A little anthropomorphism between friends


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Anthropomorphism is the projecting of human thoughts and emotions onto animals.

These days it has a bad rap.

I can see why.  I’ve watched it get riders into trouble plenty of times.

If I ever hear another rider say “He’s doing this just to make me mad.”, it will be too soon.  Every Natural Horsemanship trainer in the world will tell you that a horse owner who says “I want my horse to love me” is likely to get run over by a disrespectful horse, horses are not people, blah blah blah.

Well, duh!

Personally, I believe that Anthropomorphism is like chocolate, coffee, or red wine.  It can be fine, even healthy, in moderation.

The fact of the matter is, horses and people are different in many ways, the whole predator vs. prey mentality, but we are also both living things and both mammals.  We are often expressing the exact same emotion in a different way.

So here is your homework.  Try putting yourself in your horse’s shoes and thinking about how you might feel.

Does your horse spend hours every day in his stall?  Isn’t that awfully similar to locking yourself in the bathroom for 18 out of every 24 hours?  That’s no way to live.  When is the last time you checked your saddle fit?  Compare it to wearing a badly fitting pair of shoes out for a walk.  How far would you make it before your mood went sour?  I’d say ten steps, tops.

Horses feel joy and contentment, confidence and confusion, fear and pain and I’m pretty sure it all feels to them much the same as it does to us.  I’m willing to bet they wake up with the occasional headache, although I can’t prove it.

This is not permission to go out to the barn and spoil your horse while letting him drag you all over the barn.  Just like with humans, respect is (or should be!) a prerequisite to a healthy relationship.

I really believe we need more anthropomorphism in our daily dealings with horses as a preventative to unwitting abuse and neglect.  I think the confusion comes in when we expect them to always think and react in the same way we do.  Remember that part about moderation?