same beat, it’s clearly a good relationship.
According to research, this happens between horse and rider when the chemistry is right and some basic conditions are met.
These conditions are also what you can and should use to build trust and increase loyalty.
We will also show you how to do this.
How can you gain trust and increase a horse’s loyalty?
If you want to build a good relationship with your horse, it requires some patience and sensitivity.
As with human relationships, trust and bonding grow over time and through reliability as well as interaction.
The following points will show you in detail how this works with a horse.
1: Give your horse a choice
Evidence shows that when horses have a choice about whether or not to approach a human, they are more relaxed.
They then automatically associate more positive feeling with the human. This is because, although they are curious, they are also flight animals.
So if they have the option to turn away at any time and keep their distance, their nervousness decreases.
Direct approaches in confined spaces, on the other hand, are unpleasant for them.
2: Be gentle
Rough handling is more than unpleasant for all living beings and can destroy relationships.
Trust and bonding, like loyalty, can only grow when there is mutual respect. If you are too loud, too hectic or too harsh in your dealings, this damages loyalty.
On the other hand, if you are gentle and careful, it pays off on all levels.
3: Take your time
The more time you spend with your horse on a regular basis, the better.
For one thing, you become reliable for the animal. On the other hand, it takes a while for trust and thus loyalty to grow.
At least two or three times a week you should spend a few hours with the animal.
Only in this way can you become a trusted caregiver to whom your horse will develop loyalty.
4: Learn the horse’s body language
In order for you to recognize loyalty and affection in your horse, you need to be able to correctly interpret animal body language.
This does not work immediately, but requires knowledge and experience. However, here are a few tips that will help you understand horses better:
- Slowly take a few steps back and lower your head: this is a gesture of politeness and trust.
- Greeting: when a horse sniffs the back of your hand in greeting, walks to you or neighs and snorts, it usually represents pleasure.
- Follow: Does your horse run after you when you are out in the pasture or in the arena, for example, without you leading him? That is loyalty. However, you should be careful with this point. Because following can also have another reason.
If the horse follows you wherever you go
At first, it seems flattering when a horse follows you everywhere without being led and always wants to be with you.
It trusts you and obviously likes you.
However, a possible problem with this is that it may not have enough other social contacts and therefore feels very lonely.
However, social contacts with other horses are important and are part of a species-appropriate husbandry.
Therefore, keeping a horse only in a stall without contact to other horses and possible interaction with them is often problematic.
Riding out together with other horses is not sufficient for this. The animals should also be able to spend time together in relaxation and without a rider.
For this, a corresponding amount of space is needed and they must get along. After socialization, communal keeping is the best choice for many, at least temporarily.
Does the horse like you or only rewards?
If you always bring your horse a treat like an apple, a banana or a turnip as a greeting, he may only be happy about the food.
At least that is the fear of some owners.
However, this is not true.
Of course your horse will be happy if you bring him a treat or reward something in his behavior with it.
However, if you work with the animal in depth, individually and learn its body language, it will not only like and appreciate the food.
Unfortunately, it is often recommended to leave out the treat for some time as a “loyalty test”.
This is to show whether your horse likes you and is loyal.
However, if you put yourself in your horse’s position and look at your behavior from his perspective, it is confusing.
One day you greet him with a great snack, then you don’t greet him for weeks – even though he hasn’t done anything wrong.
You are making yourself unpredictable and unreliable.
Therefore, always look at your relationship as a whole. If your horse puts up with a lot from you and is easy to handle, if you spend a lot of time together and if he enjoys your petting, the loyalty is not only due to the rewards – but they are a bonus.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
I take great pride in being the best possible author and giving you the knowledge that i have on all different types of animals!
I have spent a lifetime learning about pets and animals, and have worked in the pet and vet industry for over 20 years now!
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