Category wise, horses are a unique pet to have. Most of us don’t have a member of the family that is technically considered livestock. Though I jokingly call my dogs my “herd”, they are fairly universally accepted as pets in the United States. While some people do have working dogs, they become less and less common. For dogs and cats, everyone accepts their value as emotional instead of economical.

AKC Blue Ribbon winner. Also bites faces. Worth $0
AKC Blue Ribbon winner. Also bites faces. Worth $0

Horses are less black and white though. For many of us, horses are our pets and nothing else. However, humans are selfish by nature and the majority of people that take on the expensive upkeep & time commitment that is having a horse in boarding/training do so because they’re getting something more out of it than just companionship. As I see it, our horses have two sides to their value – emotional and performance.

Performance value can vary as much as the kind of horses needed for different equestrian sports. Evaluating the monetary value of horses could be a novel of a blog post that I’m not qualified to write. The emotional value is more intriguing to me.

Now that I’ve had Simon for well over three years, I feel like our relationship has started to really click. Earlier on in our journey, I could have told you that he’s worth X dollars because of Y show experience or Z qualities. Now if I had to stick a figure on him, I wouldn’t know where to begin. I’ve realized lately that this is because his emotional value has grown so much for me in the past year.

I couldn’t begin to tell you what the dollar amount would be, but I wanted to share some of what would compose Simon’s emotional sales advertisement.

simon-canter
Photo by Heather N. Photography

Maybe it’s the 15 lbs of treats we’ve been slowly working our way through, but whenever I go to get Simon from the pasture he comes to me now. Mostly he walks over, but sometimes if I call to him a few times he’ll trot all the way across the field. Pretty sure there’s no sight that’s better for the heart than your horse trotting towards you in the sunset.

He is easy on the eyes.

Every time I walk to him in his stall, he whickers to me.

He has a bit of a sense of humor.

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When he’s done something particularly well in a lesson, he prances. This could be anything from a 2′ oxer to a lead change, but he’s very pleased with himself.

He is conscious of my safety (as much as a horse can be).

Lately, he licks and nuzzles me like a dog. Some would probably see this as a very bad habit, and I’m sure it has something to do with the 15 lbs of treats. I find it endearing though, and only get after him when he gets impatient and uses teeth. The other day I was talking to a friend before turning him out, and he carefully took the back of my breeches in his teeth and snapped them back at me. I told him he was a naughty pony, but it made me laugh.

The thing about emotional value is that you can’t really quantify it. Even as I sit here and try to list stuff out, I know I’m missing the overall picture. I like writing down these little quirks though, because they make me smile. One day (hopefully far, far away) Simon won’t be with us anymore, and I’ll be able to pull up this post to remember the details beyond lead changes and fence heights.

What’s something special about your horse that money can’t quantify?

32 COMMENTS

  1. All three of mine have some strong emotional pulls. Copper and Robin have been with me since they were 10 and 6 months old, so duh. And Paige is so patient and takes care of me so she gets all of the brownie points. The other two are as big on taking care of me (groans), but they both come running when I call more often than the rest of the herd. Robin is likely to lick/snuggle me and Copper just has the most hilarious personality. I can totally understand this post. That’s why Copper was overpriced last year. 😉

  2. I love Simon and I’m so glad he makes you smile when you otherwise can’t. I should maybe do a blog post like this. My answer to that question you posed is too long for a comment.

  3. My boy Rio is worth 100 billion gazillion million dollars. No really.
    I’ve had him 11 years. He’s my absolute best friend in the whole world. (Don’t tell my human best friend, she really thinks she ranks above him.) We’ve done all the show things that make him valuable in other people’s eyes: year-end ribbons in the amateur/owner jumpers AND amateur/owner hunters (I know right?), and even a second place finish in our state medal final. But that’s not what I love about him. Well it is. But not all of it as you pointed out. He’s saved my butt so many times. He’s had every right to tell me what kind of a rider I really am, and he never has. Not once. Even that time I jumped up his neck and told him to leave a stride too early to a 4’3″ oxer. He just patiently added a stride and then jumped with me pretty literally on his head. He’s more or less tolerated my tears in his neck when suffering some human loss or another. And he’s always happy to see me (ok maybe it’s the cookies) when I walk in the barn.
    I almost lost him a year ago to EPM. He now has muscles only on one side of his face. But he’s still the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. He walks a little slower, and his head hangs a bit lower, but he’s still my best friend. And I’m pretty sure no one on this planet has enough money to buy him from me.
    The other two… I’d be willing to negotiate…

  4. love this post! beyond my horse in particular, part of the huge value i see in horses in general is what they can tell me about myself and all the things i’m capable of doing if i just try and work hard enough. for my mare in particular tho, phew where to start? i’m just so grateful for the relationship we’ve been able to cultivate

  5. What a good post!

    Moe has so many little things that make him priceless: his obvious enjoyment of all kinds of weird treats, the way his ears perk up at jumps, the spring in his step after a gallop. I try to savor these things, because I know he isn’t getting any younger.

    Gina’s diva attitude has kind of grown on me; I appreciate how she carries herself with pride and swagger, how she’s careful with green riders, how she stays calm and cool when other horses are acting silly. She’s convinced she’s the best there ever was!

  6. Sometimes I think about the vast expense that is horse ownership and wonder what is wrong with me for even considering it.

    But I can’t not. To me, so much of the joy of horses comes not from riding, but from owning. From building the relationship and watching the training develop over time. I can’t (emotionally) comprehend people who lease. I mean, financially, they are 100% smarter than I am.

    I just don’t see the point.

  7. I think Dijon is actually a really good example of emotional value. He would be better off living with another owner who would actually ride him. But his injuries limit him and I know he’ll end up sold down the line and possible end up at a slaughterhouse so I keep him. I ride him 1-2 times a month and even then usually only for a few minutes. Even with the injuries, he probably has some $ value given he’s gaited, pretty, and a solid trail horse, but he’s not for sale. I’m too emotionally attached to him.

  8. i haven’t ridden since May 1st, and I’ve barely set eyes on a real horse since then. I don’t even know if I want my life to include horses, especially in the sense of “just give me an equine, ANY equine, and I shall die happy.” It would have to take a special horse.

    Prior to all this my special horse was Riley. I can’t afford to have him now; my life is different and it’s not going to happen for a long time. But he was my heart horse. He would drop anything he was doing in the paddock to shriek loudly and come tearing over, same in his stall. He was jealous if I spent time with other horses (this behavior was not encouraged but I have to admit to secretly thinking it was cute.) He took care of me sometimes and I took care of him sometimes. He tried his great big heart out for me and jumped heights he shouldn’t have been able to for me. He even tried to hack for me and there was nothing he hated more!

    Mostly, though, I just loved spendinging any and all time with him. He was so cool to just hang out with, almost like a person. This will sound really weird and maybe like I belong in a mental institution, but he was my friend. And I miss him. Not horses in general, just him.

    Sigh.

  9. My boy Diamond was fairly useless as a show horse, and we retired him from being ridden at all by the time he turned 20 years old (we bought him when he was 12). We poured so much money into his training, and he was a total bust…but he was my absolute best friend. The five years I kept him at my house were some of the roughest years of my life, and no matter how long it had been since I rode him last, I could hop on him bareback and barefoot and tool around the pasture in a halter to clear my head. He would do the slowest little jog trot since I wasn’t very good at sitting the trot, and I could always count on him to listen while I poured out my heart during a grooming session. My mom always says, “He wasn’t meant to be a great horse. He wasn’t even meant to be a good horse. He was just meant to be your horse. He got you through high school and college, and that was what he was meant to do.”

  10. I love this post!! Dino is totally priceless. He’s my best friend, my partner, my teacher. He and I have achieved SO much together in the past 5 years.. not in ribbons and awards, but in personal growth. Dino teaches me to be a better human being and makes my life so much richer. There is something unexplainable that I get from our relationship that no human friendship can match. I can’t imagine life without the deep, special love of a horse.

  11. What a wonderful post. My horses, Bacon in particular, make me feel like I am still alive. I still have a purpose and I can still do something that makes me feel accomplished. There are not many things that can do that for me.

  12. Putting value on horses that you have an emotional attachment to is a tough thing to do. I really don’t know how some folks do it.

    Paddy’s biggest value to me is that I trust him and he’s adorable. I mean seriously. I can forgive anything for those adorable little earz. I’m pretty sure he’s the pony I never had as a kid.

  13. Val’s worth to me can’t be quantified in $$. (Unless it’s $$ from opposite land – where the value has a minus in front of it)

    Not just because he has primarily been a pasture pet for the last year. Or that he came with a mysterious hip injury that limits his athletic abilities. Or the melanomas he recently developed…

    He keeps me sane. Caring for him bookends my days in a lovely, calm, dependable way that promotes mental health.

    Too funny. I was bent over rasping Val’s fronts the other day and he saucily snapped my pants / underwear waistbands. Considering the size of those choppers, that’s a pretty delicate operation. ;D

  14. My pony has always been there and given me everything he has, even when I don’t ask him for it. He is straight up honest almost to a fault, always ready to go and when I need a ‘reminder’ to take me down a peg or two, he delivers without fail. He keep me humble at times and makes me proud just the same.

    The mares? The TB mare is about as sweet as they come.

    The warmblood mare? Well she’s a work in progress…. But she is teaching me, reminding me and making me work for it. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

  15. I couldn’t possibly. It was love at first sight. He got me through DH’s first deployment. I can’t ever put a price on that. I’d never sell him though, I made him a promise, he’s with me forever…even if that’ means we are on the other side of the world from each other.

  16. There’s some sort of sparkle in Chimi’s eye that I can’t really describe but I see it every time I’m down at the barn waiting for something (food, farrier, general down time…) Chimi will stick his head over his stall door and just look at me and that sparkle is just there. It’s cute, warm, and just makes me smile every time I stop and take a moment just to enjoy him for just being Chimi. 🙂

    Gus is such a teddy bear that you can’t help but smile every time you look at him. He loves his ears to be rubbed and will find a way to position his head so you can easily grab his ears and rub them. He has a different type of sparkle in his eye compared to Chimi but he has one too. Gus’s sparkle is a little more quirky and sassy but I love it just as much as Chimi’s 🙂

  17. Great post. It can be so hard to value a horse. Those days that Tuck makes me want to kill him are few and far between now. I’m still not sure if he is my heart horse but putting a price tag on him would be difficult. Horses especially ones you have a bond with are the best form of therapy.

  18. After a good ride, Miles likes to have his face hugged. It’s funny, because he doesn’t love to be physically loved on usually — he puts up with it for about .2 seconds. But sometimes after a lesson where he’s really good or a round at a show that went great, when I get off he just puts his head in my chest and we hug.

  19. It’s hard to say too much because I have been riding Lucky for less than a year, but a few great things about her is that she is very patient and levelheaded. I have to do things correctly to get the desired response, but she doesn’t get too fussy if I do things wrong or if I hang on her mouth by accident, and she has never spooked while I was on her back. She is also quite quirky is very expressive when she wants to be, but never in a dangerous way. More than that, she has increased my confidence more than any other horse. While I’ve never been a timid rider(I was pretty scared the first few times ever cantering because I had ridden a grouchy chestnut mare, appropriately named Ginger, who spilled many riders, but other than that, no), I have had a little anxiety just before the canter (problem stemming from riding a challenging, mischievous, albeit fun chestnut gelding). However, Lucky has really increased my confidence. Besides the first couple times cantering on her, and one other occasion, I have not ever felt nervous on her. Additionally, my confidence has increased on other mounts as well. She is priceless.

  20. My horse was my happiness but since I’m not with her right now, I’ve figured out other ways to make myself happy. Right now I’m keeping her happy by letting her have the attention and job she loves : )

  21. Amen. When they are in turnout and see you and come over to you is the best feeling in the world. It makes me feel as if the horse WANTS to be with me, and chooses to, instead of me forcing him to do something he doesn’t want to. It feels like love, right? And yes, I’m one of those people that loves playful horses. The ones that look you and nuzzle you and make faces for treats. The ones that playfully nibble your back pocket as you pick their feet, letting you know they COULD bite your butt if they wanted to…

  22. Griffin’s need to please is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced from another horse. Q’s steady acceptance of me as her human over time, while very subtle, warms my heart so much. I love having both of them as a part of my life.

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