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Psyche / Psychosomatics

Various studies confirm the deep bond between humans and horses. The more attentive and interested a person is, the better they’re able to perceive the subtle gestures with which horses show their affection. Similar to the affection and attachment between lovers, this is also true for horse and rider. This phenomenon was proven in a study conducted by Italian researchers.

Many horse owners can confirm: even after months without any contact, horses remember their trainers and their voice. Likewise, the four-legged friends are calmer and more relaxed in the presence of riders than in the presence of non-riders. Last but not least, horses pay a particularly high degree of attention to familiar people.

Within the scope of a horse hair analysis, not only the physical but also the psychological (mental) constellations are checked. There already exists a hair analysis showing that a horse rejects its therapist. If such blockages are present, the first step as a therapist is to gain access to the “patient”. If this step is skipped, this has an impact on the success of the therapy. It can even as far as a treatment remaining completely ineffective. It is all the more important to know whether the horse accepts its therapist. In the worst case, a change of therapist should be considered.

Every rider has at some point – or more often – dealt with the question of whether the horse likes them. The same question should be asked by a therapist. A horse that has trust in its therapist will prefer to be treated and the therapy will bring maximum success.

For the health and welfare of horses, it is essential to trust and decode emotions in these animals. This is not “emotionalism” but an urgent necessity. Various methods are used to measure emotions, such as pulse measurement, blood tests, facial expressions, eye wrinkle scales and, last but not least, the analysis of horse hair.

Several experts have found out through various research projects which emotions horses show. On the other hand, without being able to prove how emotions take place in horses, it is certainly proven that the mental processes in animals are similar to those in humans. Finally, researchers recommend to tune in to the emotional world of horses.

In connection with psyche, the term psychosomatic is often used. In a psychosomatic disorder, a psychological conflict causes an organic disease. Psychosomatics includes the influence of the psyche on the body (soma), whereby certain emotions and thought processes are seen as the cause of a physical illness. To be distinguished from this are somatoform disorders, in which no organ changes are to be found.

This can lead to a vicious circle: 

A horse shows certain symptoms, the veterinarian is notified. After a thorough examination, no disease or the like can be found.
The horse continues to be observed and the veterinarian is informed of the symptoms that are still present.
After a repeat examination, the veterinarian again certifies that no organic disease is present.
The groom/caretaker of the horse becomes angry.
As a result, the veterinarian becomes disgruntled.
The groom / caretaker looks for another veterinarian – an odyssey begins. 

Therefore, again, the big difference is: With a psychosomatic disturbance both body and psyche are to be treated, because the psychosomatics might trigger an organic illness. A somatoform disorder never shows physical changes. Here is a purely psychological disorder, which is treated exclusively with psychological measures / therapies. Nevertheless, symptoms can occur that suggest an organic disease. 

Plato stated about 2,500 years ago:
“The greatest mistake in the treatment of diseases is that there are physicians for the body and physicians for the soul, although the two cannot be separated.”

Scientific evidence confirms that animals have a psyche. Accordingly, animals can become psychosomatically ill. Horse owners regularly report psychological abnormalities in their horses. 

Various emotions are briefly explained below.

Anger and rage

Your horse is behaving strangely? You can see at first glance that something is wrong? With a hair analysis you can find out which psychological disorders are present. In some cases an appropriate handling of the horse is the solution already. Ask for a “Horse psychology test”.



A close bond with a horse is formed when you are truly in love with your horse. Similar to humans, two hearts literally beat in unison. The emotion of affection is extremely complex. Measuring affection is difficult. Affection is influenced by other emotions such as pleasure or well-being.

According to equine researcher Dr. Verena Hauschildt, horses show synchronous behavior as solidarity in a group. Another interpretation is the quality of a friendship.


A horse is capable of showing grief. Especially when the best horse friend is no longer there (e.g. short stay in hospital) a horse often withdraws. It appears apathetic and sometimes stands in a corner of the paddock. Other professionals can also confirm such mourning processes. This is quite obvious in the case of a mother mare who has lost a foal.

In this case, experience shows that the mourning process lasts up to a whole week. During this time, the mother mare appears apathetic and also eats very little. It has also been observed that horses sometimes need a day to realize the death of a horse.

Symptomatic for mourning horses is a so-called “abandonment whinny”. This whinny is no different than when a horse leaves its stable group. Horses apparently can’t differentiate between “dead” and “gone.”


Increased activity, both emotional and motor in movement are signs of joy. Other signs of joy would be a relaxed posture, a carried tail, flowing movements, pricked ears, soft eyes, lips and nostrils. Knowing these signs is of outstanding importance. In fact, there is a danger of seeing joy when in fact only tension is being released. A horse that wants to release adrenaline moves much more stiffly, and raises its head upwards.

Joy is especially important in training. Horses that are praised feel better overall. The horse’s willingness to participate increases equally with pleasure. In many cases, a certain curiosity can also be observed during training.


After several studies it is certain that a jealousy like it exists in humans does not exist within horses. This may be due to the fact that a stallion almost always has several mares. Even after a study with 84 horses one is careful with the term jealousy. Only could be observed how mares sent away their “competitor”. The study of jealousy is complex because many other emotions, e.g. aggressiveness, are involved.

Anger and rage

Clear evidence regarding anger and rage has been found. An angry or enraged horse often shows narrowed nostrils, pulled back corners of the mouth and laid back ears. Depending on the expression, “threatening swinging” can also be added. In this case, the horse swings its head with a threatening face in the direction of the horse initiating the aggression. It is also worth noting that horses can read anger in humans from their faces.

Despite all the findings, it is important to keep in mind that anger has many nuances. If a horse kicks in training, many suspect anger or aggression. However, this is not necessarily true. Horses often kick in the herd and then run away because they feel harassed or afraid. On the other hand, if a horse lashes out with its front hoof, this is a sign of aggression or dominant behavior.

The causes of aggression can be under-demand as well as excess energy.