Horse brain, human brain

Learn about trust by observing horses


THERE is nothing like a prey animal to teach humans how to trust. Prey animals, such as horses, are skittish. They’re suspicious of potential risk. Their brains are wired to leap away from new items or unexpected events without considering the actual risk involved from a rational point of view.

Equine brains also do not categorize new stimuli in the way human brains do—a familiar object that is suddenly experienced in a different context or from a different angle is unreliable. It’s as unreliable as it would be if it were brand new and had never been experienced before.

Why? Because horses’ prey brains survived over evolutionary eons by being suspicious of anything unfamiliar. Those who weren’t skittish enough were eaten for dinner by hungry predators. The horse has a vested interest in withholding trust, much like a victimized human being does. We humans can learn a lot about trust by observing horses.

Horses notice everything

Horses notice everything. They observe their environments very precisely, and they react to tiny changes that most humans never notice. When horse people want to know whether something has changed around our homes or ranches, we just hop on a horse and ride around. The horse will point out every novelty. Maybe the water hose was wound the wrong way last night, or a mounting block has been moved.

By observing horses and applying their prey behavior to victimized humans, we can get a much better grasp of trust: why it is so fragile, how it is lost by the tiniest stimulus, and how it can be regained. Horses are so big that they magnify fear to degrees that humans see very clearly.

By contrast, humans have every reason to hide their fears, so we often don’t realize just how scared or distrustful another person might be until it’s too late. We make a mistake in our treatment of that person, and only then become aware—by their reaction—of what we have done.

Read full article at Psychology Today »

Related reading

Horses can read and remember human emotional expressions, Sci.News, April 17, 2018.

Image Copyright: ©Petra Eckerl (

Tuesday’s Horse

Official Blog of The Fund for Horses

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