"We can all learn from the love, devotion, and commitment shown by the dog and the horse." – Anthony Douglas Williams
Like us dogs, horses posses some admirable traits and complement the lifestyle of people very well. Both dogs and horses have a long history of service to mankind, in times of war and peace. Did you know that during the course of World War I, more than 1 million dogs and 8 million horses died? Today, both species still serve the military not only in the United States but around the world. In addition, you can find dogs and horses working as police units, on farms, as therapy animals, and in the hearts and many homes of people everywhere.
Although dogs and horses can often become great friends, danger is inherent whenever these two species come together. The sheer size of a horse, combined with its nature as a prey animal, can mean trouble for even the mellowest dog. Likewise, dogs can pose a great danger to horses as well. It is important to understand that horses are often afraid of dogs, and will kick, bite or strike to defend themselves. A well-placed kick from a horse can cause severe injury or even death to a dog. Conversely, a dog can cause damage to a horse by biting, chasing or scaring it to the point where the horse injures itself trying to escape. With some effort and patience on the part of people, four-legged friends can be taught to get along with each other.
It is essential that you teach your dog basic obedience before bringing him/her anywhere horses might be present. Keep your dog on a leash to see how he reacts to the horse. Allow the dog to get comfortable by walking around before you approach the horse. It is best to have two people, one holding the dog, and one holding the horse from outside a stall, paddock, or round pen. It will be natural for them to want to sniff each other. Verbally praise your dog if he remains calm and quiet. It may take several weeks or more before the dog can be around horses without any signs of aggression or fear. Here is an article that details how to train your dog to behave around horses.
Once dogs and horses are acclimated, it can be a joy having them together. But still be cautious. Keep in mind that us dogs like to explore with our noses, and what we find often ends up in our stomachs, so you need to be careful when bringing dogs around horses. While it might seem gross when a dog eats horse manure, it could also be harmful as some elements may be present in horse manure, such as traces of supplements or drugs given to the horse. The active ingredients in many equine dewormers can be toxic to dogs. Other products typically used for horses can also be toxic to dogs, including topical medications that are put on hoofs. If a dog eats hoof trimmings it can cause tummy upset or much worse.
I recently made the acquaintance of a horse, named Ed. He enjoys educating people, especially kids about horses. Ed has agreed to share his passion with us and contribute to our blog. Stay tuned for future posts from Ed.