Did you know that horses can read human emotions as well, often in startlingly accurate ways, alerting us to our sadness or nervousness before we even realize it? It’s been said that dogs and horses understand us better than philosophers.
The ability of horses to read human emotion through sound and touch is exceptional. Horses, on the other hand, can read people’s facial expressions. This sophisticated ability has previously only been demonstrated in dogs. While horses can’t see color and have a blind spot directly in front of them because their eyes are on the side of their head, their vision is actually better than that of domestic cats or dogs.
Horses are very perceptive. They don’t always understand the human motivations behind our emotional responses, and they don’t always respond as a human would. But they are aware. Horse herds communicate on a level that is frequently imperceptible to us – a system of tiny movements, gestures, tension and release, pheromones, and other signals. So everything we do has meaning for them, even if we are unaware of it.
Horses who have a caring relationship with a human may respond to that human’s needs with tremendous and practical compassion. However, these are very special relationships that do not happen by chance. They require mutual trust, learning, and being open to one another as sentient and intelligent beings. Until that relationship is well established, a horse may react to our sadness, fear, or pain with anxiety or fear.
Some horses show calm compassion to every human they come into contact with. These horses are frequently used in therapy programs and serve as genuine examples of how to be in the world. Unfortunately, there are horses whose histories are rife with fear and pain, and our negative emotions will exacerbate this. But horses, believe me, are aware of how they react.