How to love a horse

How much do you love your horse? Unconditionally, obviously. But what do you do to show your horse you love him? What specific things will tell your horse about your undying devotion to his well-being? 


Everyone will answer this question differently.

And after having a look at all 3 of our horses, I realized something.

I would answer this question differently based on which horse I were to talk about.


I would never show Diego the same love I show Lillen. I would never show Lillen or Diego the same love I show Brego. Lillen’s way of showing – and receiving – love, is not the same as Diego’s or Brego’s.

And it occurred to me that these differences make up so much of their personality type. It also demands a lot from me as a person; I cannot push “my” love onto them all. I have to adjust to them, and show them the love they want me to share.

Lillen is in my mind a very hands-on horse. He wants pets, scratches, he wants to be stroked, touched; he wants to feel us being there. He enjoys a good hug. He likes to give kisses, he likes to touch us back – to feel us with his oversized upper lip, to run his whiskers along the different textures of our clothing.


Diego enjoys all the same things as Lillen – but with him, I have felt that even though he enjoys it, it is not the love he wants, or need. Diego loves to look into our eyes. He will go out of his way to catch us in a corner of his box, only to lower his head, put his eyes a few centimeters away from ours… And look at us. And we will look back. God forbid we tried to say anything, or do anything but to look back.

Diego can stay like this for minutes. He will not be satisfied until we’ve dropped all of our “should be doing this” and “don’t have time for that”, and taken our time to look back at him. If you are of the spiritual type, you will read a lot into this. I take it for the thing it is. Diego wants to spend time with us. With us. Not with us as we do something else, he just simply receives love best when it’s just him, and his human.

And then there’s Brego.


Brego has been one hell of a hard horse to figure out of. He wants none of that touchy-cuddly nonsense, and what on earth are we doing when we LOOK at him the same way we look at Diego? NOTHING. We are doing NOTHING, says Brego.

I’ve tried, and I’ve really tried to find a sweet spot. Find some place he enjoyed getting scratches, or hugs, or kisses, or simple strokes or pats. But Brego wants none of that, and if you try… Oh lord, he will make you hurt. Not because he attacks you, but he doesn’t want any of that romance thing you’ve got going on, it annoys him and he wants you gone. And he is not the best at communicating this, so I think by now he’s nearly broken my nose twice, and almost slammed my front teeth through my lip a couple of times. Because I have been so caught up in this web of “I have to show him my love”, that I haven’t even noticed how he doesn’t care for that.

I think Brego would be very happy with a sturdy smack on the neck once a week. That’s all the physical contact he needs. So how do I show Brego love?

Look at that moody face! 

Lately I’ve shown Brego love by hacking him out. Just me and him, out discovering the forest. Long reins, going at a pace he enjoys, allowing him to stop and observe nature when there is something he wants to have a look at. Allowing him to take me with him, to go on an adventure together.

The feeling I get from him when I hack him out like that, is the same feel-good feeling of love Diego sends when we look deep into his eyes, or what Lillen sends when we play around with kisses and giggles. Love, in Brego’s mind, is a lot more practical than what both Lillen and Diego thinks. Brego sees our hacks as the prime time of his day, it’s our quality time together. He needs to do things, to send and receive love. He needs a job to do, he needs us to do that job together. He is a very communicative horse, but the “slow dance” of pets, kisses, hugs and looking into his soul, is nothing he finds interest in.

You never see this happy-face this happy, unless he is doing something.

So, how do you love your horse?

Do you love him the way he wants to be loved? Or do you love him the way you want to?



4 responses to “How to love a horse”

  1. I have a mare who sounds a lot like Brego. She doesn’t like to be touched or just stand still and enjoy the moment. When we go on hacks I can feel her energy change into that happy, loving och comfortable feeling. She loves to work so competition has always been her happy place and she calms down and we have another teamwork and bond than at home. Unfortunatlly she is retired now and is just beeing the Queen she’s always been at home bossing around the other two. Moving her from a big competition also made her a lot happier. That shows on all 3 of our horses that they are happier and more at peace now when we have them home on our own farm. 💖


  2. Love, love, love this article! I have two estonian natives – my older one has always been a tricky one as no pet or a treat can actually motivate her and make her actually enjoy our trainings together. She just really needs a job to do and understand that you’re there to guide her. My younger one is an absolute opposite – cuddling and kisses and just literally giving him all the attention and love you can have. Totally different personalities, although the same breed and they get along so so well.
    It’s a brilliant article which shows how you can never train and educate all the horses the same way! Also – I’m falling more and more in love with the Dole breed 😛


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