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Do Horses Feel Grief?
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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.

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  1. Rene Wright
    Rene Wright
    So touching & very true. Horses have emotions & you're right, their actions speak the loudest. I'm sorry for your loss for both you & your mare. Voted. Please check out my latest blogs: Spring Cleaning & Hay! It's what's for dinner & vote or comment if you like them. Thank you
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  2. Diana
    All animals feel emotions. I will admit that I don't think they have the full range humans do, but they have pretty much the same basic emotions. I voted.
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  3. naturegirl
    Of course they do! I can't believe some people say they don't. Voted! Come read my new post, Unnecessary Pain, and vote if you like it!
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    1. Chestnut Mare
      Chestnut Mare
      Voted. Very touching blog, and I agree with NatureGirl, of course they feel grief! All animals do, they have a lot of the human emotions, they are more like us than a lot of people care to admit. Some of us realise how they suffer at human hands, that is why we try to stop it.
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  4. Old School
    I do think they grieve. My first horse, an Appy gelding named Fiver, had an elderly draft horse as a corral-mate. He would stand and watch while the old horse lay down to sleep, and cried out for days when Sierra died. My young TB (since also passed away) took Fiver for a pal when Fiver was quite old. As Fiver's sight failed, Spike acted as his seeing-eye horse. And when Fiver at last had to be put down, Spike stood watch at his grave in the field for weeks. He also called out to, and ran the fence after, any backhoe that passed, as he had seen a backhoe bury his buddy. He was depressed for a long time, just as we would be over the loss of a friend. Grief knows no species...
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  5. Michelle Jane
    Michelle Jane
    Absolutely! Our Romeo called and paced in the pasture while his dear and very old (39) old gelding friend was in pain from having fallen on ice and suffered a broken hip. After he was euthanized by the vet, our Romeo walked over and nudged him,nuzzled his neck so gently and then exhaled a big sigh as if saying he knew his dear friend of 5 years was not going to wake up again and then walked away with his head down and a sadness in his eyes. No more calling out to him.
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  6. Teresa
    Teresa
    Vote #9. I am awed by this thought of animals having feelings like us humans do. I will agree, that they do. I have a dog, that when he's bored, he's just laying around. When I look at him, at times, I see that he's been doing something because, I see that there's crust and tear drops around the eyes and it breaks my heart to see him this way. I can see, that I am going to give this site a try. If you have the time to, stop by www.rollingwithoutlimits.com and check things out over there. All comments and votes are welcomed. Hope to see you there.
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  7. spirithorserider
    spirithorserider
    This is a very, very nice blog. But please don't use the term "just an animal." Horses, dogs, cats, bunnies, birds -- all have full emotional lives. There is nothing "just" or "only" about them. They may not have developed opposable thumbs or our complicated speech patterns, but they are intuitive, capable of long memories and a full range of emotions including love and, as you have demonstrated, grief and sadness. Thanks for your blog. I voted for it.
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  8. missincolorado
    Nancy, what a tough subject to tackle!! I know that it brought back some really painful memories for you, but I sure thank you for taking this subject on!!! I agree completely- Horses, DO INDEED feel grief!! Your entry broughtback many memories for me, also-one of which I would love to share........About 22 yrs. ago, my best show horse, and more importantly, my best FRIEND, died unexpectedly, of Salmonellosis- food poisoning, that he picked up from eating Turtle droppings in the pasture...........seriously! It brought this massive Arabian Gelding down, in less than a week.........It was horrific to watch; I THINK it may have been even MORE horrific for his Cat. That's right- he had a Cat...."Barn Kitty", a tough little stray, who had, insideously joined my familly just a year before. He didn't seem to want Human companionship, tho...he just wanted "Rakka", my Gelding. They were inseperable......I tried HARD not to take this stray cat to the Horse Shows with me, but it was ti no avail.....lol...Rakka acted like a Mare being separated from her foal, if I even TRIED! Flash forward to Rakka's illness.....Barn Kitty, who never really strayed far from Rakka, on a GOOD day, spent that last week, ON TOP OF RAKKA. Really. OR- Barn Kitty would curl up, and lay against Rakka's chest, when Rakka was laying down. Since this is where I would lay, also, (hey- I was young and REALLY stupid!) it became almost an annoyance, at times. On the day that Rakka decided that he could no longer eat anything....so did Barn Kitty.....He quit drinking.....so did the Cat. I called our Veterinarian, to have him come put Rakka down.....he was too late- Rakka had gone into seizures....with that crazy CAT, riding him, the entire time! That evening, in my grief, I had hired someone else to do the feeding, and had retreated to the house, to sit with my father, and, of course, bawl like a baby. At about 7:00 pm, it began to rain. We had buried Rakka, in the middle of the Arena, with his head overlooking his favorite hill........his grave was only about 2 hrs. old.......as I watched the mud swirling around the grave- I noticed a smallish white object....one that was NOT blowing or swirling......there, in the icy rain, sat Barn Kitty......all hunched over. I put on my jacket, and ran out to him. I took him into the house, thinking it would be a treat for him. WRONG! After 2 hrs +, of his HOWLING and WAILING, I had no choice but to let him out. He went straight to the grave, and sat. He stayed there, too, for about 10 days, refusing all food and water. He became quite ill. In the end, we gave him to our Veterinarian, who had cattle. Thankfully, he became attatched to a MILK Cow (Thank GOD it wasn't a STEER!), and his life was saved. The memory of that pathetic, tough little Cat ,still brings tears to my eyes......can animals feel grief? I am convinced......with EVERY fiber of my being, I am convinced........
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    1. Nancy Richards
      Thanks for sharing your story :)
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      1. missincolorado
        Thank YOU, again, for sharing YOURS!!!! :)
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  9. Timbermama
    Timbermama
    So true. After our lead mare foaled, we had to put the foal down surgery would not of help this little guy lead a full productive life, the vet said just throw him out she wont know nothing. I have pictures of our girl delivery, post delivery, post death of her foal (weeks of them) she wanted cuddled loved and held her head never came up until the birth of another came and she became slowly normal and back to lead mare after 9 months. I know they have feelings, emotions etc just watch their actions see their tears look into their eyes where their soul is and then you will know. I have never allowed that vet a very well known vet ever on our property again, to say throw him out she will never know (wow).
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