A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses

I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Do Horses Love?

It's the Age Old Question:  Do horses feel love?  Well, the dictionary defines love as:
[luhv]  noun, verb, loved, lov·ing.

1.  a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
2.  a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
3.  sexual passion or desire.
4.  a person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart.
5.  (used in direct address as a term of endearment, affection, or the like): Would you like to see a movie, love?

But stop for a second.  When you think of Love, what do you see?  What does it look like?

Does it look like a mother with her child?  The depth of feeling and affection she has for the baby she brought into this world?

Or maybe it's the love of friends at play?  The shared joy and laughter?

That warm feeling we have for our chosen mate?

Or the Love of a true friend?

Our ability to measure love is directly related to neural responses and the chemical oxytocin.  Horses have, and do both things.  To my way of thinking, that means horses love.  The question shouldn'y be IF horses feel love, but what makes them feel love.  Like Yesterday's post about horses being different then dogs, well, horses are also different then people.  Horse's love can most closely be compared to that of a child for it's parents.  (In my opinion)

And really, how many kids are always good for their parents?  Does that mean that the kids can't feel love either?  Yeah.... that's what I thought.


  1. Absolutely, I believe that their love is not as deep as a human's but it's there. One only has to look at a mare with her foal to see it in her eyes.

  2. My 34 year old mare "baby-sat" my show gelding in the pasture. When she passed away, he exhibited true grief for quite sometime. Even though he has had other pasture "buddies" he has never formed another attachment like the one he had for her. This mare, Cherokee, is one that I wrote a story about for the book "Horses That Saved Lives". I believe she had a "love" for my father which she exhibited by the way she took "care" of him when he was riding her or around her.

  3. Laughing Orca RanchAugust 2, 2011 at 1:51 PM

    I am sooooo glad you posted about this subject. I have been thinking about it A LOT lately.
    As young girls we grow up reading about horses and their close relationships with people. We see the photos of horses and people nuzzling and hugging one another. We hear the whinnies of horses when they recognize their human from the field and gallop to the gate, not always with the promise of grain or a treat. Sometimes for just a scratch and some petting and a hello.
    But so many people try to reinforce that horses are "just animals", "just livestock" and they don't have the same feelings as we humans do.
    At my most recent group lesson, a talented horsewoman that I admire was there for the lesson and took me aside and told me she wanted to do me a favor and share with me something that has taken her over 30 years to learn. She told me,

    "Your horse will never love you. She is not capable of loving you. Treat her like a horse and not a human."

    I must admit I didn't want to hear it, nor did I want to accept it. I'm not sure even now if I do. I've sen so many tender moments and acts of affection between horses and humans, and even from my own horses, past and present. It's difficult for me to accept that horses cannot love or have affection for their humans.
    It's very confusing.


  4. Wonderful post...I think they do feel love and give love.

    Thanks for stopping by my post, I could not reply directly to you. Glad you enjoyed the pictures.

  5. Here's what I wonder: Why do we believe that line of garbage when people tell it to us?

    If some one told you that men can't feel love, you'd laugh at them. If they said that babies can't feel love you'd call them crazy. And if someone tried to tell the world that dogs don't feel love, they would be laughed out of town. So why does it work for horses?

    As a scientist I can honestly tell you that we can prove horses love as much as we can prove humans love. (it's a bit of a vague science though, because you see, we can't exactly prove that all humans love, nor that they all love the same). Horses have most of the same chemicals in their brains that humans do. Those chemicals are released in extremely similar fashion to when humans brains release them.

    So rest easy. That horses love is just as much as scientific fact as it is that humans love. The next time someone tries to tell you that horses don't "love" ask THEM to prove it, because the science says otherwise. I was going to do a scientific post about this, but I had to do a lot of translating of my dorky terms (5-HTT doesn't mean a thing to most people). I figured that some of those image comparisons speak louder then any words (like the black and white pics... it's the same thing!).

    Anyway, your horse will love you, likely already DOES love you, and is perfectly capable of loving you.

  6. I get myself in trouble with anthropomorphizing, so I'll just say they react positively, in a way akin to human affection.

  7. Laughing Orca RanchAugust 3, 2011 at 10:19 AM

    Thanks for your reply to this. Everything you said makes total sense, but also makes me ponder even more. It's all so complicated, but yet so simple. Or is that just because we humans have to muddle it all up? lol.


  8. Probably early next week I'm going to do a post on what love is. It'll be a bit technical, but I think it will clear up a lot. Y'all have been giving me tons of ideas, and since it's too hot to be working horses... well.... I can do THIS instead!

    I think once you break it down into the chemicals and stuff, it makes more sense when you look at the reactions and our perceptions to them.

  9. Interesting to think of it as the love a child has for a parent - perhaps if you make that a teenager and a parent, you might be dead on. Your teen will break your heart, abandon you, but still, they love you. It's just not the kind of love that takes care of YOU.


    Let me be clear. I don't doubt that horses feel love for their companions, and horses remember their companions for decades. Mares can love their offspring, I've seen that (and also mares that are a bit irritated at being moms AGAIN. :) ) .

    But the level of inter species love and devotion that I get from my dog? I really don't see it out there. A nicker of welcome is wonderful, my horse "hugs" me occasionally. He will snuffle me if I'm blue. He can be a sweetheart.

    Maybe horses just aren't as co-dependent. LOL

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