Horse Sense

In the laboratory, mice and rats are frequently used as test models for humans, but the use of horses is unusual. Dr. Hausberger and her team at the Universite´ de Rennes have used a group of horses to determine if their type of work affects their personality (1). Sharing with us problems such as suppressed emotions and interpersonal conflicts makes them a good model.

This was a paper that I had to read. Expecting to see huge differences between a carthorse’s personality and that of a racehorse, I delved deep. No dawn to dusk heavy work or pampered athletes in this study, though. The work ranged from dressage, through show jumping to voltige. Makes sense of course, as the extremes would be an easy guess.

The results are interesting as they show marked differences in the way they expressed their emotions. The voltige horses were very laid back, and I guess running around a ring all day, while some scantily clad human does gymnastics on your back, would give you a “whatever” approach to life. The dressage beasts were the most tetchy and emotionally uptight. The rationale was that the utterly complete, tight control by the rider of every movement that the horse makes, while having to be sensitive to the slightest indication of the rider's intention and act accordingly, would make anyone anxious and stressed.

The more I read, the more the parallels with life at the office stand out. The question remains though, why do so many of us clamor for the high stress ‘dressage life’ when the ‘voltige life' would only make us laid back and calm?


One Response so far.

  1. jazgal says:

    if "calm" paid more, you can bet that high stress would lose out, but calm pays more only if you are already the boss, I think! I think that we should all get some running in the ring time with the gymnasts.

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