Horses get under our skin, become so much a part of our lives that we think about them when we’re on holidays, we dream about them and we spend hours trying to work out why they do what they do.
I’m a psychologist, and psychologists tend to spend hours trying to work how why people behave the way they do – and part of that process of Sherlock Holmes style investigation involves comparing animal species, to find the differences and similarities. When we do, they tell us not only about how other animals act and feel, but also a lot about humans too.
Sometimes, my explanations of the parallels between human and horse behaviour are useful to people who are trying to work out why their horse is acting a certain way, and sometimes, people just enjoy reading my funny little stories about odd horse and human behaviour.
Some will say that this is anthropomorphism, but I disagree. Anthropomorphism is attributing uniquely human motivations and emotions to animals of other species – but not all human motivations and emotions are unique to us. We share many of them with other species, including our horses, and examining these common motivations helps us understand ourselves as well as our horses.
Whatever brings you to this page, I hope you enjoy the stories, I hope they spark some ideas for you, and I hope you’ll comment, with your thoughts or questions for discussion!
Finally, here’s a quote from Robert Hinde – I will blog about him at some point soon, because what he wrote about infants (human and other species) and their attachment to their parents is very relevant to horses. In the meantime, here’s what he had to say about anthropomorphism and why we might need it to help us understand our companions of other species:
“Fear of the dangers of anthropomorphism has caused ethologists to neglect
many interesting phenomena, and it has become apparent that they could afford a
little disciplined indulgence.”
Robert Hinde, 1982