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Does a horse NEED a job?

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  • Does a horse NEED a job?

    I was reading another thread on here and it got me thinking, does it make horses happier to have a job?
    I got a new job about 6 months ago and it has taken a toll on my riding time. I sold one horse and kept the other one. However I haven't ridden her in about 3 months. She is not a huge canidate for sale, she is an ottb, she has some old injuries that make her unsuitable for bigger jumps, and although she has come a long way(when I got her off the track the exercise riders told me she was hard to steer), I still wouldn't call her a beginners horse. Still though she can sit in a pasture for 3 months and I can go out and ride her and she doesn't try and kill me.
    I have noticed a shift in her attitude in the past 6 months though. She really does seem to like being ridden. Her ears would always be up and she loves trail riding. Kinda like a big dog, "hey mom where we going?" and wrap her legs for a trailer ride and she will just about drag you on the trailer, "we're going on a car ride, we're going on a car ride " So now she sits, and in the past 2 months she has had minor injuries that has the barn owner giving her more attention (abcess and a skin infection) which my SO swears she is just doing it for the attention.
    Financially speaking she can sit in the pasture and get boo boos and it will not cause me to eat ramen noodles, but I almost feel bad seeing the change in her.
    So do you think a horse needs a job?

  • #2
    I think many horses enjoy the attention. Whether you are riding/longeing/handwalking. I don't think it is a particular "job", but just the interaction to break up their day.


    • #3
      I sincerely believe that a horse does need a job, even if its just to carry you around on a trail ride once a week. Horses need a sense of social identity and importance.

      The job of a horse in the wild is to assist in the survival of the herd, whether that is as the alpha mare who keeps everyone in line, enabling the herd's survival, or that of a horse lower in the pecking order to obey the alpha mare. They know they have an important part of the herd's social identity.

      When we place a horse in a domestic situation, where the herd dynamics of survival are not an issue, they lose their purpose as an important part of the herd society. Having a job, which requires partnership, either with a human or other horses (ie. a pulling, or driving team), gives them back their much needed sense of herd identity and purpose.
      Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
      Witherun Farm


      • #4
        In my experience, horses run pretty much the same gamut as humans, some are workaholics, some are content to be pasture or couch potatoes, and most are somewhere in between. I had one that was majorly depressed when I retired him at 26 owing to bum knees, another more recently who said 'what, this whole field for me and these few others? Thanks, seeyalater.' I had an old mare, semi-retired for the last 15 years of her life, who was content with her lot but did always brighten when given an assignment, even if it was to just be groomed.


        • #5
          You horse sounds a lot like my OTTB. When we got him, he had been off for 6-7 months and really seemed to like working with my DW. After we got our second horse (much bolder than the ottb), the focus shifted to the new horse and the OTTB didn't get the work that he used to. He still got groomed and taken care of but not ridden.

          I wondered if he missed the work and I started learning to ride (oh him!). Within just a couple of days of work he was a much happier horse. I can tell right now that he's a little grumpy b/c I've not been riding.... This cycle has gone on for several years now. When I don't have time to ride him, he gets grumpy...
          "There are no stupid questions, but there are a LOT of inquisitive idiots."
          -Member of the Mighty Thoroughbred Clique!


          • #6
            I think they all need some kind of a job. If nothing else, keeping them in some sort of exercise program is good for their health. As someone who owns way too many horses (16), I can tell you that giving everyone a job is time consuming, but it can be done.
            Where Fjeral Norwegian Fjords Rule


            • #7
              Originally posted by jetsmom View Post
              I think many horses enjoy the attention. Whether you are riding/longeing/handwalking. I don't think it is a particular "job", but just the interaction to break up their day.
              Yep. some of them don't care and would rather do horsey things but by and large they enjoy interacting with us, that is why they were able to be domesticated at all.
              Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
              Incredible Invisible


              • #8
                Originally posted by Beverley View Post
                In my experience, horses run pretty much the same gamut as humans, some are workaholics, some are content to be pasture or couch potatoes, and most are somewhere in between. I had one that was majorly depressed when I retired him at 26 owing to bum knees, another more recently who said 'what, this whole field for me and these few others? Thanks, seeyalater.' I had an old mare, semi-retired for the last 15 years of her life, who was content with her lot but did always brighten when given an assignment, even if it was to just be groomed.
                Right, it depends on the horse.
                I have one now that needs a job or he will invent one, like cutting another horse off the group and spending all day herding that one around and keeping the others away.

                The other horses don't care, they are happy standing around, grazing or napping on their sand pile.

                All of them become alert if it looks like they will get to go in the barn or to work and if they don't, they stand by the fence looking longingly at the ones that get to go.

                If you have a horse that needs a job and you don't have one for that horse, it is best you find one, for all's peace of mind.

                My busybody horse is back in training and the one he choose to play keep away with is now back happy as a lazy pasture ornament, without someone watching over him quite so much.


                • #9
                  I definately believe my two geldings have a work ethic and feel better when they are doing something. They each have a stall with an attached paddock and share a fenceline. I haven't ridden in the last 2 months for a variety of reasons and I've started to really notice a change in them. They both just seem almost "depressed" (I hate to attach human emotions to an animal) but that's the only way I can describe it. I think there might be a touch of boredom in there too.

                  The QH looks at me like "when are you going to take me out on the trails, mom???" and the OTTB is due to injure himself soon just to get that extra special attention.

                  To the original poster, I am almost thoroughly convinced my OTTB injures himself when he feels he isn't getting enough time with me. He's coming about due now ;+)


                  • #10
                    I believe that it depends on the horse. I have two pasture pet mares who could care less if they do anything but eat, sleep and poop although they sure do enjoy being brushed once in a while. Now I have another horse who is a reining horse and has been trained and shown all his life (he is 17 years old) and he would be miserable not being ridden and competing. He loves his job and it shows in the 110% effort that he gives at every ride or competition. I have yet another horse that hates being ridden but enjoys being worked on the ground and truly enjoys human companionship..........he craves it. He would not be happy with a riding job but would be unhappy being a pasture pet. All horses are individuals just like people and should be treated as individuals IMO.
                    RIP Sucha Smooth Whiskey
                    May 17,2004 - March 29, 2010
                    RIP San Lena Peppy
                    May 3, 1991 - March 11, 2010


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Beverley View Post
                      In my experience, horses run pretty much the same gamut as humans, some are workaholics, some are content to be pasture or couch potatoes, and most are somewhere in between.


                      • Original Poster

                        Riderless horse

                        Sounds like maybe I should put this girl on the horseless rider/riderless horse thread. I may be able to afford for her to hurt herself once a month for the attention, but I don't need the stress

                        Has anyone had success with that thread?


                        • #13

                          My horse truly enjoys the job of moving his jaws from right to left all the whilst stuffed with hay.

                          I've been laid up alot this year physically and I think my horse really misses the attention. He is fairly lazy and would do with out the riding but he loves the grooming...
                          Sorry! But that barn smell is my aromatherapy!
                          One of our horsey bumper stickers! www.horsehollowpress.com
                          Add Very Funny Horse Bumper Stickers on facebook


                          • #14
                            I know of an OTTB who's owner trained him rather hard for jumpers, but then slacked off and showed up one day saying he'd given the horse away. He then took all his tack away. However, no one has come to pick up the horse. He's young and you can just see he's sort of lost with no one to come and give him a job to do.


                            • #15
                              While not every horse NEEDS a job, a lot do seem happier with something other than standing in the field. We have a retired event horse (some pasture injuries have put him permanently on the bench) that is perfectly happy to sit in the field. He really could even care less about getting a daily snuggle. He LIKES being left alone, as long as he's got plenty to eat and some company.

                              My retired guy, though, while he's finally settled into retired life (probably because he is no longer with me, watching me deal with other horses), would probably be just as happy back in work. He always liked doing something, even if it was just a daily hack around the property.

                              My coming 5 year old got a well deserved, long vacation from the middle of October until this week. He was doing ok with it, until about a week/10 days ago. I noticed, even with daily attention, that he was getting kinda blue and gloomy looking, moping around and just kinda sad looking. I've now ridden him twice, and you would have thought I'd given him a new lease on life...he is SO happy.

                              We have another horse who gets down right nasty if he's not in a good amount of work, and stays fairly pleasant when he is in work.

                              I also see a lot of horses really seem, for a lack of a better word, PROUD when they know they've done a good job or figured something hard out.

                              They are personable creatures and they really seem to like a good routine and something to keep them mentally stimulated and challenged...at least MOST do.


                              • #16
                                I agree that it depends on the horse. All those that I've had here have needed *something* to do except the 30+ retiree who I had for 2 years before he died. He definitely did NOT need, nor want, a job. He was retired. (Didn't you get the memo?) He was rideable until nearly the end, and he was pretty tolerant of being ridden (e.g. walked around), but make no mistake....he wanted to stand in the pasture and stuff his face with grass. Don't pet me, don't groom me, just leave me alone.

                                From what I knew of him, and the owners who knew his history for most of his life...he was a pretty friendly and hard-working horse. But when he came to my pasture....that was it. He was done.


                                • #17
                                  I agree that it varies from horse to horse. My (much beloved ) mare would prefer to have nothing else to do but eat. I think she secretly longs for the life of a broodmare She is a big hussy and loves the babies that were born on at the barn last year. She does like the grooming and attention but will try to leave if you are not paying attention when the tack comes out. She ground ties beautifully until you pull out the saddle

                                  On the other hand, my 23 yr old has blossumed since coming out of retirement. He looks younger and has become the barn favorite. If his own girl isn't available, there is no shortage of people volunteering to exercise him and he loves it.

                                  And I ride another one that is like your mare. If he isn't worked or given attention, he gets himself into trouble that requires attention Maybe see if you can bribe a kid at the barn to groom her or lightly lunge her to make her feel more loved


                                  • #18
                                    IME, TBs especially like to work. They have a work ethic and enjoy being useful.


                                    • #19
                                      Don't pet me, don't groom me, just leave me alone.
                                      haha! This pretty much sounds like our retired guy. He hated being groomed when he was sound and working, and he was always kinda shy and stand offish. Now, snuggles and pets are ONLY on his terms, and that is rare. Thankfully, he is still a gentleman and will let you catch him, etc, but he wants nothing to do with all the touchy-feely crap.


                                      • #20
                                        While there are some that would just as soon be "kinetic field art" than work, I do think most prefer having some 'job'

                                        My old guy hated retirement (at 35) so we ended up bringing him back as a driving horse. He loved going out and doing things and hated being 'back burnered'.

                                        On the other hand we did run into one horse that they kept trying to find SOMETHING she would enjoy doing... trail riding, ring work, hunting and on and on. Finally they decided field 'art' was her thing. At least they didn't breed her so she'd be useful.