Does your horse get "excited"

newforest

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Mar 15, 2008
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I have put the "" because I don't want to assume they feel it, if they do as we would.
I was informed by an NH trainer a few years back that horses do not have the capacity to experience excitement, it is in fact nervous anxiety.
I know horses are flight animals, and I know they are curious as well.

Today my lass on the way home was overtaken by a cyclist. She went into game on mode and was all for chasing after the bloody thing! She does have a bit of history, but once it's out of sight it's nah and back to normal. She isn't fussed a jogger will do.
She did feel a little trembly underneath me which up until now I have put down to anxiety, very nervous, out of her comfort zone. But she was going after the bike. If she was scared of it she would have stopped or spun round. She doesn't go forwards if worried she goes backwards! A certain field after a canter gets the same trembles, in company or not.
So would you think she was excited? Just curious :)

What about yours and how do you know?
 
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Bodshi

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I wonder how 'they' know horses don't have the capacity to feel excitement? Do you remember the study 'they' did a few years ago where they discovered horses actually have the capacity to remember people who give them treats? Amazing! Who would have thought! :rolleyes::D
 
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KP nut

I'd rather be riding.
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I think horses have the capacity to feel a huge range of emotions including grief, excitement, resentment, love. Yes they are fight and flight animals but they are also highly social. I think it's good to step back from assumptions and question what the horse might be feeling. But denying horses a complex emotional world is taking the effort to avoid anthropomorphic assumptions too far imo.
I know some horses rush fences out of anxiety and people assume excitement. But other ponies genuinely love to jump and actively choose to do it!
 

Jane&Ziggy

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I am sure horses can feel excited. I remember vividly when I hadn't had Ziggy more than a few months we went to a little local TREC competition and he was very good; it was in-hand dressage and obstacles. We went with a group of friends and all hacked there together in a very chilled way. When it came to go home he was so wound up it was like riding a pogo stick! But he wasn't anxious or stressed - I can tell by his face. He was excited. So there.
 

Jessey

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Jess gets excited, not in a joggy silly way, but the ears prick and she puts her "happy face" on and she gets very keen. Yesterday I took her for a short walk, her first time off the yard in months and she has been being a complete twit at home the last couple of weeks, tearing round the field and flailing herself around so I wasn't sure if she might get silly, but once we turned the corner away from the yard she was storming along and looked very happy to be out :D The only times I feel her heart beating is when she is pumped full of adrenaline, normally when she is genuinely anxious about something.
 
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mystiquemalaika

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Mystique used to love jumping. She didn't do much with me due to health reasons but when I first got her and tried her she was an amazing jumper. Some said she rushes as she is anxious I said I didn't feel that with her. She proved them all wrong by fence hopping in and out of fields and over logs in the field etc all on her own of her own accord. Even when the daft mare was lame she would still choose to jump fences and even the half electric fence that had a much wider gap to the side of it out in the field.
I think horses are capable of feeling all emotions,the problem comes when people think they feel and think like a human. Eg I'm cold so they must feel cold etc. I firmly agree with KP that to take those emotions away from a horse is taking things too far.
Ross at work loves hunting and he gets very excited,he starts his anticipation when you start plaiting him.
 

Wally

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call me anthropomorphic if you like, but IME and ovservations all higher, social mammals feel to a greater or lesser extent the same emotions we do, Why wouldn't they. We have a massive vocabulary and reasoning skills to be able to pin detailed and complex reasoning and descriptions to our emotions. I think it is arrogant to say that because we are bi pedal apes we are able to feel more than other quadruped mammals. They are herd animals and have a complex social structure, it has been proven the great apes have a very well developed sense of humour and fun and this is important for social cohesion.....so why would fun, excitment and humour be missing in other social animals when it's vital in others.

As much as I do not like anthropomorphising animals, I do think some humans have become far too arrogant and have analysed things to a standstill.

If I really stop and think when I get excited about something, I really can identify with nervous anxiety, I get excited at shows, and before I go on stage, I feel sick and need the loo, I am excited, it's maybe a form of nervous anxiety, but a good one.

Come on chaps, you know if your horse is having a blast or whether he's terrified to the soles of his feet, you don;t need a peddlar in mumbo-jumbo to hang a label on it.
 

Kite_Rider

Cantering cabbage!
May 18, 2009
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Yes I think they can, I know Belle does when jumping, that is most definitely not fear or anxiety, she loves it, it's the one activity we do that I don't have to try to get canter and she will also sometimes but if a buck, it's not pain or fear and she jumps beautifully, never puts in a stop and always heads bang for the middle of the fence so if it were fear I doubt she would jump so effortlessly or do cleanly.
It does annoy me when 'they' assume that horses don't feel excitement or grief or any other emotion, how do 'they' know?
 
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KP nut

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If I really stop and think when I get excited about something, I really can identify with nervous anxiety, I get excited at shows, and before I go on stage, I feel sick and need the loo, I am excited, it's maybe a form of nervous anxiety, but a good one.
.

Yes exactly! I get butterflies and I even shake before a jumping class. And at the same time I love it! If "they" just looked at my physiological state "they" might well conclude I am not excited but nervous. How would they know what emotion the horse might be having to a set of physical markers? Cally & Oscar love to jump, whereas Xavier is nervous of it. Cally, Oscar and Xav all might look similar in terms of quivering, being more alert etc but Xav takes every opportunity to evade, whereas Cally and Oscar jump stuff you don;t even want them top jump just coz it's there!
 
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Wally

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Anyone who has a mare who has lost her foal, and can stand up and honestly say the mare did not grieve and have as deep a sense of loss and pain as a human would is kidding themselves.

On our fancy dress ride we passed a park with about 20 shetland ponies in it. Shall I describe their nervous anxiety? Charging about the park up to the fence line and along it then away back to the middle to have a brief play among themselves, bucking and farting, rearing and boxing with each other, then a quick wall of death around the fenceline and then back along the fenceline to chase the big horses....and round and round they went. As natural a herd environment you could find in the UK, and I defy anyone to tell me that herd of ponies was suffering nervous anxiety, they were having a blast, like fleas on a hotplate, playing and bouncing and bucking and farting.
 

domane

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I think you only have to watch how they react when a new horse arrives or a trailer/horsebox turns up to know that they can get excited.
 

Trewsers

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I definitely think they feel excitement. When we both used to ride Storm she used to show much excitement before her jumping lessons - happy excitement too. You could tell, she was all ears and eyes and springy bouncy underneath you.
 

Jessey

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Anyone who has a mare who has lost her foal, and can stand up and honestly say the mare did not grieve and have as deep a sense of loss and pain as a human would is kidding themselves.
They most definitely grieve, when we lost Bo, Jess stood in the same spot for 4 days in the most torrential rain, I led her into the shelter a couple of times, and put hay and feed under her nose and she wasn't interested, she just went back to standing her vigil for him. She stood shivering and must have been hungry as she really ate hardly anything, she had the choice to go and stand at the fence line with the neighbours horses but she had no interest in anything. She actually ended up in horsepital 3 weeks after we lost him, with pyrexia, a fever probably causes by her standing in the rain and not fuelling her body enough :( For a normally independent, greedy piglet, I can see no other reason for her behavior.
 

Mary Poppins

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I agree that horses do grieve. When Ben lost his best friend he ran round the whole field looking for him every night for 2 weeks, he used to call and call for him. It had me in floods of tears and was horrible to see him so distressed.

Regarding the excitement - I can honestly say that Ben has never got excited when I have been riding him! He shows interest and likes to look at things, but given the choice he would not jump, do dressage or be ridden at all. His main interest in life is eating.
 
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squidsin

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Nervous anxiety IS excitement. If your NH trainer means horses can't anticipate, this is clearly untrue as well. It slightly irritates me when people make these sweeping, unprovable statements about animal behaviour, although they're obviously just doing it to make themselves sound like they know what they're talking about.
 

newforest

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She is an ex trainer for a reason :)
I just got fed up with the her way is always right and I hadn't been around horses at all in xx years. God knows how I learnt a thing and survived really.
Obviously I can learn, I love learning, not saying I know everything far from it.

The cob does give me this trembling high headed active walk as feedback for something. When I was building her confidence I did assume it was her way of letting me know she was very upset.
But she will go after cyclists if she has company.
One way of meeting someone I guess. My horses wants your bike!

She enjoys jumping as well as will try and get at one from any angle. She wakes up and has more impulsion if I set something up. She is often the one who jumps up and down the banks in the field and trots along the top.
 
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