The special relationship of people and horses

February 6, 2022 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: journalism.

If you are someone who rides horses or who thinks of horses as among the most graceful and beautiful animals on earth, Janet Jones has things to say that you will want to hear.

Jones is a neuroscientist who studies perception, language, memory, and thought. She also trains horses and has become a keen observer of the relationships between horses and humans. Here’s part of an article by her that appeared recently in Aeon magazine:

No one disputes the athleticism fuelling these triumphs (described in a previous paragraph in the article), but few people comprehend the mutual cross-species interaction that is required to accomplish them. The average horse weighs 1,200 pounds (more than 540 kg), makes instantaneous movements, and can become hysterical in a heartbeat. Even the strongest human is unable to force a horse to do anything she doesn’t want to do. Nor do good riders allow the use of force in training our magnificent animals. Instead, we hold ourselves to the higher standard of motivating horses to cooperate freely with us in achieving the goals of elite sports as well as mundane chores. Under these conditions, the horse trained with kindness, expertise and encouragement is a willing, equal participant in the action. Aeon Magazine: Becoming a centeur.

Even to those of us who do not consider ourselves equestrians, Jones’ article in interesting and instructive.

Jones identifies three aspects of the way the horse’s brain works that make them especially at one with humans:

— their touch perception is highly sensitive;

— body language is their principal means of communication;

— horses can actively and can do so quickly.

This is a fascinating article with a saddle-load of insights — relevant even if you have never been on top of (or in my case, lying on the ground next to) a horse.

 

 

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