How long do you think a horse remembers a person?

Scrapper in Maine“How long do you think a horse remembers a person?”-Sharon H.


If the person made an impact I believe a horse can remember a person for a very long time. I know that horses can retain cues and training ideas that they learned when they were young for a lifetime, even if the cue hasn’t been used in years. I believe that horses can remember people who were memorable for a lifetime.

I personally have had a few horses that have also backed me up with this idea by their responses, one was my horse Scrapper. When I was a teenager I bred my mare once and raised one foal, Scrapper. I also timed his birth to line up with my plans to attend the University of Findlay Equestrian Program where I would be starting two year olds my Sophomore year. I attended Findlay for four years and Scrapper was with me for three of those.

I graduated in May, was married in June and then began my married life…broke. Jesse often laughs and tells me that I married him for his money because he had a dollar in his pocket and I had only debt. Within a few months I was at a horse show with Scrapper when another trainer approached me about buying him. She offered me $5,000.00 and left me completely confused. I had raised and trained Scrapper but we were completely broke. After much struggle I decided two things; I would sell Scrapper but someday I would buy him back. I stayed true to both and during the years that I didn’t own Scrapper I kept track of who owned him and how he was doing.

I owned him for six years, sold him for six years, and then bought him back. He had five different owners during that six year period and countless experiences both good and bad. I followed him through each move including a trip to Tattersalls horse auction in Kentucky in an attempt (failed) to buy him back. Eventually he began to have soundness issues and the last owners were happy to sell a not quite so sound horse for $5,000.00.

It was during this time when I didn’t own Scrapper that he taught me a lesson in memory. I was at an AQHA horse show preparing for the reining class when I walked up to the show office, on the way I walked down the stall isles. My focus was on my paperwork but out of the corner of my eye I noticed the horses I was walking by. I think any horseman watches for unusual behavior out of habit. On my trip to the office I noticed one horse that seemed excited but quickly wrote it off as probably a young horse that was new to horse shows.

On the way back from the office I again noticed the excited horse but something else stood out. It was strange how he was pressing himself up against the bars, young horses will sometimes pace like he was…but something was off. I paused and looked at the very blanketed horse. He had several layers of blankets and hoods but even though I could only see his nose, ears and eyes…something seemed familiar. And unusual. It was like he was staring straight at ME. Other people walked by but this horse never looked away, from the time I stopped to look he stopped and stared at me. This was also not normal. Then it dawned on me…could it be? I knew Scrapper was showing at AQHA shows but I didn’t know he would be here. I started crying. Silly horse had picked me out and made a fool of himself to get me to notice. Of course I cried.

I have had enough experiences similar to this one over the years to let me know that horses do remember and recognize people that mean a lot to them.

P.S.- I did buy Scrapper back, my kids also had the privilege of riding him and he is now retired and hanging out in Maine with my mom. This is a video of  Scrapper being ridden for the first time by my son Joshua. I know that Scrapper is sore in the video and you will be happy to know that his heart bar shoes with wedge pads have helped tremendously.


  1. Horse memory - Page 2 on April 24, 2015 at 8:50 am

    […] Stacy Westfall wrote an article about this on her blog. I found it interesting. How long do you think a horse remembers a person? | Stacy Westfall Horseblog […]

    • Ann Gray on July 29, 2023 at 12:34 pm

      Loved this article and coincidental response to my query!!!
      …I Know nothing about horses, but
      about three or four years ago , prior to Covid…
      I discovered property with a beautiful
      “ palomino/?”; …drew me to stop and ask the kindly owner about “Pegasus”..,whom
      Owner had rescued from abusive environment…
      …Just had only a few opportunities over next few months to chat/learn about The owner’s plans for Pegasus …
      ..Yesterday, stopped to peruse owner’s yard sale…and told “sales lady” about those
      brief visits with kind owner and Pegasus…
      ..sunddenly Pegasus appeared 5 ft away from me , pressing/plunging against fence , stomping front feet and nodding head!!!
      Haven’t been able to stop thinking about yesterday’s special moment, and that maybe he recalled my long ago interest and visits with him and owner..(?) sales lady thought so…

  2. Patricia Faye Conn on January 12, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    I believe they never forget if you are good or bad to them. I also think you (Stacy) are just an awesome person. I hope that I would be able to meet you someday. I play your post of when you rode the black mare. You are such an inspiration to me & others. I use to ride like you, but had a nervous break-down & don’t have the courage to ride any more. I feed & take care of them, but that’s all I watch your post, hoping that it’s not to late for me. Thank you, you are amazing person!

  3. Sharon Hill on January 4, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    Thanks for answering my question, Stacy. Question pop in my head when I read stories. And you visiting Jac spawned that question. LOL I had read other stories about horses recognizing people but most of them were….more emotional embellishment than real remembering. What Scrappy did staring at you….isn’t it what people do when they see someone they think they recognize? Stare! That is one of the best proofs I have ever read. I always knew horses had amazing memories. I was always surprised what Pacman would remember when I hadn’t ridden much in the winter. And something we hadn’t really worked on all that much.

    • Stacy on January 4, 2015 at 11:17 pm

      Lol, I wish I had a picture of ‘how’ he was staring too…he had his whole head pressed against the bars like he could push his eyeball out between the bars and as I moved he moved from bar to bar, it is hard to describe but he had his head PRESSED agains the bars while he was staring. We had to bottle feed him the first 6-8 hours of his life (rejected) and I always said he was more like a dog. I have other stories too that are just as strong. I am sure they know and remember individuals.

  4. Margaret Ann Herron on January 3, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    Yes! I broke a halflinger horse for my boss, riding him all summer as I guided trail rides (as well as working him at home). Then 5 years later I was conducting riding classes at a schooling show for a large composite group of 4-H’ers, when a draft looking horse rode around. On each pass, the horse would really LOOK at me with his inside eye. I thought it odd, and then I recognized him. When I asked the rider about the horse, sure enough it was my GUS! My husband bought him for me a little while later and I used him in my lesson program.

  5. Beth Weaver on January 3, 2015 at 11:14 am

    They remember each other too. I sold a horse to a girlfriend and then 6 months later trucked my gelding to her house to go on a trail ride. It was obvious from their behavior that they remembered each other. Kind of makes me sad to sell a horse.

  6. Kathy Foster on January 3, 2015 at 2:06 am

    Yes, horses remember people and other horses as well. We had a filly that we sent to a trainer as a two year old to have 60 days of riding. The following year the same trainer was in our area conducting a working cow clinic. We attended with the filly. As soon as she heard the trainers voice on the loud speaker she pricked her ears and was drawn to the corner of the arena where he was. It was obvious she remembered him and wanted to be where he was! Another example was with three horses we owned for some time. We sold one mare, and years later all three horses were at the same team penning. I rode my mare over to the trailer to see the mare we had sold years ago and instantly the mares remembered each other. The rest of the day both mares and our gelding whinnied for each other from the trailers across the arena.

  7. Michele on January 3, 2015 at 12:53 am

    When I was 16, I had a mare who was in foal. My parents were getting a divorce and my dad sold her without my knowledge. I came home from school early and there was a man whipping her to get her into a trailer. My dad was surprised that I had early release that day. I started crying and asked the man if I could calm her down and put her into the trailer. He agreed. I heard she was taken to Louisiana where she had her foal a week later. I never saw that baby.
    I had a habit of looking through the horse classifieds in the Dallas paper. One day, 4 years later, I saw an ad for a sorrel mare. They didn’t usually put the registered names in the ads, but this one said AQHA Mare “Lady Baird” for sale. I immediately called the number and explained the circumstances. I didn’t have any money but I asked if I could just come and see her. The man was very nice and agreed for me to come out that evening. When I got out of my car, the man told me that the horses were on 40 acres. I could see them in the distance. I called her Sasha. When I yelled her name, she looked up and came running to me as fast as she could. The man was amazed. He told me that he had never seen her do that before. He said he had bought her as a brood mare from the man in Louisiana. He told me that she was in very poor shape when he got her. I thanked him for taking care of her and letting me see my old friend. I finally got to say goodbye to her.
    Thanks for sharing. It reminded me of my old friend. That was 31 years ago.

  8. Calamity Rene on January 2, 2015 at 11:45 pm

    Aww what a cute story! Wow, that is so cute. Thank you for for sharing.

  9. tannachtonfarm on January 2, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    Yes, they remember! neat video – thank you for sharing!

  10. Gina Zylstra on January 2, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    I love this story. Heck, I bought a farm to keep one of our family horses, when my Dad’s Parkinson’s disease prevented him from caring for Duke any longer. (I wanted a horse farm anyway, but it influenced timing). Duke recognized and reacted to my mother when he had not seen her for years. She was walking thru the field to our barn to see some improvement and this horse, like Scrapper, demonstratively came to her and insisted on recognition (more than looking for a treat in her pocket). I have a question—you comment that Scrspper is sore in the video. How do you know? Is it demonstrated by the inconsistent bob of the head? Thank you for your consideration. I am trying to improve my ability to recognize lameness/soreness issues. Thank you. Gina

    • Stacy on January 3, 2015 at 1:17 pm

      So great that you did that for Duke. Yes, the head bob was what I was seeing. He has arthritis and navicular changes. Also, I knew him when he was young and his stride has changed, shorter and stiffer. Similar to people aging and dealing with health issues we see the same thing with horses and it is even easier to see if you knew them in their younger self.

  11. kristie on January 2, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    It really is amazing how they remember! People always say they forget but I don’t think so. I Retired my mare to north Carolina at a friends farm in 2010 I was able to go visit often at first but the last 2 years I couldn’t go I went just last month I started talking to Midnight from across the farm and she looked up and ran to the corner of her paddock and started hollering back to me!

  12. darlaflack1 on January 2, 2015 at 8:31 pm

    yeh, they remember us!! Years after I sold a little TB off the track I went to visit his 3 day event stable. I went down to the end paddock where he was, turned away from me. Made my little Brrrrr sound and he Flung himself round and ran to me.

  13. Chris Corio on January 2, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    Where in Maine? I live in South Portland!

  14. Laurie Nesselrode on January 2, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    I raised a colt, who was out of my favorite Paint mare, for 1 3/4 years. I did ground work with him extensively. He had one habit though that drove me crazy. He would from, day one, run directly up to me slide to a stop and place his head into my hands. He would do this only to me. I allowed it only because he NEVER misjudged his stopping distance and he never hurt me doing it. He knew I was in charge. I warned the lady I sold him to about this habit and called a few months later to check-up on how he was doing. She said he never did this with her or anyone else. Hmm. She sold him, and then he was sold again. Five years later I finally found him. I called his new owner asking if I could come out and see him, and he said sure. I arrived and he was out in a very large field very far away. The man said I could walk on out and catch him. Well it wasn’t needed. He was grazing with his butt towards me about a 1/4 mille away. I started walking and got about ten steps in when he raised his head and looked over to see me, and studied me. At about twenty steps I swear I saw his eyes pop! He spun around and came running towards me at a hell-bent for election speed. By now he was 17 hands tall and very muscular. I stood my ground remembering our ritual and praying that he did too. He did. He came screaming in and did the nicest slide stop, snorted, took one slow step forward then placed his head into my hands for some hello scratches. The owner had just about freaked out as he later said he had NEVER seen his horse do that. My colt remembered me. I cried as well Stacy. I was lucky and was able to ride him that day which gave my heart so much pleasure. I will remember that day, and that horse always. This was thirty-five years ago.

    • me viccione on January 2, 2015 at 9:55 pm

      tears of joy … wow … i would just drop & die right there LOVE wins – meviccione

    • Rochelle on January 5, 2015 at 12:21 pm

      Awesome story!!!

  15. irisvillagegirl on January 2, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    Thanks for sharing that with us Stacy! I always believed that to be true, now there is no doubt in my mind! Love reading everything you write!

  16. Rebecca Fetterman Vensel on January 2, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    My 20 year old Arabian gelding I bred and raised was with me for 18 years. He left for two on a free lease to a shirt-tail relation. Although he was only an hour and a half away, I did not go see him during that time. I was kept informed via Facebook messages, pictures and videos of how he and his teenage girl were getting along. He received excellent care. I only got him back when she began to lose interest and for the last several months he was gone, the girl’s dad trail rode him. When he came back, it was to a different barn and that “threw” him. He kept looking at the girl’s dad, like, “don’t leave me!” But as soon as they pulled out of the drive he looked at me, nudged my shoulder and demanded a head rub, which I had always allowed him to do. It was his way of saying, “where have you been for two years?” We picked back up where we’d left off.

  17. Karen on January 2, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    That is a great story. I am glad you gave Scrapper a soft place to rest 🙂

  18. laura on January 2, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    I had my old mare for several years and like you sold her for financial reasons. We tracked her down after the new owners sold her without giving us the first refusal they said they would. It took some time but when we eventually found her she recognised the sound of my mum’s car as we pulled up and she neighed at us (she wasn’t a very vocal girl so this was especially touching) the latest owner was considering selling her but as she had never sold a horse before it was a hard decision. After seeing us together though she was happy to sell her to us and she will never go anywhere but heaven from here. That was a 3yr separation 🙂

  19. Carla on January 2, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    I have read that a horse never forgets, that they have a better memory than an elephant.

  20. Sally Hodges on January 2, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    Someone at a shared barn saved a winning trotter, Bob, after his racing career ended, and she turned him into a real horse. I never took care of him but I was in his life, and I talked him through recovering his legs on a humid summer day when he had slipped in the aisle of the barn, gone down and was panicking. A few years later I drove by my old barn and Bob was in the field out front, so I rolled down my window, called his name, and he practically ran over to me with his arms waving. Was that recognition? It felt like it at the time.

  21. johanna on January 2, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    great story, in tears…

  22. Linda Marie Finch on January 2, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    This was a very good story Stacy. I do believe that horses remember people. I know my mare Bunny Girl knows where I am when I’m around the barn and if she can’t see me she nickers until I go to her. They are amazing creature’s and I wouldn’t Be without one. Love your stories.. Keep them coming. 🙂

  23. marla2008 on January 2, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    This is SO cute, and such a touching story. I have only one experience with a horse unexpectedly remembering a human, and it wasn’t over such a long period of time, but it surprised me all the same. I owned a young mare (3 when I got her) for about a year, and for that time I was almost the only person to train and ride her (she had a few rides with some teen students, but I did a huge amount of work with her both on the ground and in the saddle). When the boarding place where I had her closed down (unexpectedly and on short notice), i was forced to lease her to a dude ranch (she loooved being outdoor and was rather resentful or arena work, so it was perfect for her), that eventually bought her. About a year after I first drove her there, I went back to collect the sale’s money. I hadn’t seen or ridden her in the meantime. I rode her that day and she was fine, when we were done and I brought her back to her pasture and her buddy I thought she’d just amble away, content, but instead of that she stuck with me and followed me to the gate and nuzzled my chest and I couldn’t believe how affectionate she was acting. It really made me wish I hadn’t had to part with her. She was a sweet, sweet little mare. The dude operation has sold her to a lady but she remains boarded there, and they were kind enough to notify me. I hope I keep hearing from my girl.

  24. dave simmons on January 2, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    i got my retired show horse ronnie back after 4 years, when i went to pick him up he walked right up to me and put his head under my arm, when i got him home the mare that used to show with him never left his side for over 3 weeks , i have a new younger mare who fits in great with the herd but picks on any new horses , she charged him right away and kicked him and the 3 old horses surrounded him, as if to say to the young mare not to touch him and she never did again, my daughters horse was here for a week and new mare never let him in the heard the whole time ,my belgein cross chester and ronnie always played together, since ronnie was gone i’ve never seen chester play like that with any other horse, the day ronnie was back chester and ronnie were playing together like he had never left… so yes they definetly do remember people and others horses and their old barns , and ronnie is never leaving agian after seeing this, and just for fun i took ronnie to a ranch sorting with the mare he showed with, a friend of mine was just riding him around for fun , so i thought i would take him in for 1 round, had not been on his back for 4 years untill i walked into the pen to show, his ears perked up and it was oh yea lets go and he got me 2nd place, people that had never seen him, their jaws droped, everyone else who new said good old ronnie

  25. Gayle Allen on January 2, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    They never forget anything, that is how they learn, good and bad. I have one horse, my favourite, from when he was weaned. Everytime one particular farrier came he would shake when the farrier went near him. I know this farrier can lose his temper. From that point on I never let that farrier put shoes on him if I wasnt with him. Later when I moved and found another farrier, this horse looked at him, and Im sure he breathed a sigh of relief that it wasn’t the old farrier, he just stood there, dropped his head and was as calm as.

  26. Terrie Solomon on January 2, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    I too believe that horses remember their good and bad times and handlers, I worked with a group of 3 yearling Arabian colts during one summer and the next summer when I went back I had those same 3 colts and the workers said you can’t catch any of them. When I went to the gates of their pens I called them and 2 of them came right up to me and the 3rd only took about 45 seconds and I could catch them easily everyday, I believe it was because they new me. Yes horses do remember their people good or bad. I am glad you have Scooter, it is always special when your kids get to ride “your horse” I had the pleasure of keeping the gelding I raised until he died at nearly 30, my oldest son won his first all around high point with him. I could whistle and he would come running, as he aged he would amble to me but he came non the less. I do miss him but I am glad that I have pictures with both of my kids on him. Enjoy Scrapper!!!

  27. Kristine on January 2, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    I have had that happen. I sold a horse when I was 16 and went to stay with the people who bought him 5 years later. He remembered me definitely. They told me after I left every time the back door opened he ran to the gate and called. They said he did it for about 3 weeks. Cute but sad

  28. Lesia Lowe on January 2, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    was Scrapper a barrel horse in the beginning? or a reining horse?… I remember something about him being a mounted police horse…right?

  29. Bonnie Braden on January 2, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    What a blessing for you and especially for Scrapper!

  30. Patricia Roy on January 2, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    That is so awesome Stacy. I cried with you. So glad you have him back. I had mare who I reluctantly sold and then tried so hard to get her back. The people I sold to sold her to someone else and refused to give me the info. She is still registered to me and I miss her dearly. I know that she would recognize me if we were to ever meet again. I pray for that day. If anyone reads this her name is Smart an Money. I called her Sapphire. A qtr. horse, last known address was in Wisconsin near Green Bay. I live in CT.
    Pat Roy

    • me viccione on January 2, 2015 at 9:52 pm

      Hi Patricia .. there are some rescues Rosemary Farm, Return To Freedom … perhaps these good folks could help you find Sapphire .. I am originally from Connecticut bred & born so .. as a Connecticut Yankee I hope my friends at RF or RTF can help you locate Smart an Money aka Sapphire .. shame on the “people” that sold her & won’t help you find her … sounds FISHY to me … Godspeed & Ill pray you are able to find her sincerely .. me viccione (now) Deerfield Beach Florida

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