Are Horses Pets or Machines

Our views of horses as pets is a bit different than our views of cats and dogs as pets. For many people horses are used as tools or machines, even in modern times.

Anna Sewell once wrote a book called Black Beauty in which she pointed out how cruelly horses were being treated. And while things have improved for horses they have not totally changed, as our view of the horse is still often utilitarian in part rather than totally seeing them as pets or companion animals.

Although loved people throughout history have also used horses as beasts of burdens. Long before the car we used horses as transportation, long before the tractor, we used horses to pull plows. Even today horses are being used, although perhaps the users do not see the connection.

Years ago I had a stunning gray Arabian gelding. He was a true pleasure to ride, but I also wanted to compete with him and show him off. He did very well in English Pleasure, and even won a Park class at the Regional show. He was a winning “machine”, my tool to get ribbons and accolades.

My machine broke down at one show. We were in the warm-up ring, a practice area. This was a huge show and many other horse and rider pairs were also in the ring at the time. My horse never did like standing still, but standing still is something the horses do after their class as they wait to announce the winners. I was done riding and was just finishing by having him stand in the center of the arena, he objected and went straight into the air, and I came off. My machine broke down, it was not having a good time.

Years later, at another all-breed show where I was not competing I saw a child riding a beautiful gray Arabian, I watched them in a couple of classes, her horse looked happy. Later in the day however, it was clear the horse was not having a good time. The rider had entered every class they could, both English and western. Her winning machine was breaking down, not sore, but clearly not happy.

We have used the horse in the role for our own needs, be they real needs, such as pulling a cart, or vanity needs, such a winning a ribbon. Horses, are not always “pets”.

Indeed many other animals are taken to shows for the purposes of ribbons and trophies. Cats, dogs, and even chickens and cattle, are regularly taken to shows by their owners. Typically this is done to demonstrate the fine quality of the animal for breeding purposes. Nonetheless the fact is that these animals are not pets alone.

The racehorse industry is another area where horses are used as machines, driven to earn money, or fame, for their owner. Although some are well cared for, most are discarded if they fail to produce enough wins, just like one would do if a race car were not fast enough.

Horses are not often kept in the same manner that cats and dogs are. While it is often said that a “Pet is a lifetime commitment” this is generally not true for horses, who are frequently sold if they do not perform for their owner, or are “sadly outgrown”.

One of the reasons horses are not typical pets is because of the comparatively high expense in keeping them. Although a few horses live their entire lives as pretty lawn ornaments, most serve their owners in one way or another. We feel that their must be some personal reward to justify the expense of ownership. Indeed horses are no longer necessities, but they are now luxury animals in most parts of the world.

The role of horses has not changed all that much, they are still a utilitarian animal, and if we relate them to our autos we clearly see that some people admire cars just as much as others admire equines. People trade in their cars, or trade in their horses. People even love their cars, and clearly many horse owners do love their horses. History has not yet elevated the horse from machine to pet status, in the same way cats and dogs are often strictly pets.

Neither right, nor wrong, the horse is often treated more as a machine, or tool, and less as a pet. Our views of horses come from a long history of them serving us, and is clearly influenced by the expense of owning them.

We need to remember to replenish our horse’s body and soul.  We need to allow it time to be a horse, and play in the pature, or we can simply go for a trail ride, or take our horse for a walk down the lane to graze.

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User Comments
  1. Daisy Peasblossom

    On October 16, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    This could also be said about cows, pigs and other herd animals. While the trend is to treat them humanely, they are kept for food or other utilitarian purposes.

  2. PR Mace

    On October 16, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    What an eye opening article. You are quite right. I had a pony as a child and once I outgrew her, she went to my grandparents farm as I couldn’t part with her. She had a large pasture with cows to play with. My grandfather finally talked me into selling her to some of their friends. They had a ranch and wanted a pony for their granddaughter. Once she was sold I never gave her a second thought and the difference is I could never sell my dogs. Why do we not treat horses as we do our dogs and cats?

  3. binyumanyun

    On October 16, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    Nice share..

  4. FX777222999

    On October 17, 2011 at 4:32 am

    Yes, the horses are not the same as dogs. Using a horse for some other jobs that they can do. Dogs can do some jobs too, but it’s not similar.

  5. girishpuri

    On October 17, 2011 at 5:22 am

    very emotional question

  6. Ruby Hawk

    On October 17, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    I think horses are never the companions dogs and cats are. You can’t tame their spirit and even if they are broken down they remain to themselves.

  7. Karen Gross

    On October 18, 2011 at 12:26 am

    I read Black Beauty and a few other novels about horses when I was a child, and thought it would be amazing to have my own horse. My dad bought me a horse when I was 12, but I wish that he would have given me riding lessons. Parents should think long and hard about whether your child will be able to take care of a horse. The second time I rode her, she took off and started to gallop. I remembered in a Trixie Belden novel that her riding instructor kept telling her “heels down!” I fell off and injured my shoulder quite badly. I was too scared to get back on, so the horse just stayed in the pasture until we sold her. What a waste! I really admire that you were able to ride and show your horse. Is that a picture of you in the article?

  8. juny423

    On October 18, 2011 at 1:40 am

    We have horses at home, and they’re all treated very well :)

  9. dazzlejazz

    On October 18, 2011 at 3:59 am

    Great article Brenda! Black Beauty was my favourite book when I was little.
    Yes, I think we should all remember to just enjoy the moment with our animals too and simply just to ‘be’ with them.

  10. Agent Mango

    On October 18, 2011 at 4:14 am

    Well, horses are not machines neither as adorable as a pet dog. But horses are very helpful animals. We should treat them well. I can see horses here in my place and they are being used as display. I mean they leave them at the field and do whatever they want and people are watching them especially kids.

  11. webseowriters

    On October 18, 2011 at 9:07 am

    wonderful share

  12. Prakash Vaghela

    On October 19, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    nice sharing

  13. Val Mills

    On October 19, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    I enjoyed reading this, as recently I went to a cat show, something I once enjoyed very much. During my visit I felt sorry for the cats, smiling at the younger ones clever enough to hide under their cushion or behind the decorative curtain. I’m sure reading your wonderful articles has been instrumental in my looking at animals with different eyes.

  14. papaleng

    On October 20, 2011 at 7:32 am

    A thought-provoking piece. I believe horses are for pets. Cows (bulls) are perhaps the Machine animals.

  15. Goodselfme

    On October 20, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    Well done article presented with depth and love for animals.

  16. Aalkaline

    On October 20, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    I think horses are nice and your research is also well descriptive.

  17. tonywriter

    On October 21, 2011 at 2:41 am

    hmmmm…very emotional and also very provoking article

  18. imankbj

    On October 22, 2011 at 12:22 am

    it’s good post


    On October 26, 2011 at 7:09 am

    Horses are fascinating and rather intelligent

  20. Kate Huver

    On November 19, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Really great article! It made me feel better about the one horse (of my 4 horses), who seems to have no purpose, except to hang out with the other horses and be a horse. He was not planned but a result of the neighbors stud horse getting in, and then he was born with legs so crooked that I thought he would not be able to hold his own weight as an adult and that I would have to put him down. I did what I could but just let him grow up and be a horse figuring I would do it if/when he ever started to act like he was in pain.
    At age 4 he is still ok. There has never really been any personal reward to justify the expense of keeping him all these years. And until recently he never really liked people. He is not a machine, a tool, a pet, or servant to me in any way and yet he seems perfectly content with all of this, so I guess I should be too.

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