Anthropomorphising is the art of giving an animal emotion that would only belong to humans. We as humans feel some of the largest emotional spectrums in the whole animal kingdom. Love, loss, guilt, jealousy, they’re all very natural to us, but very few are to our animals.
It’s times like these when we don’t understand what the animal is trying to say so we imagine them saying or acting how we would when this is completely not the case. At the end of the day, horses aren’t people and they don’t communicate as we do. This doesn’t mean that they don’t feel complex emotions, rather, they feel different ones.
A good example of this is in dogs. You come home, the mails been torn up across the floor and you immediately look to the dog, he’s got his head bowed, rolling his eyes and looking anywhere but you. Most people think “oh, he’s guilty, just look at him,” whereas the poor dog, who doesn’t understand what guilt is, is showing appeasement behavior. He knows you’re angry, but why? He wants to look as small and unoppressive as possible so you don’t hurt him. Even if you’ve never shouted at him before, it’s what he does.
Like horses, no doubt they can have a great, excitable personality (looking at you Shetland ponies) but they don’t have the thoughts of “I’m going to be an idiot today for my owner." They don’t wake up on the wrong side of the bed as we do. Yes, they can have off days, but they definitely don’t have vendettas. Maybe something changed?
Take a good look at yourself before you credit behaviour. Are you in a sparky, energetic mood? Maybe your horse is feeling it, so he’s a little sharper, a little faster, or even spookier. Are you in a bad mood and maybe frightening them?
In this age of social media, where everybody runs to the internet to diagnose their horse's problems and calling them names, we should reconsider. Horses just don’t have the processing power to decide that day if they’re going to be nasty, and no amount of swearing will change that. They don’t think or feel like we do, so how on earth have we to understand that?
I read another excellent blog that looked at it from both viewpoints: whilst horses don’t feel the same emotions to us, we don’t feel the same to them either. And try as we might, neither species has a clear line of communication to the other.
This is where more troubles begin, however, and we need to take each case as an individual. Maybe someone in the far north is a little bit chilly, but her Arctic pony who has a full coat and plenty of forage has four rugs on because the owner is cold. This is a small case of anthropomorphising here, the owner feels cold and she’d much rather be snuggled up in her dressing gown, so obviously, the pony must be too. Poor pony is now out sweating buckets under its rug because the owner thought it was a good idea!
This can be the opposite too though, where the owner is nice and toasty in the house, thinking that pony has a nice bed in its stable so must be warm like them, and pony is shivering because although there's a thick bed, he has no covers or duvet, and stables are draughty.
Herein lies the difficulty. It would be awful for me to say that horses don’t have emotions, because, of course, they do. I’ve felt love and excitement from them and watched them grieve when they’ve lost a friend. That's where we have to stop though – there just isn’t enough scientific exploration to understand how deep these gorgeous animals emotions go. Is that banging on the stable door when you pet another horse really jealousy? Or is it just a call for attention. As long as you aren’t letting your own emotions cloud your judgment and knowledge, then swing on and be happy, whatever you think.
Happy loving, equine friends.