In his work as a western-style cutting competitor and trainer, Joe Ammann knows how to elicit top performances from horses’ athleticism and ability to handle cattle. Much of his proficiency can be attributed to his ability to communicate with his equine coworkers.
There’s a powerful connection between humans and horses. A positive relationship between a person and a horse consists of trust, cooperation and attentiveness. When these three qualities are equally displayed between the horse and its human partner, the two will be able to form a picture-perfect partnership.
Horses are special creatures. They are majestic, strong and can display a broad range of emotions. Whether they’re around humans or other horses, they are amazingly communicative and thrive in social settings. These qualities are part of why they can develop a strong bond with us.
Horses can pick up on and understand human emotions. They remember how people present themselves emotionally and then respond accordingly. Horses are quite socially intelligent. They’re the first non-human mammal known to have the ability to recognize, analyze, respond to and remember human feelings.
Horses can understand humans’ various moods and facial expressions, as well as convey their own emotions. While they often talk with their ears and eyes, they show feelings through snorts and whinnies. In general, snorts mean horses are happy or at peace. As for whinnies, they can convey positive and negative emotions in different intensities. Each whinny has two frequencies—one describing the emotion and the other the strength of the feeling.
People feel better by just being around horses. But the steeds are capable of much more than lifting spirits; spending time with horses can be mentally and physically therapeutic. Equine-assisted therapy and hippotherapy (the use of horse riding as a therapeutic or physical rehabilitative treatment) are valuable forms of treatment for individuals with many kinds of disorders and diseases.
The relationship between people and horses has a long history. As horses have evolved and become domesticated, they’ve became a valuable source of, among other things, companionship. With qualities unique to their species, horses have become one of the few mammals that can form a lifelong, mutually beneficial and deep emotional connection with humans.
Joe Ammann displays a perfect example of what can result when a human forms excellent bonds with horses.