Chinese New Year 2014: What Do You and Horses Have in Common?


From: National Geographic
By: Liz Langley

Snakes are so last year.

As Chinese New Year celebrations start on January 31, the Year of the Horse will begin and people born under the equine sign will have fun looking at their fates and traits.

But do horse people share traits with real horses?

Sue McDonnell, founding head of the Havemeyer Equine Behavior Lab at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine, gave us some insight into these beautiful and beloved animals. You might really be a horse if…

You’re a team player.

Horses are highly social, McDonnell says, having evolved on the open plains to rely on principles like safety in numbers and detecting the alarm signals of other species.

You’re bright and perceptive.

Horses sense your mood: “They understand the emotional state of the beings around them, including humans,” she said.

For instance, a horse being ridden can learn a lot from “simple cues in our posture, tone of voice, breathing, and heart rate if we’re touching them.”

She also pointed out research in which riders were told to anticipate a problem along a course. The rider’s heart rate would rise, and the horse’s would then rise too—even when the problem never happened.

We’ll scratch your back, you’ll “scratch” ours.

Horses groom each other with their teeth, so if a horse nips you when you’re grooming it, it may be trying to reciprocate. When they mutually groom they get pretty nippy, McDonnell said, grabbing onto hairs and skin, so “you can understand why it’s not a great idea” to encourage them.

POST DATE: 02/01/2014