Riders kissing horses. Horses “hugging’ riders. When people ask about horse/human bonding, I may dig a little deeper, “Tell me what you mean by bonding.”
If bonding means to you:
- my horse feels safe and relaxed in my presence
- my horse understands me – my movements and cues are predictable
I’d say that’s very important! However, if you’re hoping for your horse to share your human emotional needs and share your goals…. probably not.
Dr. Robin Foster, researcher of equine behaviour, writes that the horse’s perspective probably doesn’t mirror the human experience.
“People have an emotionally based social need for companionship, and research shows relationships with animals help to satisfy this need.
In contrast, a horse’s social needs are rarely met through his relationships with humans… researchers reported that horses are more interested in and form stronger connections with other horses than with humans.”
Researchers cautioned that,
“the negative welfare implications of keeping horses socially isolated from others of the same species may constitute an ethical dilemma for caregivers wanting to increase their horse’s attachment to them.”
How to make a horse feel safe and relaxed?
I’d say 2 key ingredients are:
- the predictability of my movements and cues
- the predictability of the environment and schedule I provide
No doubt, media and marketing benefit from painting a picture of horse and human bonding. Our horses benefit when we’re predictable and let them bond with each other.