Saturday, May 14, 2016

Your horse can read your emotions

Filed under "Stuff horse people already knew," comes this study:

Horses can recognise human emotion, new study shows

The scientists report in the journal Biology Letters that they made high quality, large size colour prints of the same male human smiling and baring his teeth, and frowning and baring his teeth: expressions of positive and negative emotions from a stranger. Volunteers – who did not themselves know what the photograph revealed – showed them to 28 horses from five riding or livery stables in Sussex and Surrey. And the horses could tell the difference.

So if you think your horse tends to be jumpy and over-reactive when you're in a bad mood, you might not be wrong.

I love that there is now scientific "proof" of this, but seriously, who here didn't already know this?  We all know how good our horses are at reading our emotions.  And honestly, I don't think they even need to see our facial expressions -- they sense our emotions like, well, like herd animals sense things.

But what's especially interesting is that this study takes the herd-sense out of the equation, since they used large photographs of people's expressions.  So there was no "sixth sense" involved -- the horses were reacting solely to the image.

They've done other studies on horses, such as one I remember from a few years back that shows horses have long-term memory of people.  Horses never cease to surprise researchers with how smart they are.  I wonder if there have been any studies on how much language horses understand -- I'm willing to bet they follow more of what we say that we realize.



At May 14, 2016 at 6:40 PM, Blogger Camryn said...

Well, hopefully they don't interpret our emotions only from expressions. I have what's been described as "resting be-otch" face. My horse could thing I'm always in a horrid mood.

At May 17, 2016 at 12:43 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Hahaha, Camryn! I didn't think of that. But no, I don't think they ONLY use expression. I think they can sense emotion on a deeper level than that. And honestly, since they can learn, they probably know the difference between angry and "resting b!tch" expressions, anyway.


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