Monday, July 6, 2009

Are you nervous? So is your horse.

Here's a study proving you can spook your own horse...

An increase in a human's heart rate affects the heart rate of the horse they are leading or riding, researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences recently reported.

Linda Keeling, PhD, and colleagues tested horses and riders to see if humans inadvertently communicate fear and anxiety to horses. Using heart rate as a fear indicator, the researchers asked 20 people with varying levels of horse experience to walk and ride 10 horses from Point A to Point B four times.

The researchers told participants an umbrella would open as they rode or led
the horse on the fourth pass. The umbrella never opened, but heart rates in
both horses and humans increased during the fourth trip between the points,
when the human expected the umbrella to open.

"The increase in the horses' heart rates probably means that they are more
alert and prepared to react to any potential danger," Keeling said. "In the
wild, horses are adapted to respond to other animals in their group. A
startle reaction is more likely when the horse is very alert."

If you are a nervous person leading or riding a horse, your nervousness
might increase the likelihood of the "spook" that you are anxious to avoid.

The study, "Investigating horse-human interactions: the effect of a nervous
human," was published in the July 2009 issue of *The Veterinary Journal*.

For this reason it's good Canyon is gone. I was getting ready for umbrellas all the time.


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Good article. I do believe that is true most of the time, but not always. When Baby Doll spooked and teleported sideways and dumped me on Christmas Eve, we had already moved past something that caused her concern. I was calm in showing her the spooky thing and then relieved and relaxed once we turned and walked on....and then BAM! She spooked.
I still don't even know for sure what caused her to spook. I didn't even see it coming.


Breathe said...

I think they definitely spook on their own - they have 5 x the reaction time, so it makes sense they'll see the scary thing first.

It can be nothing - an odd shadow was Canyon's favorite. Tarp training helped with that, but at the end of the day he was just spooky.

But I did think it was telling that they do pick up on us so much. They tested all level riders.

Which is why i think it's not a bad idea to get rid of a horse you're nervous on. If you're anxious, it's going to be too... Maybe not always, but plenty.

Adventures of a Horse Crazed Mind said...

Good article (I like how they did the test) but not exactly a "news flash" for me. When my confidence on the ground was at an all time low I was so nervous that usually quiet horses would act up for me. It was a vicious circle!! I was scared so the horses became scared and restless, which would make me even more scared, which would make them ever more scred...etc. It was horrible.