When Bandit, a big black gelding, first came to our ranch on Timber Butte he was immediately introduced to a small herd of mares. Bandit, being a big powerful horse could have easily thrown his male dominance around, especially among a group of mares who where infatuated with his presence. Initially I had isolated him in a pen where introductions could first be made over a strong lodge pole fence rather than brave possible injuries due to the squealing and kicking that nearly always occurs when a new horse is introduced and pecking orders are being established. Bandit’s introduction, however, was very different than the norm I expected. His presence brought immediate peace in the corral. The mares never gave even a squeal as they, one by one, touched noses with him across the railed fence. Bandit wasn’t a bandit but rather a peacemaker especially when it came to a large quarter-horse named Cayenne who had, up until that day, always been number one in the pecking order.
We have two mares that are both named Pepper. Both were named before we owned them, and both are worthy of their names. (Full of spunk & life) Because one was previously named “Red Hot Pepper” and the other “Cayenne Pepper”, we call one Pepper and the other Cayenne so as not to have too much confusion in the barnyard. Although they are both very good looking, it was Cayenne that Bandit was drawn to and immediately bonded with. It was love at first sight. Ever since that day they have been close companions, grazing side by side, sharing the same feeders in the barn stalls and just enjoying each-others company in general. Before Bandit came Cayenne had been the queen-bee and spent a lot of aggressive energy proving it. She doesn’t do that anymore; she is now much more tolerant and less assertive not only to Bandit, but to all her companions.
You don’t read a lot about horse bonding, at least with their own kind, in most equestrienne literature. A lot is said about people and horses bonding as well as how to keep horses from bonding with each other so as not to become barn soured. A common problem horse owners often try to combat is over bonding between horses so that when separated they experience dysfunctional anxiety attacks. Cayenne and Bandit never panic when separated, probably because I most often ride alone and can only ride one horse at a time. As a result they have learned to accept separation as a part of the norm, but this isn’t the issue I’m speaking to. What I’m talking about is deep friendship that is developed between certain animals. I believe, that just like people, animals in general build personal relationships that are very real and tangable. Like people they can have more chemistry with some individuals more than others, even of their own kind and these friendships are life long. On the other hand some horses become loners, and do actually like human company over their own kind much like a household dog might. My other horse Pepper is like that. In my lifetime I’ve owned a lot of horses (or maybe they have owned me) and after getting to know them I’ve discovered each has a personality unique to itself accompanied with emotions and feelings. Relationships are important to them.
Believing that horses bond with each-other and learn to feel at home in certain places it has always been hard for me to be to be a horse trader. When I get a horse that bonds with both the place, other animals and myself it is hard to get rid of them. For this reason most every horse Nancy and I have owned has been able live out their life in the family and because of it they often live long healthy lives well into their thirties.