I'm just as guilty of anthropomorphizing my animals, especially my horses, as the next person. I assign human feelings and emotions to them constantly, even though deep inside I know they don't feel those things the same way we do. I've even been known to talk in what I imagine their voices to be to describe a feeling or thought I've assigned to them at the moment.
But I often wonder if horses can feel love, or at least, affection. Or are they just looking to you for leadership and safety?
Gabe really made me wonder this morning about what he actually feels towards me. I know he trusts me enough to know I won't hurt him. He comes up to me every time I'm near or in his paddock, so he obviously enjoys being near me.
Or, perhaps it's the pocket full of peppermints he's craving.
But this morning was different.
I turned all three out into the pasture. They all follow me up the hill and through the gate to the grass, then typically, they all take off like they've been cooped up for MONTHS, running and bucking and chasing each other. Silly beasts.
However, this morning, Gabe didn't take off with the other two. He followed me to the gate, nudging my back a few times until I stopped to scratch his favorite itchy places. He makes the greatest faces when he gets a good scratch...I'll have to try to get a photo sometime. His eyes have actually rolled up into his head a few times and he drools out of wrinkled, contorted lips.
So, I complied with a few scratches and turned to the gate again to leave.
This time he moved up quickly behind me and dropped his head over my shoulder as if to stop me. He had his head completely over my shoulder and nudged his chin against my chest in a "come back here" kind of motion.
I stopped, scratched his itchy places again, told him what a silly nut he was and suggested he go eat some good, green grass.
Again, I moved to leave and again, he tried to stop me, this time with his chin on my shoulder. I turned around to playfully chastise him and he immediately pressed his forehead against my chest...not rubbing, just standing there with his head on me.
He sighed deeply and half-closed his eyes.
It was quite moving in a way only horse people can understand. My heart swelled with adoration for this big, gray horse.
By the time I was done scratching and petting and whispering sweet nothings in his ear my work clothes were covered with gray hairs and my hands and nails dark with his body grime.
If I didn't know better, I'd say the big goofball loves me. At least a little bit.