Do Horses Feel Grief?
We may ask ourselves, do horses have emotions? Some people may say that they do not, but in fact, they do. I have witnessed more than once a horse droop with sadness after the passing of their best friend. Although they are animals, their actions speak louder than words ever could.
The first that I noticed this was with a couple horses in their late twenties. Slowly but sadly the elderly gelding was not doing well and the second round of medicines didn’t have the same effect as the first. For him the kindest thing to do was to let him go peacefully. His best friend who hung by his side out in the field and shared a neighboring stall, was devastated at his passing. She lost the spring in her step and the brightness in her eyes. Her daughter stayed close to her, keeping her company. As time went by, she now has another older gelding who adores her so she has come back to life again, occasionally running and bucking with the other horses in the field.
The most notable one is that of my mare. A bit over two years ago, I lost my beloved first horse, a gelding she absolutely loved. She followed him everywhere outside and stayed by his side. Sadly, he colicked four days after Christmas, and after a long day at the hospital, he was put to rest. When I returned from the hospital, my mare couldn’t believe he was gone. For about two months, she stood at the gate of the field calling for him, and when inside, looked out the back window hoping he was somehow still out there. This hit me really hard as I also was broken hearted.
Through my own tears, I watched as she seemed to have lost all purpose of life, and no longer felt the need to run or play. I devoted my attention to her, giving her lots of love. When two share a mutual grief, they form an inseparable bond. In the meantime, we were working on overcoming her fear of trailers, so I strived to win her trust. Since she lost her best equine friend, she became very close to me and then was able to trust me completely.
One day I recorded the whinny of my first horse onto my phone from a horse show video from several years back. While my girl was grazing nearby I played the recording on my phone. Immediately her head shot up with ears pricked, looking around. I replayed it and she answered back. Even after he was gone almost two years she still remembered and recognized his voice.
Horses may be just animals, but they can feel and remember things just like humans. If your horse loses his best friend, give him extra love and attention as he also would suffer from a broken heart.