The Emotional Life of Equines

The Emotional Life of Equines - Easy Breeze Farms

When it comes to breeding horses, it is important to take the emotional aspect of these animals into account as well. Breeding viciousness and laziness out of horses is an accepted fact, but is it rooted in reality, or just a projection of our own emotional states?

While your mare, for example, may seem excited to see your face when you arrive at her stall, does she really have any kind of emotional attachment to you, or does she simply connect your presence to the treats you bring?

With horse racing being as popular as it is thanks to the online betting in Australia and the rest of the world, many punters have started wondering about this aspect of the horse as well -do they enjoy the races, do they know they have won?

A Question for the Ages 

The question of whether or not animals have feelings is one that has perplexed both philosophers and animal behaviourists for centuries.

Rene Descartes argued that, since it could not be proven that they had any feelings, animals could and should be treated as automatons, subject to mechanical responses.

A couple of hundred years later, a student of Charles Darwin, a Mr George John Romanes, argued the opposite: he stated the fact of injective knowledge, whereby one could infer what was going on inside someone/something else by a careful observation of their reactions to certain stimuli, and comparing this to one’s own.

The Debate Still Rages On 

The debate is far from resolved, and continues up until the present day. Behaviour science, however, is no longer subjective. When studying animal behaviour, scientists observe, quantify, and explain particular aspects of behaviour, and strive to steer clear of any personal interpretations.

Two different people, you see, can view the very same behaviour in their horse, and come up with two entirely different sets of interpretations to explain it, since these will always be based on individual life experiences and views of the world.

Easy Breeze Farms - The Emotional Life of Equines

There’s the Rub for Behaviour Science 

This fact, that outward behaviour is subject to individual perspectives, is both the strength and the shortcoming of behaviour science. Only motivations that are provable can be held as legitimate explanations for behaviour when it comes to science.

But while projecting emotional responses onto animals is mistaken, there is nothing to say that this is what is occurring. You may well be reading the situation perfectly correctly!

The Only Two Provable Drives 

Thanks to this nebulousness, ascribing any kind of emotion to horses, or any animals for that matter, is considered to be unscientific, and those who accredit the world of science avoid it at all costs.

Most animals’ action is explained by two basic, provable, drives:

  1. Survival: to stay alive at any given moment, so doing things that will result in the animal surviving
  2. Reproduction: to breed and then nurture offspring, so as to ensure the survival of the species

Seeking food, water, shelter, and mates can all be ascribed to either one of these drives, either survival or reproduction.

On the other hand, there are unique behaviours in horses and other animals that seem not to be linked to either of these drives, but are not provable either. Since we neither whinny or nicker, and they have not grasped any human language, however, we must simply rely on our gut-feelings, and make up our own minds as best we can!