A new article in the Atlantic Monthly has some new and fascinating research about just how good horses are at figuring out humans. It turns out they can accurately read our facial expressions.
Now, those of us who have been around horses a lot don't find much surprise in this statement, but to have it scientifically verified in a study is a big deal. It means that equine learning and growth practices and organizations that use them will get more credibility and professional support. It also means that the people we serve—our equine clients— can feel more confident that the benefits they are getting in their work with our horses is science-based, not just a feel-good love-fest. You can read the full article here. The feel-good love-fest has many other real benefits that are very worthwhile, but you can know now that when you scowl or laugh at a horse, they pick up cues from your facial expression about what it means, and are thus influenced by it.
This research is another welcome validator of a picture that is emerging of the complex intelligence, sensitivity and emotional capacity of horses. Horse people have known about these attributes, but now, thanks to research like this, It's getting harder for other people out there in the world to think of horses as simple animal creatures made to serve man, and that is a good thing.
- Betsy Hickok