I am an admitted National Public Radio addict. One of the things I’ve missed most living here in Hawaii is the non-stop stream of NPR I used to get while driving. Here in Hawaii I don’t get to listen to NPR because I don’t drive very much. It took me at least a half hour to get almost anywhere in central Virginia. Here, it’s five minutes tops. There are apparently no satellites that cover this area of the North Pacific, so there’s no Sirius Satellite Radio, either. No all-day NPR for me. I can get a few minutes’ worth if I’m lucky enough to be in the car at the right time. Phooey. One of my favorite things about NPR was Ira Flatow’s Science Friday. I have learned so much from his fascinating guests and had more than a few driveway moments listening to something worth staying in the car for. For the net few weeks, I’m going to host my own little Science Friday here at Enlightened Horsemanship Through Touch. I look forward to your thoughts on the subjects I plan to present.
The first article is a real doozy, right up my alley, so to speak. As a writer whose self-assigned mission is to find all the science she can to back up the intuitively-derived methods of some of my favorite horsemanship practitioners, I get all excited and jump around when I find good stuff like the following article, # 14464, from The Horse.comby Nancy Zacks, published July 1, 2009.
Horses React to Human Heart Rates, Study Finds
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 several colleagues tested ten horses and 20 riders to find out if humans nonverbally communicate fear or anxiety to horses. The researchers used heart rate as a fear indicator. In the study, conducted in an indoor arena, 20 people with varying levels of horse experience walked and rode 10 horses from Point A to Point B four times while wearing heart rate monitors. The horses also wore monitors. 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. According to the study, these findings indicate that analysis of simultaneously recorded human and equine heart rates under different experimental handling or riding conditions can be a useful tool to investigate horse-human interactions.
The increase in the horses’ heart rates probably means that they are more alert and prepared to react to any potential danger. 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.
Each and every one of us knows that if you’re nervous, you may well induce the very spook you’re trying to avoid. But is it solely your heart rate that cues your horse to the fact that you are nervous? I wonder if these scientists are looking at other physical parameters to measure the horse-human interaction.
The study, “Investigating horse-human interactions: the effect of a nervous human,” was published in the July 2009 issue of The Veterinary Journal and abstracted in PubMed.
© 2009 enlightened horsemanship through touch and Kim Cox Carneal
If you like what you have been reading, please subscribe to the RSS Feed, and visit Bloggers Choice Awards to vote for Enlightened Horsemanship Through Touch.