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Playful horses. Is it love or...?

I wanted to post a question that has been bothering me for many years. I have a horse since he was 5 years old and now he is 11. We have a very good relationship, whenever he hears my voice he answers back, we play with me running and he following after me at a canter etc. My question is that whenever I try to walk him on a lead or leave him free on a halter he treats me like a toy, he jumps and kicks and seems extremely happy, but when the stable boy or the trainer leads him he is another altogether animal, very obedient like a sheep. Again when I am near he is all games and fun. He is like that even when I ride him, although we cooperate wonderfully when we have to compete or in training. Why does he behave this way with me? Is it because I have never punished him, even playfully, from when he was younger, or does he understand how much I care for him, because truly he means the world to me!
Thank you, Sassa

Hello Sassa,

Thank you for your question. Horses are really creatures of habit. Your horse is very used to being with you and acting a certain way when he is. When he is with another it is a whole new thing.

Personally, I rather not have a horse treat me like a “toy”. I love playing like you do with horses. However, there is a time not to play like that and for the horse to be totally calm, quiet, listening and softly responsive. This requires a lot of focus by both horse and human. When they are playing, jumping, and kicking, as you describe, they are not listening, but rather, like children, they are playing. You indicate he cooperates fully when being ridden by you in competition or training. So, perhaps he is well balanced enough as to be focused when you need him to be and playful when you allow it. This is what is most ideal. Perhaps anyone else leading him around, if they have the skills, ‘check’ him when he gets playful and he settles right down.

Also, horses are so smart that a really good one will adapt to different humans and the way they relate to the horse (if it is still appropriate in the horse’s language). They understand what our intention is and will respond accordingly. I truly believe he does understand how much you care for him, that you are indeed his real owner and that he does “mean the world” to you. Well done!

Sincerely, Franklin

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