Even when horses were the primary means of travel, they were still loved as individuals. True, there have always been wicked men who will mistreat both animals and people, (read "Black Beauty" for examples of what a horse's life could be like) but good men have always treated their horses well. (In fact, "Black Beauty" played a large role in the reformation of horse care.)
Horses have never been looked at as mere machines, just used for travel. George B. McClellan, the Union Civil War leader once said, "There is no hour spent in the saddle, that is a wasted hour." Lee, on the Confederate side, likewise loved his horses, and would often visit them in the stable just to give them apples and talk with them.
It is a well known fact that every cowboy worth anything has always made sure his horses eat, get bedded down, etc. before he does, both morning and evening. Proverbs 12:10 even says, "A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast..." Will Rogers was known for saying, "A man that don't love a horse, there is something the matter with him."
I hope someday you'll come out here to our Zion/Bryce Canyon area and I'll take you out on horseback and show you just why horses have always been so admired!