Both horses and dogs make great companions in their own right but if you can only pick one which is the best? Of course, the answer, to some extent is dependent on the person, but there are a few reasons why horses really do make better companions. Read on to find out why, and how.
Are horses better than dogs? Like dogs, horses are loyal, affectionate, and intelligent companions but they don’t need as much care as dogs, can be left all day while you go out to work or school, and are extremely beautiful and elegant. Best of all though, unlike dogs, horses can be ridden.
We have a very symbiotic relationship with horses, we provide them with everything they need to be safe, healthy, and happy, and in return, they do everything they can to make us happy and to please us, but the benefits of owning a horse don’t stop there. In pretty much every aspect of life horses play a role, from improving our health and well-being to giving us more confidence and helping us to make friends.
Horses will also change your life in a way that a dog simply can’t. To some extent dogs only need to be fed and walked but horses give you the opportunity to take part in so many other activities that you wouldn’t have before.
Horses are lifelong companions
The lifespan of an animal may seem like a strange thing to start with, but it can play a more significant role than you probably realize. Not least because losing an animal is heartbreaking and the longer they live the less you have to deal with this which is one reason why horses are better than dogs.
While dogs live for somewhere between 10 and 13 years horses, on the other hand, have one of the longest lifespans of all pets and live for between 25 and 30 years, depending on the breed. This means that, even if you didn’t own the horse from birth, you’ll have plenty of time to learn and develop together.
A recent study found that horses never forget their owners (even after years of separation) so the two of you will be able to build a deep and meaningful bond that will literally last a lifetime. [source]
Horses can read your mood
Every dog owner will tell you how their dog knows when they’re feeling low and cheers them up but with horses, they do way more than just cheer us up. For millennia we’ve lived with and cared for horses which means that we’ve learned to understand each other and that horses have become incredibly sensitive to how we’re feeling, even if we don’t realize it ourselves.
Another advantage horses have over dogs is that they don’t judge you and won’t react negatively if you’re nervous or frightened, even if they don’t know you. Instead, they’ll be patient and will judge you on your intentions and motives, this is one of the reasons why they also make such good therapy animals.
That doesn’t mean to say that horses are smarter than dogs, just that they can understand more. You might be surprised to know that while a dog may be able to read your facial expression, horses will actually remember it. Therefore remembering how you were feeling the last time they saw you.
Horses are more loyal than dogs
I know that dogs are known (and loved) for their loyalty but you might be surprised to know that horses are actually far more loyal. On top of that, they also have better long-term memories so will never forget previous owners. They’ll even remember you if you treat them badly, but obviously, it won’t be in a good way. [source]
Horses are great fun
Okay, so I know that dogs are great fun but horses can be so much fun to just watch. Even without our interaction, any owner will tell you about the hours they’ve spent watching their horse interacting and playing with other horses.
As somebody who’s owned both horses and dogs for many years I’ve found that, unless you have a puppy, dogs generally don’t provide a huge amount of passive entertainment. At least all my dogs tend to just curl up in front of the fire (even if it’s not on!).
Horses give you a great workout
Yes, dogs need to be walked every day (if not a few times a day) but a quick walk around the block or the park doesn’t really constitute a proper workout. It goes without saying that horseback riding is a great form of exercise but it also helps you to improve and strengthen your core and that is before you even think about riding competitively.
On top of the benefits of horseback riding, just caring for a horse (without any riding at all) is still a great way to stay active, fit, and healthy.
Horses benefit your mental wellbeing
All animals (even goldfish) can help to reduce your stress but being around horses can go even further than that. As well as reducing our stress and anxiety levels, and improving our mental well-being, they can, and do, teach us to slow down and relax.
They show us the benefits of nature and of enjoying the moment, but they also encourage us to do so. By spending time with horses and observing how they spend much of their time slowly wandering around their field, stopping to eat from time to time, we automatically end up in tune with them.
Horseback riding gives you a chance to explore nature
I know you can explore when you take a dog for a walk, but if you’re interested in the natural world and enjoy spotting wildlife, it’ll be much harder if you’re with a dog. That’s not to say it’s not possible but many animals (such as moose, deer, and bison) will keep out of the way of people and dogs but when you’re on horseback they won’t take any notice. This means you can ride through and watch the wildlife without disturbing it at all.
Horses give you more social opportunities than dogs
Of course, walking a dog gives you the chance to meet and chat with dog owners but this is generally in a localized area. Horses, on the other hand, give you the ability to meet new people and make friends in a wider area, especially if you decide to take part in shows and competitions, join clubs or have riding lessons.
With most horses being kept at board you’ll find that you’re making new friends even if you don’t compete and, because you’ll spend a lot of time at the boarding yard, many of your new friends will become lifelong and like a second family.
Horses are more trainable than dogs
Yes, dogs can be trained to sit, give paws and even understand hundreds of words but horses can be trained to do so many different things, from dressage to jumping, from reining to racing, and even to work on farms and transport people around. What’s more these skills can be interchangeable so a horse that is a champion jumper can easily be retrained to barrel race and then later on trained to pull a carriage. What’s even more remarkable though is that they don’t forget the skills they’ve already learned and can go back to them at the drop of a riding helmet.
Horses are a great form of therapy
I know we talked earlier about how horses help to reduce stress but on top of that they also have therapeutic benefits that can help people to deal with conditions such as autism and PTSD, but they can also help patients heal better after surgery. As a result of this, they’re regularly used in nursing and care homes.
Research has also found that horses can help reduce some of the side effects of Alzheimer’s. The study, which was published in the Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy, discovered that equine-assisted therapy can help to calm patients and ease their frustration. It can also improve the patient’s balance, functional capacity, and cognition. [source]
You don’t have to worry about leaving a horse on its own all day
Anybody who lives next door to a dog will probably tell you that when the owners go out the dog howls and barks all day long until the owners return, but horses aren’t like this at all. You can go to work, pop to the shops, or go out with friends without worrying about how they’ll be while you’re out, or whether they’ll disturb the neighbors while you’re gone.
Yes, horses need the company of other horses, or other companions at the very least, but with most horses being kept at boarding yards this isn’t an issue. Your horse isn’t going to pine for you while you’re away (no matter how pleased they are to see you when you return). Also, depending on the type of board you have you may even be able to leave them for days without visiting them, although somebody will need to care for them.
Horses are beautiful
I know dog owners will disagree and say that dogs are beautiful (which as a dog owner I would agree with) but horses have an elegance, beauty, and grace that no other animal does. Around the world, horses symbolize strength, courage, and even freedom.
This beauty has also been immortalized in art and popular culture with horses being depicted in cave paintings for around 17,000 years and still being a regular attraction on the big screen in movies such as Black Beauty and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.
Horses require you to be dedicated
Okay so you might see this as a negative point but training horses and building a bond with them requires time, patience, and discipline. This is especially good for kids as it teaches them responsibility as well as to be disciplined. The upside of this is that you’ll be rewarded with love, trust, and affection.
Horses are easier to take care of than dogs
You might be surprised to know that horses don’t need a huge amount of care, as long as they’re fed and watered every day, have some company, a shelter, and feel safe, they’re happy. Dogs on the other hand need a lot of attention every day.
Horses CAN be cheaper than dogs
Yes, you did read that right, in some cases, it can be cheaper to keep a horse than a dog. For example, it can cost as much as $250 a month to feed a Great Dane but, depending on where you live, you can get board for a horse for less than $175 a month which includes both food and forage.
Vet bills are also often cheaper for horses than they are for dogs, after all, horses are less likely to get themselves into as much trouble as dogs are – well some horses anyway.
Horses are better prepared for danger than dogs
Being prey animals, horses have heightened senses and are ready to act at a moment’s notice. They also have better all round vision than dogs (350° compared to 250°) so are likely to have noticed a potential threat long before you’re even aware of it. As well as this, horses can also ‘hear’ through their hooves and are able to pinpoint the direction of any danger before they’ve even seen it.
Dogs on the other hand use their sense of smell and hearing to identify their surroundings and aren’t prepared, or ready, for danger.
You’re on a level with a horse
Dogs are often described as pets, which of course they are, but a horse is much more than a pet. They can also become a riding partner, fellow explorer, and faithful companion.
I hope you found this article helpful. If you did I’d be grateful if you could share it please as it would really help me.
Over the years I have tried hundreds of different horsey products, from various blankets and halters to different treats. Some I’ve loved, others I’ve hated but I thought I’d share with you my top all-time favorite products, the ones I never leave the yard without. I’ve included links to the products (which are in no particular order) that I really think are great.
- Horse Knots by Reference Ready – If you’re like me and enjoy pocket reference guides then you’ll love this knot tying guide. These handy cards can easily fit in your pocket or attach to the saddle for quick reference. They’re waterproof, durable and are color coded to make them easy to follow.
- Mane ’n Tail Detangler – Even if you never show your horse you’ll need to detangle his tail from time to time (and possibly his mane too) which is always a challenging chore! I’ve found that if I run a little bit of detangler through my horse’s tails every few days it stops them from getting matted up and makes combing them easy, even if they’re coated in mud. I don’t know if I should admit to this or not but it also works wonders on my hair.
- TAKEKIT Pro clippers – Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different clippers and while some were obviously better than others I found these to be by far the best. They are heavier than a lot of other clippers but for me, that’s a good thing, it makes them feel more sturdy and hardwearing. On top of that they have a range of speeds so are just as good for clipping your horse’s back as they are his face. I also like the fact that they come in a handy carry case but that’s not for everybody. The company that makes them is super good and incredibly helpful too, a real bonus these days. The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the fact that it doesn’t come with any oil, but that’s not a major problem as it’s not difficult to buy lubricant.
- Shire’s ball feeder – There are so many boredom buster toys out there but I like to use these every day, regardless of whether or not my horses are bored. I find that it helps to encourage my horses to problem solve by rewarding them with treats (or pieces of fruit) but it also mimics their natural grazing behavior which helps to keep them calm and de-stressed.
- Horse safe mirror – This is a strange one that many people are surprised about but I like to put horse safe mirrors in the trailers as well as in the quarantine stalls. It helps to prevent the feeling of isolation by giving the impression of other horses being around. Being herd animals horses can get extremely stressed when they feel that they’re on their own but with these stick-on mirrors, they believe that at least one other horse is with them.
- Rectal thermometer – I know this isn’t glamourous at all but it’s vital for your horse’s well-being to be able to check their temperature and a rectal thermometer is the easiest way of doing this which is why I’ve added it to the list.
I’ve also put together a few shopping lists of essential items that I’ve found helpful over the years. I’ve broken the lists down into different categories rather than put everything in one massive list 😉