Science: ‘Horse & rider enter state of co-being’

That’s the headline from a Discovery article about a new study on the unique connection we experience while interacting with horses.

You know the feeling…


That sense of oneness you experience when you and your horse are on the exact same page…


It’s almost as if your bodies are connected…


And you’re speaking a language to one another that has nothing to do with words.


Well, there’s actually some science behind that phenomenon, according to a paper published in the latest issue of the journal Social Anthropology.

From Discovery:

Cooperation means attuning to each other,” lead author Anita Maurstad of the University of Tromso’s Department of Cultural Sciences told Discovery News. “The rider is often in charge, expressing, through body kinetics, what he or she wants the horse to do, but unless the rider attunes to the horse’s body and mind, the horse will not understand, and unless the horse attunes to the rider, the horse will not manage to perform the requirements of the rider.”

“So co-being is, on the one hand, about moving together, but also about being together on the ground, communicating as individuals, and in order to communicate, a shared sense of the other must be in place,” Maurstad added.

The study involved interviewing 60 riders from Norway and the Midwestern United States representing a variety of different equestrian sports and activities. Nearly all the riders mentioned the sense of connected, or “co-being,” described above.

Keri Brandt, a sociology professor at Fort Lewis College, proposes that “humans and horses co-create a language system by way of the body to facilitate the creation of shared meaning.”

Which is to say, in addition to learning one another mentally, the bodies of both horse and rider physically change to match one another. For instance, riders develop stronger legs that help them better communicate the aids, while horses exhibit changes in response to the load and repeated motions of their rider. One example of this would be the asymmetry a horse develops to accommodate its riders strong and weak sides. Horse and rider also grow accustomed to the voice and smell of one another.

We are literally growing together, mentally and physically, toward a place of optimal communication and harmony.

It’s a unique relationship, not easily replicated in other animals.

Many of the riders in the study reported having other pets at home, and indicated that they valued them all for different reasons, but the exhilaration of feeling completely in sync with a horse appears hard to match.

As rider Bella shared, “It’s that connection that you start craving. Once you have it, you need more.”

Pretty fascinating stuff. What do you think, Horse Nation? Read the full article here.

Go Riding.


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