Horses vs Dogs

Horses vs Dogs

When I had coffee with a coworker last week, I joked that my horse was the most stable relationship in my life right now.

“Yeah,” he said, ignoring my crazy. “I didn’t realize that horses’s had personality. They’re just like big dogs!”

“Well…” I started. “They do have personality, but I don’t think of them like dogs. A dog is always going to love you, but a horse is more like being married.”

He blinked at me. See? You can’t control my crazy! I’ve always thought this way about horses though, and here’s why.

You have to legitimately try to get a dog not to love you. Cats are on a whole different level with this… I just cast them aside as a sub-humanoid species destined to take over the internet and eventually all of humankind. But dogs? Dogs are built to love us. You can hit them, starve them and yell at them (though I don’t suggest doing any of these things) and a dog will still look at you with the same loving eyes that it did the first time it met you. Dogs are equipped with seemingly unlimited forgiveness and trust in their people. They are a special kind of amazing. When you take a dog into your home, you enter an unspoken contract. The dog knows that sometimes you’re going to accidentally step on its tail, forget to feed it dinner or take it in for torture yearly vaccinations, but they agree to love you anyway. The dog knows you are flawed, but you know the dog is going to love you for those flaws.

A horse is not so easy.


Entering a new relationship with a horse is like dating. His picture looked really good online, and even though you say you care about more than just looks… you can’t help picturing him in your life to fulfill that bit of vanity you try to keep away. You’re nervous that he may be just a bit out of your league. When you meet, you’re careful to keep your true self toned down a little bit. Best hide the crazy today. On the first ride, you take things slow. You need to feel him out a little bit, and see how far you can push things. Do your faults aggravate him, or is he pretty tolerant? You know you want to go further, but it’s hard to know if you can trust him yet.

This inner dialogue isn’t just happening in your head – that horse is scoping you out too. Do you fit his idea of perfect human? You remind him of his trainer a little bit, which brings some comfort.. but he hopes your less strict. All of a sudden he has a whole new person to communicate with, and he’s trying to figure out the subtle nuances between what you really want and responding too emotionally.

My first date with Simon went horribly. I actually told my trainer that he “flipped me the bird” during our entire ride. I wasn’t able to let go, and he was scared of the things he didn’t know. It wasn’t until almost a year later when we had both matured a bit that we were emotionally ready for each other.


Three years later, there’s plenty of give and take in our relationship. If I let him down, I have to work harder over an extended period of time to make it up to him. He forgets nothing. He holds me accountable to my mistakes, but he also does his best to cover up my flaws. Each ride and interaction we have with each other builds on a foundation of trust and companionship.

I love my dogs wholly, and they depend on me for everything. I love my horse just as much, but it’s more than love. Maybe I’m alone in this sentiment, but when I look at a horse – I still see some wildness there. I feel like less like I own this animal, and more like he’s my partner. We choose each other, and both have to promises to keep.

Simon is my most stable relationship right now, but I don’t take it for granted.

25 thoughts on “Horses vs Dogs

  1. I’d never thought of it like dating, but I totally agree with this. It’s absolutely more like a partnership / relationship / marriage than our other “pets.” Most dogs will go along with whatever, because they are with you. I’ve had teenage dogs flip me off, but I’ve definitely had more horses flip me off over the years! Hell, the horse I ride most often in my lessons tests me on a weekly basis to see what he can get away with this time. When he realizes I’m not going to let him get away with anything, he sighs and hunkers down to do his job.

    All of this completely explains why I am both excited and terrified to start looking for a new horse in a couple of years!

  2. I love this! Dogs are unconditional love in a cute, furry package. They are special and magical and connect with us humans at a level that is so deep I can’t really wrap my brain around it. The love of a dog is the kind of love we should all strive to give each other! Horses are, in a way, more human – especially because we ask them to partner with us in doing ‘work’. Building a relationship with a horse is like building a relationship with another human being – it takes mutual respect, trust, and communication. It takes selflessness. A relationship with a horse is so much more complex than that with a dog, and the emotional ups and downs of horse-human relationships are a lot like those of human-human relationships. Each is different, and I need BOTH in my life! Great post!

  3. awesome post. every now and then i like to think my mare ‘loves’ me — but more often, not so much haha. it definitely feels like a give-and-take relationship, and that i have a responsibility to her to do my part. not to go too far into anthropomorphism, but i also kinda see us as coworkers in a way, or teammates maybe. idk. i agree tho – it’s totally different from a dog or cat!

  4. Some horses are definitely like this, marriage is a good analogy. Mine is VERY dog-like. It really doesn’t matter what I do to him, he still looks at me with the “I love you” eyes. He’s a special one.

  5. #TeamCats all the way!! I like my cats way more than I like the dogs. 😛 (Which isn’t to say I *don’t* like the dogs- just that I prefer the cats.)

    Moe is pretty dog-like, but Gina…Gina is like a cat. Aloof. Kind of angry all the time. Makes ugly faces at things she doesn’t like.

  6. Well put–I love my dogs a lot, but they don’t fill the same niche in my life or teach me the sort of lessons that my horse does. I always think it has something to do with the ratio “can this animal kill you right now”. The more likely the answer is to be yes, the more it is like interacting with another person. So horses require more tact than some people. Dogs sometimes require tact (and more if you’re trying to get them to DO anything), cats rarely, and rabbits never.

  7. I’ve never thought of it in those terms but it’s so true. And I’ve never really thought of horses as pets, definitely more as partners. I cringed at classifying my blog as “Pets/Animals” for that exact reason.

  8. Another difference, at least to me, is that dogs are forever and horses can be bought and sold. The horse has to earn their place with me. The dogs, however, can do whatever they want and I’m not giving them up. It probably took me a year to like Nilla. It took me 30 seconds to fall in love with and decide I needed to adopt my dog.

  9. Great post! When people ask how many pets I have, I always say “one cat ….” and then I hesitate and say “Oh, I also have a horse.” Because he isn’t a “pet” to me. He is a different kind of relationship. A really personal one, a partner, a companion. It’s much more emotional than a cat or dog relationship. Even so, #TEAMCATS!!!! 🙂

  10. First of all: just say no to #teamcats. No. Just no. Cats are evil and will rule your life.

    Second: I have described horse ownership as marriage more than once. I totally agree. Right now my horse-spouse is even going so far as to feel bad and be real pathetic about it. Kinda like my human-spouse. Still, the care and worry is absurd, and I miss the partnership of working together but appreciate the trust that Pig and I have developed in each other over the years.

    It’s a weird relationship.

  11. Definitely agree. I think it has something to do with the fact that we literally entrust our tall kids with our lives. LITERALLY. They could murder us pretty easily at any given moment. Our dogs on the other hand, while I suppose they could turn crazy and attack, aren’t exactly entrusted with our lives. Maybe it’s a little different if you have a big dog… I have pugs. Pretty sure neither one could take me out.
    I recently admitted defeat in my efforts to turn my rescue horse into a lovely riding partner. In reference to that, I told my trainer the other day that I kind of feel like I broke up with my boyfriend. I put all that time, effort, and love into the relationship and he pretty much just free-loaded off me for two years and then flipped me the bird. What a jerk.

  12. Haha, yup, I’ve always told people that horse shopping is like looking for a spouse. You have to figure out if you’re compatible, if you’re going to be able to put up with each other on the bad days and compliment each other on the good days. And of course, if your personalities match. So important!

  13. This is amazing! I never thought of it that way! Love the marriage/relationship reference! I just started leasing a new horse and I am still figuring him out and I’m still learning to trust him. Slowly but surely I am working on that in our riding lesson every week. However.. my dogs basically worship the ground I walk on.

  14. So true. When I was shopping last year this was the exact analogy I used. I hate to admit we inherited a dog once I just didn’t like no matter how hard I tried. He loved me even more for that, I think. A horse in the same situation would be like “Stupid human, don’t lie to me, I don’t like you, find me another person!”

  15. Thank you for validating the premise of my blog! Finding the right horse is crazy similar to finding the right guy. I went on myriad lame dates before I met the one and had to go on first dates with several horses before I met the winner–Knight.

  16. Marriage/dating and the horse-human relationship really are similar. I never thought about it that way before but all of your points make a lot of sense. Horses also live a lot longer than dogs, which I feel elevates the relationship as well. You need a long term plan for compatibility and lifestyle. If you are lucky, your horse grows old with you, which is sweet and challenging all at the same time.

    Horses have such a wide range of emotions to convey. This is unknown to most people. It took some time for my horse and I to fall in love, so to speak, and there are no guarantees of the heart so that first year was nerve-wracking at times. Nine years later, we really do understand each other’s strengths and faults and he still calls when my car arrives and meets me at the gate.

  17. I always joke to non-horsey people that B is like my 4th dog, but your description is so right – our relationship is so much more than the unconditional love my dogs give me. I kind of wish it were that easy with horses! Guess all the jokes about him being my boyfriend on the side are more jokes

  18. What a great post. I have always loved both dogs and horses. I can always get a dog to trust me almost immediately where as with a horse, it takes time to build a relationship.

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