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Horses differentiate between frustration and disappointment: study helps improve communication

2024-02-21T18:34:29.096Z

Highlights: Horses differentiate between frustration and disappointment: study helps improve communication. New findings help with communication with horses. Only those who understand their horse can work well with them and ensure that they are well. Study from Canada proves that ponies can read people's facial expressions. They pay particular attention to an angry face. In negative situations, ponies predominantly use their left eye. If the situation is relaxed, look at the person with your right eye. They even recognize quite quickly whether their human counterpart knows about horses or not.



As of: February 21, 2024, 7:13 p.m

By: Larissa Strohbusch

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Horses are more than just riding animals, they are emotional beings.

A recent study impressively confirms this. But how do they show their emotions?

Every rider knows this: the horse is not in a good mood.

But why?

Is it angry or disappointed?

Frustrated or sad?

And do animals even differentiate between such emotions?

A new study shows: Absolutely - because horses' facial expressions differ significantly depending on whether they are disappointed or frustrated.

This improves communication with the horse.

Horses show complex emotions

Claire Ricci-Bonot and Daniel Simon Mills from the University of Lincoln in Lincolnshire, England wanted to know exactly: Do horses show different facial expressions depending on whether they are happy or have negative feelings?

As test subjects, they filmed 31 horses - a stallion, several mares and geldings - between two and 23 years old.

In a special setup, the animals were trained to fetch food from a specially designed device.

Meanwhile, they were filmed and their facial expressions analyzed by an objective computer system.

The scientists then expected three feelings:

  • Looking forward to the food

  • Frustration when what you want takes longer than expected

  • Disappointment when the reward doesn't come

Frustrated, disappointed, sad?

New study helps improve communication with horses.

© Frank Sorge/Sabine Brose/galoppfoto.de/IMAGO

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The results clearly showed that the animals' facial expressions changed depending on whether the horses were frustrated or disappointed.

For example, they turn their head to the left when frustrated and raise their nostrils when disappointed.

frustration

Horse shows more eye whites

The animal turns its ears back

The head turns to the left

The horse bites the feeding system

disappointment

The horses blink more, especially the mares

They raise their nostrils

The animal shows its tongue and chews

There is a leak at the feeding system

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What's interesting is that the researchers couldn't clearly assign the supposedly positive feelings.

Further investigations must show why this is the case.

You can find even more exciting animal topics in the free newsletter from our partner Landtiere.de, which you can subscribe to right here.

Social interaction: Horses understand people

It is not at all surprising that horses display a wide range of facial expressions.

After all, the four-legged friends live in a so-called “fission-fusion system”.

This means that they sometimes come together in smaller, sometimes larger groups and interact with each other very socially.

This requires intelligence and communication – which works through body language.

A Belgian research team discovered that horses are capable of so-called micro-expressions - subconscious facial expressions within seconds that scientists previously only knew from humans.

These new findings help with communication with horses.

Because only those who understand their horse can work well with them and ensure that they are well.

From the horse side, this works quite well: a study from Canada proves that ponies can read people's facial expressions.

They pay particular attention to an angry face.

Also noticeable: In negative situations, ponies predominantly use their left eye.

If the situation is relaxed, look at the person with your right eye.

They even recognize quite quickly whether their human counterpart knows about horses or not.

Source: merkur

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