what it's like

What It’s Like to Date a Horse

Horse portrait
Photo: Edoma/Getty Images

Bestiality, the act of having sex with an animal, tends to conjure images of a mucky, socially inadequate, desperate farmer sneaking into the barn after dark, or depraved groups of thrill-seekers forcing sex with drugged, abused, or otherwise mistreated animals (like the case of Douglas Spink and the animal-sex-tourism farm in Washington State).

But the sexual identity that can be attached to bestiality, zoophilia, remains little understood. In 2002 the sex therapist Hani Miletski published Understanding Bestiality and Zoophilia, a book based on her study of almost 100 zoophiles — research that led her to conclude that many form deep, loving, and very nurturing relationships with their animal partners. While it’s certainly not a homogeneous community, many “zoos” (as they are known to self-identify) are monogamous and live with their animals as if they were human partners. As a result of legal restrictions — sex with an animal is illegal in most U.S. states and European countries — the lived experience of being a zoo is rarely heard outside of underground online forums or secret meet-up groups.

Here, a 42-year-old man from Canada describes his life as a zoophile attracted to female horses.  

When did you first realize you were attracted to horses? Do you have a horse “coming of age” narrative?
The first time I saw a horse I was 7 years old. There was a carnival in a parking lot across the street from my house and it had a parade of them walking around in circles. I begged my parents to let me go so I could ride the ponies, but when I got on a horse’s back I was absolutely horrified. I bawled my eyes out. I think I was bothered by how awful the situation was for them. All they did was go ‘round and ‘round; I could sense something about that in their attitude. 

Did you experience sexual feelings?
No, I was only 7. I started to notice horses in “that” way when I was about 11 or 12. Everybody else was stealing their dads’ Playboy magazines, but I had a book called The Big Book of the Horse 

Your Playboy?
Essentially. It was a very interesting book — everything you ever wanted to know about horses. At the time I didn’t really think of myself as different or unusual; it was just what I was interested in. I wasn’t going to go broadcast what I was doing, but I also wasn’t thinking to hide. I feel like my sexual development was bang on — I just had a different affection. 

So the book aroused you? Did you masturbate over the images of horses?
Oh, yes. And later I’d go to pre-internet online dial-up forums and that’s where I came across bestiality porn. And I didn’t realize it was abnormal at that time, but the comments attached to those pictures were all going on about how disgusting it was. I was 13. So that would be when I was first aware that I was different. I grew up in the city, so I didn’t have much access. I always was on the lookout for horses when I was traveling. I saw farms that I’d have loved to go explore, but they were never near my home. Sometimes I wonder if I just lacked the courage. 

This was during puberty. Does that mean it’s fair to say that your sexual awakening revolved around horses?
Yes, absolutely. 

Did you have sexual feelings toward humans as well?
No, not until later in high school when it came to be the expected thing. But I didn’t get that close to anybody until I was about 20. 

What was your adolescence like? Did you experiment sexually?
Before the age of about 10 there was no more than some “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” Then it was pretty boring until high school. My interest was horses. At school you could have called me asexual. It’s not as if I didn’t have friends or engage in activities, but I was a little nerdy and not at all athletic. I’ve always been somewhat overweight. I don’t think I had any more or less trouble with the “in” crowd than any other kid, and I know a few people looked up to me for my abilities in math, science, and the fact that I was always willing to help people. 

Did you date at all?
I did ask a girl to the prom. Now that I look back, I feel so sorry for her. We sat at the table and didn’t dance. I don’t even think we hugged. As much as I later experimented with people, I was always sure I wanted horses. It was never a case of “I’m just giving this a try to see if I would prefer humans.” 

When was your first kiss?
My first kiss was from a man named Mark. He was aware of my sexual preference and interested himself in dogs after a fashion. That was about two months after I lost my virginity, so I was about 22. In all honesty, I’ve never liked kissing men; rough beards do not turn me on.  

So you had your first kiss after you lost your virginity? Did you lose your virginity to a horse or a human?
A horse. 

There must have been a lot of buildup.
Yes, the pressure builds and builds and builds. And losing your virginity is important to becoming a “real” zoophile because you’re joining a very select group of people, and if you haven’t actually “done it,” people wonder if that’s your real sexuality. So there’s some hazing that goes on. I’d wanted to have the sexual experience as well as the street credit among my peers — the zoophiles I’d met online — because they were my closest friends, really.

How did you find a sex partner?
One of my friends had access to a nice female pony, and he let me have sex with her. She was a Shetland-cross, and she had dorsal stripes — the black line across the spine — and that’s something that’s turned me on ever since. 

What was it like?
My friend was there at the time, and he was holding her head. He didn’t have to do that — it’s not like we were doing things that she wasn’t enjoying — but he was there to protect me. He had his back to me, and he was holding the lead rope to make sure that she was okay and also to prove that I’d actually done it. The sexual experience itself was incredible. To this day it was the best sex I’ve ever had. But in some ways I regret that first time. 

Because I didn’t get to know her first, and I’ve since come to understand that enthusiastic participation makes the experience better. So I kind of wish it had been different. I think a lot of people build up that first experience and whether they are straight or a zoophile. 

So, how do you have sex with a mare? Do you always develop an intimate relationship with her first? Is there foreplay?
I’ll tell you about the first time I had sex with my current mare friend. It’s sort of a comedy of errors. So I’d had her for about a year. I had her in the barn. I’d given her food. I’d brushed her, cleaned her under her tail, and cleaned her face. I’d scooped snot out of her nose — we know each other very intimately. We were in a barn with all the lights out and a nice warm heater; it was lovely. So, she was settling in for the night, and I went to the stall and I just sat in the corner. I let her come to me, and that’s one of the things I am very adamant about: I never use a halter or any kind of restraint.

So, she chooses to come with me, and I leave her food and she puts her head on my chest and we snuggle and I whisper sweet nothings in her ear and rub her cheeks — what she likes. By this stage, she knows I’ll rub her thighs. She really loves the area between the back of her legs touched. So, she turned around and she actually backed into me while I’m sitting down. I slip my hands up a little further up and play with her genitals.  

Her clitoris?
Yes. Now, one of the things that’s a problem with horses is the height difference. So, here’s a little tip: Use a water bucket to stand on. In the case of the first time with my current mare friend I was sitting with my back to the wall, and she had actually pressed into my face hard enough that I was pinned there performing oral sex. 

She was dominating?
She was enjoying it. I wouldn’t say she was trying to dominate; I think she was just expressing her enjoyment. We did that for about 20 or 30 minutes. Mares aren’t easy to satisfy. They need a lot of stimulation. This leads me to the penetrative sex. I was about 38 at the time,  and I was about 10 to 15 pounds too heavy for the bucket. So we have this plastic bucket upside down, and I’m standing on it and my drawers are dropped. I’m in the corner of the stall, and my mare friend has turned around and is looking at me strangely, and she comes over and sniffs and rubs and snuffles me. Because horses love biting things I was a little bit concerned; I kept my hand in a way that I could save myself if I needed to. But the really interesting thing is that after having oral sex she turned away from me, lifted her tail, and walked backward into me and actually onto me.

Unfortunately, the bucket was buckling, and I fell off. So while there was penetrative sex, that was my first big time with my mare friend: having to catch myself after falling off a bucket backward. 

Are there health and safety concerns? How did you know how to do it safely — did you educate yourself first?
There are a lot of things to think about. I’ve had the luck and the privilege to know two veterinarians and a doctor who were open to the idea, so I talked to them and I investigated zoonosis — the transference of diseases from animals to people. Overall, it’s safer with a horse than a human. Horses have parasites, but they generally don’t, like us. STDs are only a risk if you share horses, and I don’t do that. Early on, an experienced zoophile friend took me under his wing and taught me something I’ll always remember: A horse is going to give you his butt before he will ever give you his head. Horses kick.  

That’s what I was thinking. Whenever I get near a horse, it wants to kick me …
You know, it’s amazing — I don’t know if I have this innate thing or something, but only one horse has ever tried to kick me and that was while I was picking out her hooves, never during sex. Horses might bite people who come into their space, but maybe that’s because a lot of them are just used to people coming into the stall, putting on a bridle, taking them for a three-hour run, and putting them back.

I take it you disagree with the idea that it’s abusive to have sex with animals?
Each time I have a conversation about this I see other people’s darkness projected onto what I do. Yes, anyone could tie up a horse to make sure it couldn’t hurt you and then do whatever they want to it. And, of course, that does happen. But I’ve met maybe 150 to 200 zoophiles, and I’ve never seen that. There are some people whom I would never want to associate with because they are not good people, but there are bad people in life in general.

Sex with animals is just so poorly studied. We are a varied community: city folk, country folk. The popular image of that person on the farm who goes and abuses animals because there’s no other outlet, that’s not the case. That’s just not always what happens. 

What sex acts do you usually engage in?
I mostly have oral sex with mares. When I first gave a horse oral sex I was in my early 20s, and one of the things I had to overcome was the thought that it’s disgusting to go down on a horse, much like the way some men feel about women. So it was at the back of my head at the time, and it’s kind of strange because there’s nothing about horses that’s disgusting to me. And, as I discovered, mares taste very, very nice, like mown grass or fresh hay, and they really enjoy oral stimulation.

I’ve always made sure, except for the first few times when I was a neophyte, that my partner has an orgasm, whether it’s a human or a horse, because I want her to have a really good time, and oral is something she almost always enjoys. 

How can you tell when a mare is having an orgasm?
She tenses up a lot and “winks” her clitoris repeatedly. She makes noises and grunts. 

What’s your number?
Between 15 and 20 horses, and about six or seven humans. 

Can you remember each encounter?
I’d have to sit down and figure it out. When I was younger I was experimenting with stallions, and that was not really my thing, so I don’t have as much memory of those. 

Is that because you’ve tried to block it out?
It’s more that it’s faded into time. I remember all the mares, but the male horses not so much. I haven’t done anything with a male horse in 20 years.

Was that anal sex?
Masturbation and anal sex. I can’t be penetrated. I have severe hemorrhoids so it’s too painful, and that made some of my gay relationships difficult, but I was always happy to pleasure my partner.

Gay relationships? When it comes to humans, do you identify as gay or straight?
That changed in my early 20s, but right now I would say I’m 90 percent heterosexual with humans and with horses. 

Why did that change?
The very first human I ever loved died of AIDS about six weeks after I met him. My therapist tells me that probably had a profound effect on me 

When did you seek therapy, and why?
I saw a clinical psychologist following a recent trauma around two friends suddenly dying, and this perhaps reactivated the trauma of the death of my first love. After questioning her repeatedly on what she was legally required to do if I confessed certain things to her, I decided to come clean and explain to her why horses are so important to me.

After consulting with her mentors, experts, and other sources, she told me that she felt I didn’t need treatment for my attraction. To which I went, “Well, duh.” I’m not sick.

You associated the trauma of your first love dying with your homosexual experience?
It was raw trauma. When I heard the news I was in upstate New York with some friends. I remember everyone was trying to console me, and I left the house and went out to the pasture and just screamed. I was bawling. He didn’t know he was infected. We didn’t know until after he died. But yes, that was definitely traumatic. He was the first person I ever loved. That’s how I know sexuality can change, because mine changed. My gender preference changed. 

But not with horses, right?
That is true, yes. It has always been mares. 

Are you monogamous with mares?
Yes, currently. I have two mares, and one is my mare friend and the other one is just a mare. I’ve never done anything sexual with her. 

Does your mare friend have a name?
I usually call her Sexy Knickers, but her name is Ms. C. 

How long have you been together?
Five years. I picked her up for $100 because she was going on a meat truck. She’s an Arabian. I’ve never had a relationship with a horse that was as in-depth as the one I have with her. I much enjoy her company; it’s really not just about sex. That’s something that a lot of people don’t understand. 

Do you see her as a partner in human terms? Or is the human model the wrong way to think about it?
That’s sort of how I see it, but I guess it’s silly to project human-relationship standards onto an animal. You see, I’ve been married to a human woman for 19 years. So I would say I’m in a polygamous relationship, or at least an open relationship. My wife is the one who encouraged me to go and buy some horses. 

Has she always known about your interest in mares?
We had very serious discussions, and I told her from the start that the horses were always going to be important to me. 

How did she react?
She was very, very open. It’s never been a secret or, like, something I surprised her with or made her feel like she had to agree to or we were going to break up. I don’t want to sound trite, but communication is very important in marriage. 

Is it communal? Do you do it together, or does she watch?
No, but she’s more than welcome to. She’s offered to stand guard to make sure that I get privacy because one of the issues I have at the moment is that my mares can’t live on my property. So I haven’t been living with my mare friend for almost two years. It’s really depressing. But that’s to protect her: If I get caught, I can guarantee you the first thing they are going to do is put her down. 

Will it stay this way for a while?
Until I can find extra money in my budget to move her out of a public stable. It’s unfortunate because there are houses around the field and there’s not much privacy.

How do your relationships usually end? Is there a breakup? Have you ever had to grieve for a mare?
One of the things people say about horses is that they are always saying good-bye. They get sold, they move on, or someone takes them out of the country. This is the first time I’ve actually owned a horse. So she will be with me until I can no longer care for her or until she passes on. There’s absolutely no question in my mind as far as that goes.

The thought of losing her terrifies me. This summer she had colic, which can be deadly. I held her in my arms and told her good-bye because I thought she was gone. It was very bad. I was sitting on the corner of a box, and she came over and she sidled up to me and she put her belly against my shoulder so I could rub her where it was hurting, and I thought to myself at the time … sorry, this is making me a little emotional … I thought that it was something I could do to help ease her off on her journey across the rainbow bridge, which is what zoophiles talk about. When animals die they will go across the rainbow bridge and wait for their companions there. Anyway, the good news about that is she made it, and by 6 p.m. that night she was back to her old self. 

That must have been such a relief …
It really was. I honestly can’t imagine what I would have done to try and get over that. 

Do you and your wife have kids?
No, we don’t have kids. We are unable to do so, but we wouldn’t want to anyhow. 

How would you feel if your mare friend were to have sex with another animal?
You know, a lot of people would be jealous, but I wouldn’t as long as she was happy and enjoying herself. A lot of animal sex tends to be forced, although I’m pretty darn sure my mare friend could protect herself and make sure she was getting what she wanted out of any sexual situation. I would, however, prefer she didn’t have sex with another human — one of the reasons is diseases, but also you can never be sure of people’s intentions. 

Do you have a “type” when it comes to horses?
I really like the dorsal stripe and other markings. I tend to like darker horses because of the contrast between the inside and the outside. Personality is important. I’ve become attracted to Arabians after meeting my current mare friend and seeing the kind of bonding they can do with humans. My therapist actually asked me that about horses. She said, “What do you like about horses?” And I said, “Everything … everything from the hock and the hoof to the nostrils and the thighs and the neck and the way the neck curves and the muscles along the flank.” I can’t identify one thing that stands out for me, or something that I have to have in a horse. 

Is that the same with humans?
No, I do have a distinct physical type. I tend to be attracted to heavier women (I like hips), and with men I tend to like clean-shaven, younger-looking men. As members of society we are educated in what we should be looking for in fellow humans, whereas with horses we don’t have any of that teaching. 

Since there’s so much stigma attached to being a zoophile I imagine that means you don’t tell many people. Does it cause a split personality? What is it like for you to have a sexuality that’s not really accepted or understood?
I’m really lucky to have my wife, because nobody would ever guess. I’m a private person, and I have no desire for people to know what I’m doing with my penis. I’m one of the luckiest zoos alive, as far as I can see. Having said that, though, you are quite correct that it’s something that makes people feel confused and alone, and they have no idea what to think about what they are, and they can’t talk to anybody. I’ve heard stories of people getting shock or aversion therapy. I really don’t understand the hatred. 

Do you wish you could be out and proud?
Absolutely. I’ve always been a very political person, and one of the reasons I started seeing a therapist is because I found that lately I’m having trouble with what people say about zoophiles. The same arguments over and over again, and nobody can support me because they get labeled. It’s been very hard dealing with those emotions and the heaviness of what it would be like to get caught and what’s being said and done to zoophiles, and the fact is, rather than actually engage with us, people would prefer to ignore us.

What have I done? I am a normal, average, hardworking guy. I pay my taxes, I make fairly good money, I have a nice house. I have dogs, I have ferrets, I have cats, a couple of rats, chickens in my backyard I’ve saved from places where they were just going to get killed. What have I done that’s so wrong? What is so wrong about physical contact between my penis and a mare’s genitals? And it does bring a weight. The experience of being a zoo adolescent was extremely lonely. I had no one to turn to, nobody to ask questions, and even if I had trusted someone I feel now like I would have gotten bad, heteronormative advice. It was a silent day-to-day struggle. 

I guess one of the major criticisms, aside from moral concerns, is that an animal can’t ever give verbal consent. What’s your response to that?
I believe that question is asked because there is no answer to it and so it proves the point that zoos are bad. However, I answer it in a threefold way. First of all, why are people concerned about consent when my sexuality is involved but not when it comes to drinking milk or eating steak, both of which require artificial insemination and semen collection, which are very sexual acts? You put your arm inside the cow, and you masturbate the bull. So obviously consent is not really the issue.

Second, if someone is mute and can’t write or give you a verbal response, are you allowed to have sex with them? Even if they are an adult and mentally sound? Are words the only way to get consent? I don’t know how often this comes up when a mute wants to have sex, but that’s another way of looking at it. 

The third thing is, honestly, for me consent is so obvious in the relationships that I have. Consent is very important to me. Nobody asks for consent for anything from animals. So I’d argue you aren’t worried about consent; you’re worried about where my penis is. Do you go up to a strange dog and automatically pat him on the head without looking him in the eye to make sure he’s okay with it? No smart person does that because the dog could bite your hand. If he’s perky and happy you go in for the pet; if he’s not you don’t want to interfere with him. So for me that’s a good way to make people understand that an animal doesn’t need words to consent to being touched.

Does your wife ever get jealous of your relationship with your mare?
I don’t want to answer that because I don’t want to speak to her feelings. That’s for her to say. 

But there are points of tension in any relationship. Would it be fair to say this might be one of them?
It’s not something we’ve argued about, but does it cause tension? Possibly. But like in a polygamous relationship, everybody is aware of what’s going on. The first person I talk to about my mare friend is my wife so there’s nothing there for her to be jealous of. 

Do you still look at animal literature and images? Do you find animated or fictional horses attractive?
Honestly, I really prefer mares I know in real life. I don’t watch horse pornography. 

Do you ever take sexual photos of your mare?
Generally not. 

Maybe once or twice?
If I happen to see a tail flicked off to the right side at the right time I might snap that photo, but it’s not something that I’m always looking at. 

Is that unusual for a zoophile?
I would describe it as extremely unusual. When I was younger there was a lot of that sort of thing, but I think that’s more to do with being a walking hormone. When I look at beasty porn I see animals who aren’t being taken care of and are probably drugged. I can tell right away when a horse is not enjoying herself. A lot of it is made just for the money by the same producers as other porn, and they have about the same respect for animals as they do for women. 

Are you sad that the world doesn’t understand your sexuality? If you look back over the course of your life, has it caused you more pain than happiness, or do you think that you have discovered something that is unique and special?
That’s a twofold question. I would never recommend this life to anybody. It’s very difficult. It’s nerve-racking coming to grips with having an alternative sexuality like this, and until you have a lot of experience you really doubt yourself. Am I actually doing the right thing? Am I hurting this animal?

To answer the second half of the question: I love me. I love who I am. I love my sexuality. It’s brought me so much joy being around horses, and I’m not just talking about the sex but the riding and the grooming. How could I not want to have that? While I certainly wouldn’t encourage anybody to participate in this kind of lifestyle, I do feel that I have to help people who feel the need to. One of the things that a Kinsey study showed is that most of those who engaged in sex acts with animals didn’t make it to old age. 

I’m assuming. I do know that almost every zoophile I’ve ever talked to has had a brush with death. Some of them have had really shitty, crappy lives, and I can’t blame them. When I was 18 and coming to terms with being a zoo I got to the point where I was holding a knife to my wrist. The world is telling you you’re an awful creature of heinous proportions — what else are you going to do? The thought that came to me was if I were to kill myself now, I would never have those horses in my life. And that was why I decided it wasn’t going to happen and I was going to go on with my life. I wish we could talk more openly about sex and alternative sexual interests, or just sex in general. The fact that I hear teenagers saying they don’t know where babies come from doesn’t make sense to me 

Do you want the law to change?
Having sex with an animal should be legal. There’s nothing wrong with it. But I would like to see stronger animal-cruelty laws. There’s this infamous video from Europe of a man who is having sex with chickens. Guaranteed he’s hurting the chicken, and he belongs in jail or therapy or something because that’s not right. I want people to know I’m a normal guy. I would never rape an animal. I’m a pacifist. Are there people who do that? Yes. There are also people who do that to women. That’s a problem beyond having an animal or having relations with an animal. There’s something else going on. It’s a power dynamic. 

This is an odd transition, but I was wondering if you eat meat?
That’s the ultimate question for zoophiles. I look to do harm reduction to the meat I eat. It comes from a local organic farm, and I know the butcher who butchers the meat. I try to eliminate all the cruelty from it. I have backyard chickens and free-range eggs. 

So, how often do you have sex with your mare friend?
I would say we have intercourse at least once a week. If she could get away with it she’d do it every day. I kid you not; she’ll back into me and ask me to rub things almost every day. I don’t have the sex drive of a 20-year-old, and she goes through seasons. It’s impacted by the sunlight and the warmth and stuff, so she’ll get exceptionally horny at certain times, and I’ll usually try to do stuff with her then. When we are going some place new there’s usually a hiatus because she’s not comfortable with her surroundings, so generally if we move stables there would be a break.  

Do you ever spend the night with her without having sex?
Just being with her is more than enough for me. Sex is an extra. I’ve spent the night in her stall. Horses like having someone watching over them. 

Does your wife mind when that happens?
She understands it, and it doesn’t happen very often, especially now that she’s in a public stable. I wish it could happen more often. My dream home would have the barn as part of the house. 

Has Ms. C. ever rejected you sexually? Have you ever had a bad or sad sexual experience with her?
There have been times when she wasn’t interested. I always try to please my partner before I get pleased, and to be honest, I enjoy that even more. 

How do you feel if she doesn’t have an orgasm?
I keep working at it until she does. It’s very important to me to know that she has had that pleasure. 

What’s the longest time it’s taken, and what’s the average?
I get into some pretty marathon sessions. I’ve spent four- or five-hour evenings with a mare because she wanted more. It was multiple climaxes. Usually it takes a half-hour, an hour at most just to make sure. And, honestly, like most men I can deal with myself in five minutes. 

If you are having oral or manual sex with her do you masturbate at the time, afterward, or not at all?
I’ve done all three, but often I won’t at all. It tends to happen more during summer nights because it gets quite cold in winter. 

Do you dress up for her?
I just wear barn clothes, nothing fancy because I’m going to get dirty. She has no concern with what I wear, so neither do I. However, I don’t wear sunglasses. And the reason for that is so she can see my eyes and where I’m looking. A lot of communication with horses is through the eyes. 

Do you do special things together, like go on “dates”? Do you buy her gifts or acknowledge anniversaries?
Our fifth anniversary was on Halloween and I groomed her extra special. I have mixed emotions about dates. I like going out into the paddock and sitting with her and watching her eat. But it’s not a traditional date; she doesn’t really have much in the way of choice except to accompany me or not come to me. I have to load her up in a trailer and take her out of her comfort zone, so I have a little bit of trouble calling it a date. But on our anniversary I spend extra time grooming her, and I feed her apples. I’ll take her for a walk around the block. It’s hard to get a horse into a fancy restaurant. 

Are you proud to have her on your arm when you take her out?
I would like it to be like that, but I don’t want anyone getting suspicious. I love it when people compliment her because it makes me feel like I’m taking good care of her. I’ve tried to walk her around the town, and that’s a pride thing. I love showing her off; I think she’s gorgeous. It’s dangerous to anthropomorphize the relationship, but I’d love to say, “This is my girl, and she’s on my arm.

How do you feel about zoophiles who aren’t monogamous?
I try not to judge, but I tend to be unhappy when people are so focused on the number of animals they’ve had sex with, when the only goal is to have another notch on the belt. I met someone who keeps a spreadsheet of the width and girth of every stallion he’s ever slept with. That objectifies the animal, and it removes the personal relationship. 

If you had to choose between only ever being able to have sex with a horse or a human, from now on, what would you decide? Would that present a dilemma for you?
It would be a horse, absolutely, no question. The only reason it would be a dilemma is because my wife means so much to me, and she’d be very unhappy with that. So then the question becomes, Would I leave my horse or leave my wife? I couldn’t make that decision easily. I don’t know if I could survive answering it, quite frankly. Not because of the sex but because I love my wife very much and I would not want to hurt her. 

Do you worry about your horse eventually losing sexual interest?
Ever since she’s been sick she’s been treating me differently. Part of that is because we have a new horse in the pasture, and this bothers me quite a bit. 

How’s she acting? Is she being distant?
It’s so subtle it almost sounds silly, but she moves away from me, and she’s never done this before so that’s really on my mind right now because I want to repair the relationship. I assume I did something or helped the vet do something that caused her pain or upset her in some way. Also, I haven’t had a lot of time to spend with her for the last two months, partly because of work and partly because it’s getting dark early so I can’t see to do much of anything. It’s so hard to communicate the subtle things that change between me and an equine partner, but I really have to pay attention, and if I missed what happened it’s a real case of sleuthing. It puts a real damper on the rest of my life when we aren’t getting along.  

When she’s acting distant like that do you wish you could ask her what’s wrong?
I would love it if we had telepathy or if there were a little machine I could pop on her forehead and see what she’s thinking, but I would never want to spend the time talking to her as if she were a human, because she’s not. I like the way we can partner without speaking. That’s something that’s quite important and a very special part of the bond. If she could talk that would make her less of a horse.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

What It’s Like to Date a Horse