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Anthropomorphism: A Dangerous Word?
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Anthropomorphism: A Dangerous Word?

There are many words in the English language that we use to describe things, whether that be in a positive or negative light, we always manage to find a word and throw it about, sometimes not thinking about the consequences said word has.

Some words can soothe and some can cause harm, but others can have a subtle, yet powerful effect on our subconscious mind, one that we are not aware of and that has a common effect on how we interact with others, animals, and even the way we speak to ourselves.

Many times during a working week, I will quite often hear many words and phrases people use to describe their horses; “intelligent”, “a good boy”, “smart”, “carrying himself nicely” and “responsive”.

However, there are times when I hear language from the other end of the spectrum; “naughty”, “rude”, “she's being a pain”, “nasty” and “a little sh*t”.

This is where Anthropomorphism comes into play.

Anthropomorphism is defined as giving human characteristics to objects and animals, and with relevance, horses.

Horses are a completely different species, right?

They are, by nature, a prey animal and thrive in a herd environment, yes?

Horses naturally forage for 16 hours a day on grasses and can sleep standing up, correct?

Great! The fact that the above statements are quite obvious to you is a point of my post; why is it so easy to recognize a horse as a different species, but when it comes the understanding of how they think, to many, this becomes alien?

The mind of a horse is very different to that of a human, they process the world around them in a very different way. They are prey animals, and their thought process is very much reactive and 'in the moment' – a horse in the wild spending too much time thinking about which patch of grass to eat or the filly next door would most certainly be eaten, and even though they have had 100s of years of domestication, the way of the mind is still the same.

When we humans label horses as 'naughty' or 'horrible', whether this is said out aloud or just in our thoughts, this has a consequential effect on how we view and treat them; it becomes a repetitive thought pattern of which the horse will suffer for, for the human not understanding what the horse is trying to say.

Understanding and learning about how your horse thinks and learns will be one of the most important things you do for them; by understanding their mind will allow you to communicate and work with them in a whole different way.

Remember, your horse is not human.

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