Thursday, May 3, 2018

Do horses remember each other?

Taran came home from my trainer's on Monday night - he's been gone for 4 months. On one hand, I really missed him, but on the other hand, he now has at least the beginning of the skills we need for 3rd level and hopefully beyond, and I'm really excited about that.

Not sure which level movement this is but at least he's light on his forehand?

I managed to make the 5 hour round trip drive to visit T once or twice a week, and every time I was there I noticed that he seemed kind of despondent. Barn staff assured me that he loved it there - out 12 hours a day in his own private grassy pasture, and he seemed to have become friends with one of his stall neighbors.

Taran and Paddy

But he wasn't eating very well, which is usually a sign that he's stressed. I always fussed with him and stuffed him with cookies when I visited, but still - it's not the same as seeing him multiple times per day, rubbing his face just the way he likes, or doing a late-night curry session to get all the itchy spots. I missed him a lot while he was gone, and I felt guilty for leaving him there for so long.

Reunion grooming with Griffy (sorry, it was dark, but you can see the ear shadows)

I'm not the only one who missed him. Our little herd's dynamics shifted while he was gone. The Haffies are not the best of friends to begin with, and Paddy got more and more snippy with Griffy as time went on. T always instigated grooming sessions, but with him gone, nobody groomed anybody else. Since T wasn't there to play with, Griffy tried to get Reddums to play bitey-face, and that went about as poorly as one might expect. I would tell them that T was coming back, but even so, a missing herd-mate was clearly a problem.

Taran, Reddums (you can see his star in the background), and Paddy

Then Monday night after picking T up and driving him home, I was backing the trailer into the driveway when Taran called out. Immediately there were three answering calls from the barn. The talking continued as I parked and unloaded him. When we walked into the barn, Reddums, Paddy, and Griffy were all lined up at the gate, craning their necks in their excitemen. T pulled the lead rope out of my hands, and the four of them began touching noses and sniffing each other over the gate almost desperately.  It reminded me of long-lost relatives meeting each other at the airport, hugging and laughing and crying all at once. At one point Griffy was licking T while Reddums sniffed noses and Paddy was nibbling his neck.

Reddums supervises the showing off

I finally managed to get the gate open and let T out, and the reunion continued. Paddy and T groomed for a few minutes, then T switched to grooming Griffy. Reddums stood by as sentinel, then ushered T over to get a drink and supervised while he rolled. And then they all went off as a group to ... do some kind of horsey thing. It was dark and late, so I left them with their reunion. Since then, everyone seems more relaxed - T is eating great, Paddy and Griffy have reached detente (mostly), and Reddums is benevolently dictating once more. Life is back to normal.

The new normal maybe? Eeek.

Have you ever had horses be reunited after months or years? Were they pasture-mates or did they have a more casual acquaintance, like stall neighbors? Did they remember each other? What did they do when they were reunited?

Running for the sheer joy of it (the rest of the herd is slower and somewhere out of the pic)


  1. I've boarded one out off and on for the last few years (so I could access an indoor) and it's always fun to watch the reunions! Great photos 😍

  2. Awwwwww, this is SO CUTE! What a happy herd.

  3. aw that's super sweet! i haven't had any separations that long, but it was really cute watching the horses at my farm a few years ago who had been quarantined for a few weeks finally return to their herds

  4. I totally believe they remember each other!

  5. Awww I'm glad he and everyone else is happy he is home!

  6. This is the sweetest thing. I'm so happy to hear that he's home and with his buddies again!

  7. Before I sold my horse, I brought him from my house to my boarding barn (he hadn't been there in about a year). He walked past a former pasturemate on the way in and stopped to say hi. They we're supposed to stay in different pastures but after they both got turned out and spent ~15 minutes screaming for each other across the middle pasture and running the fence line we put them together. They spent another 5 minutes galloping around, then retreated to the back corner and started grooming each other. It was ridiculous. The craziest part was that Leo's friend had actually been on stall rest in the 6 months leading up to him leaving last year, so it had been quite a while since they'd really seen each other.

  8. Aw that's so sweet. Our 2 are total pals and spend a lot of time grooming each other and get despondent when separated.

  9. So sweet!! I'm so happy for T and his friends! :D

  10. Glad they are a happy herd again.

    In University I moved myself and my horse to another city for an 8 month internship. After all that time when I returned to the barn near my university Ellie's reunion with her buddy Indy was the cutest thing ever, so much intense whickering when the spotted each other for the first time. I definitely believe horses remember each other.

  11. Horses absolutely remember each other. Mikey was turned out with a group of geldings at the barn I bought him from. Time passed and we left, and years later he was back turned out with a horse from that original barn. The two were like, "OMG IT'S YOU" and they very clearly remembered each other.

    Glad T is home :)

  12. I am sure that they remember...there are even studies that horses recognize people years after they last met them... lovely to see them happy back together <3