Dogs and cats are the animals that naturally come to mind when people think of pets, but is there such a thing as a pet horse? In one of its definitions for “pet,” Merriam-Webster describes them as domesticated animals that are kept by humans for pleasure rather than for their use. With this definition as a guide, then a large percentage of horses owned by humans today would have to be considered pets.
Some horses, such as the ones that pull tourists in carriages around Central Park or racehorses, are still used as a means of income or for utilitarian purposes. Surely, the Amish still consider their equines less a pet than a necessity for their lifestyle. However, for a large number of horse lovers, their horses are sources of pure pleasure, a friend to share a trail ride with or a day at a local show. There is even a large contingent of horse “lawn ornaments,” who do no more work than cats do in their everyday life.
In this way, the horse has been a much luckier animal than, say, the cow and the sheep, which have for the most part remained unfortunately for their sake non-pets and mere vehicles for milk, wool, meat and leather for humans. The horse and its cousins, the donkey, mule and ponies have been the luckiest of the farm and ranch animals, having somehow managed to rise above this strictly utilitarian world and into the hearts of humans.
While most owners might not consider their horses pets, many spoil them the same as they would a prized poodle or Siamese cat. Blanketed, housed in warm stalls, brushed, well-fed and maybe asked to do an hour’s worth of work a day, most horses today could probably easily fall under Merriam-Webster’s definition of a pet.