Thursday, December 17, 2009

Are Horses Pets?

A couple of weeks ago, the Sunday Stills challenge was pets. I didn't include my horses in the photos I posted that day - just the dog and cats. Somehow, I don't think of horses as pets. To me, they're much more mysterious and less connected to a human agenda than dogs, or even cats. Perhaps it's because they have never (or at least not that often) lived in our houses, nor have they been as closely domesticated or involved in our lives as dogs and cats are. And their original domestication may have been as food animals - no wonder they're wary of us! Although I spend hours every day in the close company of horses, I still consider them wholly other, and I always feel honored when they include me in their company or try to communicate with me. By nature of their lives with us, and dependence on us, they do interact with us as they need, and sometimes want, to, but they also have their own concerns that do not involve us. Even the best-trained horse is still very close to a wild animal, which I think is part of the reason we are attracted to them. It is truly magical to spend time in the presence of these magnificent creatures, in their beauty and "horseness" - it's a privilege I never stop being grateful for.

16 comments:

  1. I'm not so sure I would define pets as simply being far from wild. Cats are actually self-domesticated, meaning they chose to come into people's homes, and perhaps because of that they aren't very domesticated -- most cats can surive quite well on their own, much more so than dogs I think. Also, there are many pets that are not domesticated at all -- snakes, lizards, birds, etc. On the flip side, cows are very far from wild, yet I highly doubt many people consider them pets.

    I personally would define pets by a few different things: how I feel about them, whether they are dependent on me for their needs, and whether they have a purpose other than pleasure. I love my horse just as much (if not more than) my dogs and cats, and of course he is extremely dependent on me for his needs. But I also think that with the exception of the Amish and similar societies, we own horses for our own pleasure, NOT because we require them to do a job. (People refer to riding as a job, but it's not one of necessity.) Therefore, to me my horse is a pet. My best friend, too, to be fair -- but still a pet.

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  2. Although I don't think of them as pets in the same way I do our cats and dogs, in a sense they are. I classify them as such to differentiate between horses as a business and horses as pleasure animals, which is what mine are. They are not working ranch animals, we don't breed them or show them, so "pet" is apt, in our case.

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  3. Websters dictionary describes pet, (a domesticated animal kept for companionship or amusement.)
    But I tend to agree with your description of the magnificent horse. They "allow" us to keep them; that wild instinct is always there.
    Great food for thought in this post, Kate! Thanks!

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  4. I agree with all of the above... Horses are as much of a pet as a Boa, or a parakeet. They rely on our food and housing for survival but retain many of their "wild" qualities. We don't eat them, and most horses are kept only for pleasure. So in that regard that makes them a pet.. more than a cow, or chicken, which are rarely "tamed" by their human owners or interacted with. They are given blankets, treats, etc... just like a dog, not a cow. But you are right they do live out in the barn and not the house. They are a weird mix of pet, live stock and wild animal and that is probably why we like them so much :)

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  5. Perhaps, in some strange way, we are acutally our horses' pets. *lol* Sometimes I certainly feel their needs and desires are in charge of me instead of the other way around.

    I consider my Boys pets, of, as others have said, another sort. Because we work together, I also consider them partners.

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  6. Good post, very thought-provoking. Having been raised on a farm, I tend to think of "pets" as animals with no use other than companionship. My pekingese dog is a pet, my cat who refuses to catch mice is a pet, my miniature horse is a pet. Their only purpose is to keep me company. My horses work for me and, in the past, have earned me a living, so to me they are much more than mere pets. I consider them to be honored partners.

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  7. Very thought provoking post. I think I would fall in the 'pets but also partners' camp.

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  8. I love my horses, but they are livestock, not pets. We also have two dogs who are pets and live outside, and 2 or 3 cats (seems to always be changing) who also live outside and are not pets in the traditional sense, but my horses i believe are not pets because they live outside and are taken care of mor like cows or chickens.

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  9. My horses are closer to pets than not. They don't live in the house and I ask them to do more than the other pets because I ride them, but they're part of my animal family.

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  11. I guess I think of mine as pets, though I've had many people tell me not to. I don't look at them as pets like my dog is a pet whose only concern in life is to please me, but I look at them as animals who share their lives with me. Now that I think about it, I don't really know what is meant by the word "pet." Animals under my care? Animals I "play" with? I had a friend say once that she'd never keep a horse as a "pet"--ie., if it can't do the work on the ranch, it isn't going to be supported with hay/vet/farrier. She was/is very practical and doesn't have the money to dole out on a horse who can't work. Therefore, she looks at the horse like a cow or a car--utilitarian--and in that sense, I guess it is not a pet. Me, on the other hand, I'd keep my horses around even if they were useless--so I guess that would be my new definition of the word "pet." (Animals we'd keep around and support even if they can't do their job).

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  12. I consider my horses pets. They might not come into the house, but that doesn't mean anything to me. What matters to me is I love every one of them, whether a horse, goat, cat or dog, and they are all my pets!

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  13. I think it is all semantics, but I know what you mean. Horses do seem less part of our human world, but I wonder if that has to do with their size. I have really been observing our cat and her behaviour and applying it to my experiences with Pie and Sovey. Noodle "shies" at a white grocery bag. She jumps, and investigates and avoids it in much the same way as a horse. Dogs and cats are just smaller so we include them in our world and yet we miss out on what they are doing because it isn't as dangerous. I have to say, though, they are all very similar. And, if I had my way, I would have a home right smack in the middle of the pasture so I could observe/interact with the horses all the time and allow our worlds to become one like with our indoor "pets". As far as "wild", our cat seems closer to wild than Pie and Sovey.

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  14. A pet by any other name is a pest.

    But seriously, I think some of this is a size factor. Miniature horses, dogs, cats - they are all smaller than us and tend to "feel" like pets.

    Then there is the indoor/outdoor aspect. When you live with an animal that wanders in and out of the same rooms, it's just different.

    I consider my horses to be part of our family, yet not pets.

    And now I've just completely confused myself.
    :)

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  15. Juliette, I wanted to come back and comment on your comment. :o) I've noticed the same thing -- more in our dogs, but yes, they "spook" at unfamiliar things just like horses. It's just different when you're not on their back or when they're not big enough to trample you when it happens! And yes, in some ways I think our cats are way more wild than my horse. He comes when called. ;o)

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  16. I thought about that too when they did the "pet" photo challenge. To me a horse has more of a partnership with me, not a human/pet relationship. So while my horses have all the same care my dogs do (other than living in the house), I don't exactly think of them as pets. I have a little more respect for my horses as sentient beings. Not that I don't love my dogs and appreciate their intelligence. It's just different. I don't know exactly how to put it into words.

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