Horses and Human Emotion

Horses are remarkably in tune with human emotions and responding to them. In fact, in the scientific world, their ability to recognise emotions in people’s voice and facial expressions has been found to be comparable to that of dogs and primates. But how are they so good at it? Known as mirror neurons, that horses have the keen ability to decipher human emotion because they uniquely possess an abundance of a specific class of brain cells.

What are mirror neurons?

Mirror neurons are brain cells that allow people to recognize and empathise with emotion in other people and living things.

Horses and mirror neurons

In terms of horse neurobiology, it has broadly been theorised that horses have the most mirror neurons in the animal kingdom and that the system by which they pick up on our emotions is largely similar to that found in dogs.

Horses and humans

Horses are empathetic and proficient at building relationships with each other and with people as they have many mirror neurons. The result of this is that horses and humans can engage in social communication on a neurological level. As we have seen, horses can not only read human facial expressions, but they can also remember a person’s previous emotional state.

While it is commonly known that horses are socially intelligent animals. This means that even though horses and people are unable to communicate directly through language, the line of communication between horses and people is uncommonly strong and coherent when compared to other animals.

Extracted from HQ Magazine. Why Horses in Tune with Human Emotion, 2021. Ryan Tehini, MA.