When I first started to ride Hamster, Chloe seemed to take offense.
Maybe not to the actual riding part, because we all know she has zero work ethic, but to all the rest that comes with horseback riding: grooming, treats, attention, etc. I remember feeling her eyes on me every time I went to retrieve Hamster from his separate paddock. I would turn and look towards her direction and sure enough, her grazing would be paused and she would be watching me. I also distinctly recall this one time I was riding Chloe, while Jackie was riding Hamster, and she charged at him with her ears back and teeth barred. I almost flipped off the back of her, it was so unexpected! So, it is probably safe to say that Chloe was definitely not a Hamster fan at the very beginning, and while I surely think it didn’t help that I was always fawning over him, truth be told, Chloe isn’t a fan of any new horse at the barn. It takes a while before she transitions from dislike to her typical indifference.
Still, it is sometimes hard to shake the feeling that Chloe is jealous about the amount of time I spend with Hamster. But surely I am just over-humanizing Chloe, right? After all, jealousy requires a high level of self-awareness and the ability to compare yourself to others. It is a complex emotion unique to humans only. Or so I thought. I did a poll on my Instagram stories where I asked followers if their horse gets jealous. After 24 hours, the results were in and 81% answered, “Yes”. This prompted me to do a quick Google search, “do horses get jealous?”
While I did not find a horse specific study, I did find this study from a few years ago regarding dogs and jealousy. In simplistic summary, a study published in 2014 revealed that dogs showed jealous behaviors when their owners were affectionate toward a stuffed dog that barked, whined and wagged its tail. The dogs would push against and snap at the stuffed dogs, trying to get in between it and their human. One theory that the researchers suggested was that jealousy evolved over time in animals that required cooperation from other group members for survival and in which alliances would form. These alliances would have the potential to be threatened by rivals, hence where jealousy comes in. This study only focused on dogs, but horses surely fit this aforementioned group description. In the wild, and before domestication, horses had to band together to survive and there were always leaders of the herds or the alphas.
Truthfully, there isn’t conclusive scientific evidence that can prove Chloe is jealous of Hamster. I can report that she has stopped trying to attack him and is now just slightly annoyed by his proximity. All that being said, however, on the days that I do not ride her and I ride him instead, I am sure to give her extra treats! You can’t ever be too careful!
Andrea Wise graduated from Wake Forest University School of Law in 2007, where afterwards she spent 7 years as a commercial real-estate attorney. In 2012, she launched the equestrian company, Pony Glam, which makes and sells the only colored hoof dressing for horses. She is also the voice behind the new equestrian lifestyle blog, Horse Glam. Andrea lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband, Zach, two young children, cat and horse, Chloe.