Do you think your horse gets bored sometimes?


As you read in last week’s post, I decided to fix up the house for my father’s impending visit next month.

I started with the kitchen as that needed it the most. Then of course when one room is clean and fresh, it makes the rooms next to it look a little drab.

So, I then did the family room which is now dubbed “the game room” because of the pool table and dart board. Here are the results!

One of my friends who saw the work that I put into these two rooms asked, “were you just bored?” and I had to think about that…

  • Yes, cleaning and updating the house was on my “to do” list, but it was near the bottom.
  • Yes, it was very hot outside, so I did have to stay in the AC and wanted something to do.
  • Yes, I am a Type A personality that likes to keep busy.
  • But…No I wasn’t bored. At least I didn’t consider myself bored and that was not the reason that I painted those two rooms. (ps…I’m on to the living room and bathroom next)

That word, ‘bored’ is so general that it’s hard to really pinpoint a specific characteristic to it. People are all different and therefore can react differently to that word, “bored”. What one person sees as boring, like staying home and reading a book, can be seen as an enjoyable evening to another person.

One type of personality – someone who loves going out all the time and being with friends, who also has hundreds of friends, may feel trapped if they had to stay inside at home without a phone or a computer. They would probably tell their friends later that they were bored.

Whereas, another type of personality – someone who is introverted, has 2 or 3 best friends, and enjoys solitary activities like gardening or reading a good book, would be thrilled if they had to stay inside at home without a phone or a computer.

According to scientific studies, people even react differently to boredom. Some people get depressed and lethargic, some people get anxious and nervous, and others get creative and do something different. Just like me and painting the house. I didn’t see myself as being bored or the situation as boring, but I did see it as a reason to be creative and knock something off my to-do list.

However, my friend saw it as I was bored and painted because I needed something to do, but I didn’t see it that way. I was very happy staying inside and painting. I really enjoyed the creative process. It was good exercise as well. I guess it’s just the way you look at a situation. Everyone has their own perspective about the same situation.

Of course, that got me thinking about horses again. You know me and horses… LOL

Do you think your horse gets bored sometimes?

I’ve had quite a few of my students ask me this and even tell me their biggest problem is that their horse is bored and they don’t know what to do about it.

This is a very diverse question. Again, everyone may have a slightly different definition of what they think “bored” means and what it looks like in their horse.

Here’s the dictionary’s definition of bored:

adjective: fed up, tired, hacked (off) (U.S. slang), wearied, weary, pi**ed off (taboo slang), uninterested, sick and tired (informal), listless, browned-off (informal), brassed off (Brit. slang)

Here is one side of the discussion about horses being bored that I found on a discussion page online…

One side of the discussion: (quoted directly)

“By profession, I am a Neuropsychologist and specialize in brain functioning. In training my own horses, I wanted a better understanding of the neurofunctioning of the horse’s brain. I also became quite frustrated by hearing such things as, “The horse has two brains” or “The horse is trying to make a chump of you” or using a pop psychology test designed to identify management styles in humans to arrive at a personality type for your horse.

In actuality, the horse has one brain with two hemispheres which are well-connected by a structure called the corpus callosum. The horse brain is about the size of a large grapefruit and is proportionately 1/650 of their body weight (human brains have a 1/50 brain weight to body weight ratio). They have a large cerebellum for balance and smooth movement and most of the brain area is dedicated to motor and sensory functions.

They do not have a huge neocortex like humans so they are unable to purposely make fun of someone and return to share the joke with their pasture mates. Although they have personalities based on how they behave, it would be anthropomorphic to assign human personality traits to this animal. The temptation to want to believe that horses process things in the same way as humans may make us feel better but it is inaccurate, leads to false assumptions, and is often at the expense of the horse’s welfare and well-being.”

And here is another quote responding to this person above on that same discussion page…

The other side of the discussion: (quoted directly)

“I don’t believe this for a second. How can anyone “prove” that a horse doesn’t get bored. you can’t “prove” humans do or don’t experience “boredom” because you can’t see what is happening inside their heads; all you can do is observe what they do when placed in potentially boring situations and extrapolate what you think you would feel in that situation when you act that way. If you compare the way a human in a “boring” situation acts to how a horse acts, you’d have to conclude horses probably DO get bored in some situations.”

Two absolutely opposing thoughts and ideas about horses and whether they can feel boredom.

Here are my thoughts:

According to recent scientific studies, they have found that horses show emotions and have feelings. However, the scientists concluded that horses do not have as many emotions as humans did as they couldn’t attribute all our emotions to the horses that were studied.

That is a whole other discussion, but for now we will just stick with the one emotion. Given the basic premise that horses do have emotions, do they show boredom?

From my observations of hundreds of horses over the last 40+ years, I would have to say that some horses do get bored. It all depends on what they are used to, if they prefer human company over other horses, if they are used to a lot of activity, their personality, their physical health, their mental capacity, their natural habits, etc.

Just like people there are a lot of variables to if THEY feel bored. Remember it’s about the horse not the owner feeling bored.

Most horses that are turned out in a field or grass pasture that have food, water, and friends don’t seem bored. However, I have seen a few that did “act” bored by pacing along the fence, whinnying over and over, long sad stares into the distance, cribbing, pawing, etc…

And yes, these characteristics can also be attributed to other things, depending on the situation. I’ve also seen horses “act” bored in their stalls by chewing everything from their water buckets to the wood walls, kicking the walls, pawing at the door, circling the stall over and over, etc…

It really depends on what your horse is used to. Going back to people – it’s all in the perspective. What may seem boring to you, may not be boring for your horse.

When you are with your horse and they act and “feel” like they are bored, they may be. But, really look at everything going into that situation. See if you can put another word to what they are expressing. Sometimes the word ‘bored’ can just be a bit too general.

Instead of bored…

  • Are they anxious about wanting to play with another horse in a neighboring field?
  • Are they upset because you normally come out every day at 10 and today you’re late?
  • Are they tired because they had a big workout the day before?

Then use the definition of bored…

  • Are they listless, tired, fed up, weary?
  • Then check in with your own feelings…
    Are you bored? – tired, listless, fed up, weary?

So, if your horse acts and looks like he is content, then leave it alone. He’s not bored. Just like people; horses are individuals, are used to different things, enjoy different things and have different likes and dislikes. If your horse seems happy doing nothing but grazing and enjoying nature then he’s not bored, even though you may be.

If your horse is used to a lot of activity and now he’s not getting it and there’s no one for him to play with or hang out with, then maybe he is bored. Look at the whole situation and consider the world from your horse’s perspective. If your horse is content, be happy that he is enjoying life the way he likes it.

If you still feel like you horse is bored, then here’s a few helpful tips…

  • Do something new together – play with a ball, bring out a baby pool full of water to play in, learn to do jumps together, etc
  • Do something you both enjoy together – riding, going for a walk on a lead, working in the arena, etc…
  • Be creative – come up with some new games you can do together… For example: before you go for a walk on a lead together go drop some carrots or treats along the path, here and there, beforehand. That way while you’re walking together your horse can find a few fun little treats along the way and get excited about what’s next. Kind of like kids doing an Easter egg hunt on Easter.
  • If your horse is in his stall a lot – add a hanging jolly ball to play with or a hanging salt lick. Give him something to do to pass the time in his stall.

Use your best judgement in what you know about your horse, his experiences, his habits, and his personality. Life is too short for all of us, so let’s enjoy it together and help our horses enjoy their life with us as well. We want to be the best partner/person for our horse, right?

Here’s a short video of another game I play with my horses. I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what fun games you play with your horse in the Comments below.


Please Share

  • I like to change what I do with my horse as I think I would get bored with the same thing over and over. I have a really good connection with him so if I’m not feeling so good he will pick it up, so I try to use a variety of walk out in hand or just being in the field with him.

    • Very smart…it sounds like you and your horse have a great connection. He is lucky to have someone so considerate. 🙂

  • I really enjoyed your “bobbing for carrots” video … looking forward to more!! 🙂

  • Yes Teddie I do believe at times my horses and the pony were bored, as at times they had this far away look while gazing over the fence as if they knew where the other pasture I had them in was at and they did very much miss the other group of horse mates they had. They also would like be more eager then I would be to go out on a outing. It’s like they would be at the gate before I got there. They were boarded on 5 acres. Dang I thought that’s eager. They I hope enjoyed my company and felt bad when I had to leave two of them behind. They at one time were boarded with a burro and another horse. The burro learned how to open the gate and let them all out. I’m thankful that they were out in the country and at least stayed on the property. But what a site the owner exclaimed looking out the sliding front door and seeing the group on the lawn looking at him. Saying that one of them let us all out. Those days are gone and so are all of them but the memories are a blessing to remember and one I most cherish. Thank you again on another topic that makes me remember funnier days of my life. sincerely ,Connie Lombardi

  • Every spring and fall at the barn we get everybody together and we have a big barn family barbecue we have Easter egg hunts on horseback we do costume contests we do with the horses and on leads do musical chairs where we section off areas in the arena with Horses and the parents will even get involved in that. in the fall we Bob for apples with our horses the kids do it first and then the horses do it after, we do the costume contest where the kids devise their own costumes on horseback and ride the arena separately and then parade style where all win a prize in different categories, we have a big barbecue and we have a blast and the horses truly enjoy these activities and getting involved.
    These days get the parents involved with the students and the horses as participants not just onlookers. These are wonderfully barn family days and for us have been an huge success👍👍

  • robyn martin says:

    great to watch, loved it, and the blog, thank you!! needed it, on a cold and wet winter day.
    Bet that new paint job looks fab!

  • Sarah Mcloughlin says:

    I totally agree that horses can get bored. My horses are lucky to be in a group of 6. When I ride in the paddock sometimes my beautiful paint horses loves to round up one of my ponies to be engaging while I am riding. They take note of when I turn up & watch & wait until I get to them. My horses know the sound of my car along with my dogs barking in the back & are generally at the fence line waiting. They are happy to watch whatever activity I may be doing with one of the horses. If they weren’t bored then they wouldn’t bother coming to watch or wait their turn.

    • You are absolutely correct on that. 🙂 I like to see people like you be able to take such care and notice of what their horses do and need. Keep up the good work!

  • My mare, Sky, enjoys playing “touch it”. She touches things that I focus on with her nose, feet, chest, hips, rump and tail based on my cues. She taught me that she can flick her tail to reach objects that are above head height. I have a 90’ x 240’ playground filled with obstacles. Sometimes Sky likes to select the obstacle and how we will play with it. Her imagination often surprises me. Like when she got on the 16” balance beam from the side with all four feet. Sky is 14.3 and almost 1200 lbs.

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