It is not uncommon for the heart rates of a loving couple or a parent and child to sync up during intimate moments. Researchers at the Italian University of Pisa Department of Veterinary Sciences designed an experiment to see if this phenomenon also occurs between humans and equines. The preliminary study – which will serve as a spring board for further research – consisted of eleven humans and one mare.
- Part 1: The human sat still in a chair in a stall next to the horse’s stall.
- Part 2: The human continued to sit still in the chair, but the horse entered the stall with the human and could explore the human through sniffing and touching.
- Part 3: the human groomed the horse.
Study author, Paolo Baragli, DVM, PhD explained his theory for this variation between phases:
“In Part 2 the horse is free to move and can decide by himself to approach the human or not. In Part 3 the horse is ‘forced’ to the contact with the human. The opportunity to have choice is one of the new frontiers of animal well-being and, in that way, our very preliminary results seem to confirm that giving the animals the opportunity to have a choice meets their emotional requirements.”
“That would mean that both autonomic nervous systems of horse and human can be influenced reciprocally. This could be a sign of an emotional transfer between horse and human. But at this point we cannot exclude other and less relevant reasons, like chance.”
According to Baragli, the study “could be relevant in the assisted intervention with horses but even in the day-to-day relationship for leisure and sport.”