JoMarieM

Do Horses "protect" Their Owners?

26 posts in this topic

I was wondering about this because of a behavior I've noticed sometimes in my mare over the past few years. I have a purebred Saddlebred that I've had for about five years now. She lives in a run but occasionally gets turned out with another horse on the property. She usually gets along very well with the horses she's put out with, but when I go out to bring her in, she will often not allow the other horse to come within five feet of me. She will charge at him, or her, often kicking out, and then will walk in circles around me as if she's protecting me. Why would she do this (unless she just REALLY likes me; she's usually very affectionate toward me and loves to be petted and scratched), and has anybody else's horse ever done this?

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Yep.. .you are her herd... so yes, she will protect you... if I hang out with the horses.. My big mare will stand over me like a mare stands over it's foal... if I am in the pasture and the neighbors dogs come in.. Bucky will turn around and watch them closely, walk toward them... until they are no threat... Syc

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She's not "protecting" you. She's protecting her STATUS with you.

Horses live in a pyramidal world. She sees you as part of the at pyramid. It's open at this point whether she sees you as a superior or subordinate as we've not sufficient facts on the interactions.

If you want to test my hypothesis next time you are out with in field with other horses and her have someone else do something nearby that is "horse scary." If she runs with the other horses then I'm right; if she doesn't, the I might be wrong. The reason that I have to "hedge" on the second possibility is that if she sees you as superior on the pyramid she may be waiting to see how you react to the "booger."

Be wary of anthropomophising equine behavior. :winking:

G.

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Hmm ... interesting point G!

I had a Mustang mare once that was an alpha mare in the field, unless I was there. Then she was 2nd in command. She would often stand near me out in the field like the 2nd in command will do with the lead horse in the wild. Once, this ornery little yearling filly we had kicked out at me when she felt I wasn't doling out apple slices quick enough. Star ran her out of the pen and into the field and wouldn't allow her near me, or back in the "herd" (there were only 3 horses then) for a long time. So, in a sense, she was "protecting" me but it was more like protecting her position in the herd, doing her job, so to speak.

My colt Jake (OK, he's 6 so he's not a "colt" any longer) doesn't like other horses near me and if he's loose in the field, he pins his ears and makes faces at the other horses unless I tell him to knock it off. But Jake's motives are pretty selfish, I think. I know he considers me the "leader" or whatever, but he also feels that no one should get first dibs on whatever treat or scratches or attention I might be doling out! happy0203.gif In this case, he's "protecting" his interests!

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My mare Fantasy in the past felt the need to be the leader and protect her interest that be her herd which I was a part of, in her mind. This led to very bad behavoir, she lunged at strange horses she deamed a threat. She kept her herd mates away from me the same way she would keep them away from her pile of hay...after all I was the food monger. However I don't think she was protecting me, just people training. Manipulating me in the pasture led to issues undersaddle when I wanted to go left and she wanted to right as she did not see me as a worthy leader. Sense she had to take care of me in the pasture, surely she knew best out on the trail.

Several years later we are on more even ground. I am the leader in the pasture, that is clear. We are best friends and soul mates after all. She still lapses once in awhile and feels the need to interject her authority towards certain horses she deams shady characters, but she is learning to trust me. Unddersaddle we are much happier together and she is trusting my lead. I do enjoy riding alpha mares with a good sense of confidence, Fantasy is still working on hers.

I am a stickler for good pasture behavoir when people are present now. No bickering no chasing each other off none of that you can play work on who is top dog when no one is around. I go out abotu once a week and work with my herd on these manners to keep them in check and remind them I am the Boss of everyone, there are 7 horses and 1 mule.

Edited by luvallbreeds

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I think your mare is protecting her intersts and not necessarily your safety, they just happen to coincide. Our alpha mare will do the same as your mare if there is feed involved but could care less if we don't have feed. Most of our herd, a truly mixed herd with male and female horse and mules, will attempt to run the others away from the feed. They act the same way whether someone is holding the feed or we just put it down and leave it. They try to defend it against each other. We don't often carry feed into the herd for just this reason, with 30 or so animals it can be dangerous even though they are well-behaved for the most part.

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I have seen what I gathered as actual protection once. We had just bought this paint gelding who, looking back, I think had a serious screw loose. He was just nuts. But, he would have made an awesome barrel horse, which is why I got him...teenage girl not thinking about anything else. :rolleye0014: He'd been put out to pasture with our other horses, one gelding, a mare, and a yearling filly.

One day I heard a bunch of noise out in the pasture so I went out to see what was up. The paint was chasing the yearling all over the pasture. I got my parents and we headed out there. He was seriously intent on doing her some harm. We couldn't get him caught, but mom managed to get her arms around the neck of the yearling. He then bolted past Dad and I headed full throttle toward the yearling and my mom. That's when the other gelding, Jake, jumped in. He got in between the paint and mom and the yearling and started fighting with the paint. Mom got the yearling out of there and Jake chased the paint to the end of the pasture. The sellers came and picked the paint up that evening.

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She's not "protecting" you. She's protecting her STATUS with you.

Horses live in a pyramidal world. She sees you as part of the at pyramid. It's open at this point whether she sees you as a superior or subordinate as we've not sufficient facts on the interactions.

If you want to test my hypothesis next time you are out with in field with other horses and her have someone else do something nearby that is "horse scary." If she runs with the other horses then I'm right; if she doesn't, the I might be wrong. The reason that I have to "hedge" on the second possibility is that if she sees you as superior on the pyramid she may be waiting to see how you react to the "booger."

Be wary of anthropomophising equine behavior. :winking:

G.

Our youngest, Jess, would stay with me when the "booger" appeared, but it's not protection. She just isn't scared of anything. She pretty much finds everything either interesting or funny,rather than scary. She isn't tops in the herd though. Jula is boss mare, just by virtue of engaging in herd behaviors that the other two have pretty much let go. They lived much of the last six years with just the two of them (mom and baby), and until Jula joined them, there just wasn't any "dynamic" going on. They happily shared everything - food, attention, shelter, but it was easy, given there was no competition for resouces.

I wouldn't want my horse to feel any need to protect me, because I think that implies that I am somehow vulnerable....not really something I want a 1,000 lb animal to think of me, lol.

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My Heifer Mare will pin ears if another horse approaches and I'm messing with her. I don't see it as protecting me as much as I see it as she just doesn't care to share in the ear scratches and attention.

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If you and your husband or boyfriend are out, and your guy steps away for a minute and comes back to find another man chatting you up (but not threatening you,) and your guy walks up and puts his arm around you and moves his body between you and the other man--is he protecting you, or protecting his own interests in being number one with you?

Same deal. :happy0203:

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My partner was bred on our farm, and my sons mount before mine. She would protect him, especially when he rode bareback, from any horse that got too close, and postured, whether told to by the rider, or just pecking horse thing. She would do what he told her to do, no matter the situation, but her natural response was to take care of her rider.

Now she has been trained to stand quietly stirrup to stirrup with any horse we are put in a line with, training situations, or working situations. She will literally push people up against a wall, and hold them there, or put them down and walk on them if told to. She has protected me against another horse who broke free from its handler, in an enforcement barn, and tried to run over/thru us, to get out. This gelding was huge, and she is just a 15+ hand girl. He ran into an open stall instead. That said, she is also very gentle with the youngsters at school safety cities, allowing them to pet, and sit on her for pics, no matter what is going on around her.

She will find out how much a new rider to her knows about horses, but she will also keep them safe, and not because they are pecking order queens in her book. She has liked people/humans from the get go, and enjoys pleasing them. Part of this I believe is genetics, part taught/trained, but my thought is that you can't make a horse care for you unless they want to. Training and herd instincts aside, their willingness toward a close relationship is their gift.

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My mare isn't a fan of me 'fraternizing' with other horses either. If she's in a mood, and won't come when called, then I know a good way to get her to show interest is to give another horse attention. Or my dog, if he's with me.

Also, if she's in the barn, and the goats poke their heads into the barn for attention (their pen is attached to a stall in the barn) and I start giving them love, she'll get annoyed. I wait until she's done being fidgety though until I even acknowledge her presence, but she still tries to lure me over.

Then again, she can be 'protective' when we're out on trails. It has happened a few times that she just won't let anyone touch her when we're off the property. She is a very very person-friendly horse, and actually will leave other horses to be with people. But if we're off property, forget about it. She'll pin her ears and get very upset around other people. Same with other horses out on trails too, she basically ignores them. I personally think its because she is very much the type of horse that likes to work, and trail riding is her favorite kind of work, so she doesn't want any distractions. :winking:

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I do believe that some horses will protect you.

Years ago I was goofing around and sat on my mare while she was laying down. She went to get up and I had the bright idea to try to stay on. Well, I didn't and hit my head on the cement wash slab. I was out cold. Mom called the EMS and when they got there Sticker would not let them near me. She stood over me trying to wake me up. They had do lure her into the barn with grain to get her away from me. I don't remember any of it. When I came to I was in the house on the sofa.

She was my soul mate. We went everywhere and anywhere. I sure miss that little Appaloosa. She would do anything for me. She loved to be with me.

So yes I do believe that some protect you. I also believe mares are more protective than geldings or stallions. It's just like that song Mares (?) by (can't remember her first name) Kennedy. It all depends on the bond between horse and owner.

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My dad hurt himself once working in the pasture and got knocked out. He said when he woke up the horses were standing in an outward facing circle around him and once he got up and started walking to the house they wandered off.

Thor does not like for certain horses to get near me. He is the top of the pecking order around here, even above all the mares, and some horses he is ok with around me but others he will not tolerate. It's the same with people. One woman I used to be friends with could not touch him at all and he didn't like her around me either. I found later the hard way that she was bad news. He showed better judgment in that situation than me.

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I know my horse protects me. My gelding does not care for barking dogs. If the neigbors dogs bark at me, my horse will lower his head and charge them. Just yesterday my horse was in a different but open paddock as me. I was walking the fence line to make sure the fencing is ok. The neigbors dog was on the other side of the fence barking at me. My gelding came running from out of no where. At first I thought ( why is he running full speed across the field to me) then i realized , The dog was barking at me. My gelding just stopped on a dime right next to me and pinned back his ears at the dog that was across the fence.

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She's not "protecting" you. She's protecting her STATUS with you.

Horses live in a pyramidal world. She sees

you as part of the at pyramid. It's open at this point whether she sees you as

a superior or subordinate as we've not sufficient facts on the

interactions.

If you want to test my hypothesis next time you are out

with in field with other horses and her have someone else do something nearby

that is "horse scary." If she runs with the other horses then I'm right; if she

doesn't, the I might be wrong. The reason that I have to "hedge" on the second

possibility is that if she sees you as superior on the pyramid she may be

waiting to see how you react to the "booger."

Be

wary of anthropomophising equine behavior. :winking:

G.

from watching studing our horses, yes they are protecting thier status with thier human...

however there has ben an occasion when they look to the alpha human for protection as well.

Our dakota, was with his owner mydaughter, when he got threatened, he would seek her out.

wally always would be watching for caili when shown, when he was put in the stalls at shows, when she would leave, he would stand look out the opening , and would watch for her, when he seen her he would nicker.. e

Edited by Ann Wheeler

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We had the pot bellied pig in the field, from the neighbor's, about a month ago. Mo did not like him. Butttt, when DD went into the field, Mo absolutely pinned ears, and charged pig. No food involved. So, I have also seen him get physically between her and a dog he did not trust. :happy0203:

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I think mares do want to protect their owners, whether their owners are definitely higher on the pecking order or not.

Whenever I go out in the pasture and sit on a log, Rosie comes over and stands over me. She's not protecting her status in the herd. She knows very well she's the boss (under me, that is).

I think she does it like she would a foal that's lying down. I'm sitting, so she stands there with her head and neck over me, while I'm not talking to her or anything.

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I think mares do want to protect their owners, whether their owners are definitely higher on the pecking order or not.

Whenever I go out in the pasture and sit on a log, Rosie comes over and stands over me. She's not protecting her status in the herd. She knows very well she's the boss (under me, that is).

I think she does it like she would a foal that's lying down. I'm sitting, so she stands there with her head and neck over me, while I'm not talking to her or anything.

I say unless your a horse, you don't know what is going on in their minds. You can theorize and observe, but the base root of their actions/emotions, we really do not know 100%.

Some call it "anthropomorphizing" but in all honesty, we do not know. They could very well have the same emotions as us. Maybe it was jealousy. I certainly have witnessed jealousy in a lot of different animal species.

Scientists have been making breakthroughs on studies involving animal emotions. And really, it is kind of silly to think that we as human animals, have some sort of different emotions or superior emotions than other animals do.

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I know my herd protects me after an incident this summer. I have both mares and geldings. I was hurt in the pasture and could not get up. They formed a circle around me and the EMT's had to get them to leave to work on me. :)

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YES. i have way to many stories. but to narrow it down, i was riding a young horse i was training and had a rider riding my mare, the young horse i was training out of no where threw me head first into the ground, (we had been having problems with this crazy horse), i was so out of it. my out rider jumped off my mare to get the horse i was training, i climbed up the side of my mare and she took me home, she walked like she was on egg shells, and every time i tried to lay down on her (i had a serious head injury) she would stop. later that evening when i got home from the hospital i wanted to see my girl, because we were over filled with horses she was in a pasture with the crazy young horse. that crazy young horse was standing in the far corner of the pasture and not one inch of the crazy horse wasnt covered in bite or kick marks. my mare would not let me go to her. i had to get some one to go save that crazy horse and put her in a safe place.

and i read an article a long time ago about a woman who was walking a new young stallion she had gotten when it attacked her, her old stallion broke out of his stall and over a fence to come get the new stud off of her. i agree with Blondy, we can speculate all we want but sometimes theres just no denying some of the things that animals do.

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Yes

I believe they do, at least mine has...thankfully, she placed herself between me and the other two horses that were in the field fighting, and took a good kick, and then made them move off, she has done this several times. Not that I was in immediate harm way, but she just has always done this. I have owned her since she was 6 months old.

Right now our gelding will not allow the neighbors dogs near us (hubby and I)

Hubby's mare does not like to share him with mine or our gelding either, so it just is what it is.

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Waaaay back when I was a stupid teenager, my friend and I went out into a wide open pasture to get our horses - who didn't want to be caught and had teamed up to go graze at the far end of the pasture. Just when we were about to head over, we turned when we heard a LOT of hooves. The rest of the herd, about 12 horses, were on a rip around the pasture and they were headed directly for us - there was nowhere to go, no trees, fence too far away.

Before we both knew it, Quantus and Whiskey were standing on either side of us, forcing the others to go around. After the herd thundered by, Quantus and Whiskey walked away. They still didn't want to be caught that day, but we were too frazzled at that point to ride anyway.

Years ago, I was at a Parelli clinic where we were playing "protect your herd of two". The general rule was to have your horse offline behind you while there were one or two horses loose. The point was to gain points by keeping the horse away from your own herd, yada, yada, yada. Long story short, there were too many green people in the arena and before we knew it, there were about 5 or 6 horses running around like loons. I'd dropped my carrot stick so had no way to drive the big QH mare off that was headed directly towards me. My gelding, who'd been snoozing behind me calmly walked around in front of me, faced me, double barreled the mare in the chest, then walked behind me again, cocked a leg and went back to sleep. :yahoo:

Yes, there is all that about protecting their status in the herd, but sometimes, there is just plain protecting.

In a sort of unrelated story, last week, my 13 year old Silky Terrier, Carrie - my heart dog - was killed by coyotes that came into the yard. Needless to say, I was absolutely heartbroken and inconsolable. A few days later, I went out to where my two horses, two mammoth jennys and standard jenny were hanging out. I overturned a big tub, sat down and sobbed like a baby. My mare bent down, took the sleeve of my jacket in her mouth and held it there for almost a minute. My gelding kept trying to nuzzle me and one of my mammoth jenny stood beside me facing the opposite direction and wrapped her neck and head around me in a hug and kept doing that until I asked her to stop.

I love my herd.

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It sounds to me more like she just doesn't want to share you with the rest of the herd.

That being said, my horse once 'protected" me. We were riding down a trail at a slow canter when a bicyclist popped out from behind a bush right in front of us. Without pausing, my horse did a 180 degree turn at speed and I felt myself slipping off to the left side. I woke up on the right side of the trail where centrifugal force had slung me. The bicyclist had stopped, totally shocked. My husband had to lead my horse away, because he had stopped and stood right next to me. Everytime the bicyclist tried to approach (from the horse's rear) to help, my horse had kicked at him. Thank goodness I was wearing a helmet and I was only stunned and out for a few minutes. My horse was probably just scared of this guy and his bright orange shirt, but he wasn't so scared that he was running down the trail like a lot of horses would have been.

His behavior that day made me put up with a lot of crap I wouldn't have put up with otherwise and he's turned into a great trail mount. For me. He's a royal PITA for anyone else. :confused0024:

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