Happy horses live longer and are more likely not to injure their owners. That's my theory, anyway. I'm just glad that someone with more cachet than I possess is trying to quantify equine happiness signals.
|Happy now? |
|Why we shouldn't buy horses as gifts,,,|
Dakota is thrilled with all the attention. Cliff, on the other hand,
was hoping for a new snowmobile.
|Again, no degree required. He might just be happy I got off, but|
it's obvious that joy abounds in this photo.
There was a bit of confusion a few years ago about whether "mouthing" was a good or a bad sign. The Natural Horsemanship advocates insisted that chewing meant relaxation. Get that "green light" from your horse, and you know it's safe to move on to the next step in the training process. But there was another side to the question. Horse advocates using other means of determining relaxation level (like a cocked hind foot, not in a menacing, "Get away from me before I take your head off" way) decided that chewing was a sign of the lessening of stress. They argued that pressure from "Natural" training methods was so intense, that the release of that pressure caused the horse to chew in a "OMG! I'm still alive!" reaction rather than a "Gee! That was totally cool!" one.
As it will, time has passed, and that argument has become moot as technology improved and researchers became able to track heart rates, respiration, muscle heat and tension and so on. Now it's possible to say definitively that , chewing or not, a horse whose respiration and heart rate remain within normal ranges are happier than those having a panic attack at the prospect of whatever it is their rider/trainer is asking of them. And to make life easier for the rest of us, they created a wikisite (you know how I usually love those, but this is an exception to my No Wiki rule) that allows riders/owners/trainers to actually see horses in varying conditions of happiness and unhappiness and to submit videos of their own. I'm going to credit the researchers at Nottingham Trent University with the wisdom to determine the veracity of the vids that are submitted and do a reasonably intelligent assessment thereof.
In fact, I will go out on a limb and actually "like" their Facebook page. From what I've seen, these folks actually do get the difference between negative reinforcement and punishment, which is huge in the non-psychology-trained tribes. I've spent many an hour trying to explain this. They do a fine job without resorting to epithets and gin chasers.
And while you're about it, try their Ridden Horse Behavior blog. I'm fascinated by the way they've applied human psychological constructs to equine behavior. Very cool. In fact, stop reading this and go there now. Make a cup of tea first, as you're going to be there a while.
Happy Horses Make Happy Horsemen!