Many equine owners feel their horses have emotions. However, people continue to manage horses in ways that could garner negative emotions, Dr. Maria Hotzel of the Federal University of Santa Catarina Laboratory of Applied Ethology and Animal Welfare, in Florianópolis, Brazil says.
Isolating a horse or exposing him to stressful situations, while they cause negative emotions, are seen to be part of everyday life for domesticated horses and not a cause of welfare or emotional issues. Hotzel surveyed almost 700 equestrians and equine enthusiasts in Brazil. She found that
- 41% of respondents said they believe horses can feel jealousy
- 65% believe they feel boredom
- 77% believe horses feel joy
- 92% believe they can feel fear
- 94% believe horses are capable of feeling pain
Survey participants also had space to write in examples of when they have seen horses express emotions. Many did, using detailed descriptions of a horse's facial expression, body language and vocalizations, as well as conscious efforts of the horse to communicate with humans. The answers showed that the caretakers observed and offered sympathy to their animals, Hotzel said. Though the study focused on Brazilian equine enthusiasts, Hotzel believes that the findings would be the same across cultures.
Hotzler is aware of the paradox and is hoping to study it further, and eventually change equine caretaker views. She believes that the findings from the study could lead to more-targeted educational programs.
Read more at The Horse.
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