The most incredible thing about wild horse behavior is that their society is basically based on deep love and caring. These sentient animals form strong bonds that last a lifetime, which you can describe scientifically, or you can just call it love.
This is quite obvious to most people who watch wild horses, but there are many scientific behavioral studies on the subject of social structure and conscious choice in wild horses. If you are interested in reading some studies this is a good link.. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-540-75957-7_9
Beyond the obvious nuzzling between horses, the sharing of food, and the mutual grooming, there are other signs that wild horses make conscious individual choices in who they like and who they want to be with, and it is not just based on instinct or survival.
- There are friendships between individual horses who don’t stray farther from eachother than 5 to 10 feet, year after year after year. It is so reliable, that if you see one without the other, you can assume something bad happened to the missing one.
- These relationships are not just between the stallions and their favorite mares, or mares and their offspring, but also between sisters, brothers, cousins, or random unrelated best friends. They consciously chose who they love.
- Stallions as well as some mares would rather lose their own life than lose each other. When you care more about another life than your own, it is called love.
- Bands consistently stay the same make up of the same horses, reliably, year after year. (Except for young offspring who leave the band when they are grown up)
- Horses have approximately a 3 month grieving period when they lose an individual they love. This is evidenced by weightloss, lethargy and hanging head.
- Out of a herd of over 400 horses, one horse is able to find the specific horse they love when they lose each other, even if it is after several years.
- A stallion would rather lose his entire band than lose the one mare he loves the most, even if he loses his rank.
- Even after years of being apart, horses will recognize each other and decide to reunite again.
- If you’ve ever seen a horse go crazy and run around galloping and screaming, then you’ve seen a horse who lost sight of a horse he/she loves.
We have documented instances of all of the above observations but there are many more. Documenting these horses throughout their lifetime, we see the most incredible signs of love, every single day.
It is the most beautiful part of preserving them. It is also the saddest part of not preserving them and tearing families apart, to never see each other again.
We are positively thankful that we get to preserve the incredible bonds, the beautiful families and the true LOVE between all of the Salt River wild horses, by working hard to keep them wild and free. SRWHMG.
Written by SRWHMG Simone Netherlands.
Picture by SRWHMG Rick Blandford. (it will be in our calendar!)