Image filed with How Horses Perceive and Respond to Human Emotion, by Medical News Today.

Research shows horses are “emotional sponges”

Anyone who has interacted with horses has some awareness of how sensitive they are to the world around them and the people who enter into their sphere. Research into the human—equine dynamic affirms this and more.

In a recent post by Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA on The Horse magazine’s website, entitled Horses Are “Emotional Sponges” , it states:

“Horses are truly emotional sponges, and they react strongly and very rapidly to our human emotions,” said Léa Lansade, PhD, of the French Horse and Riding Institute and the National Institute for Agricultural Research’s behavior science department, in Tours.

In a recent study, Lansade and her fellow researchers, including PhD student Miléna Trösch, tested horses’ ability to associate human vocal and facial emotional expressions. They projected short video clips without sound of an unfamiliar woman on either side of each study horse. In one video the woman was making an “angry” face; in the other she was making a “joyful” face.

At the same time, the scientists played an audio clip of a different, also unfamiliar, woman vocalizing either anger or joy through nonverbal sounds (no words), such as grrr and aah.

The test horses—34 Welsh mares—only interacted with humans for basic maintenance and care. But despite having such a limited relationship with humans and despite being exposed to the emotions of an unknown human, the mares had “strong reactions” to the emotions displayed in the experiment, said Lansade.

The mares’ heartbeats rose dramatically, and their behavior became indicative of stress—with stiff, alert postures—when they heard sounds of angry human emotions compared to happy ones, she said. By contrast, with joyful vocal expressions, they became “more peaceful,” with relaxed postures and lower heart rates.

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From this we can perhaps begin to imagine how deep a horse’s sensitivity runs resulting in heightened emotions especially when treated in a cruel or abusive manner. This is extremely important and silences claims by those humans who claim that “horses are just dumb animals” and have no idea what may be about to happen to them.


How horses perceive and respond to human emotion, Medical News Today, by Ana Sandoiu, June 23, 2018 (external link)

Virtual energy field communication between horse and human, Gentle Horse Trainer Missy Wryn, December 9, 2015 (external link)


Filed with How horses perceive and respond to human emotion, Medical News Today.






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