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  • Writer's pictureCarolyn Wright

The Equine Emotion

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines emotion as a conscious mental reaction (such as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavior changes in the body.

Google defines emotion as a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one's circumstances, mood or relationships with others.

Dictionary. com defines emotion as an effective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, hate, fear, etc. is experienced as distinguished from cognitive and volitional states of consciousness. do you define emotions. What are they? What is the difference between "feelings" and "emotions?" According to Marc Bekoff, "...emotions are psychological phenomena that emote us, that make us move. A distinction is often made between moods and help to shape our relationships with others in social situations" (Oct. 31, 2012).

Humans are not separate from the animal kingdom, we are part of it. Animals have emotions. Mounting scientific evidence, as well as animal emotion stories, are increasing. There have been stories published in scientific journals, such as Science, Nature, Psychology Today, and Trends in Ecology. Are you still doubting?

"The more people understand that animals, especially group-living mammals with complex brains, have rich emotional lives and, above all, are capable of suffering-mentally as well as physically - the sooner we may succeed in changing the inappropriate ways in which so many millions animals are treated" Jane Goodall.

The emotions of a horse, like the human, is located in the limbic system, often classified as a 'cerebral structure.' It is the area of the brain that is strongly related to feeling of emotions, and sustains many bodily operations, which include long-term memory, olfaction, adrenaline flow, behaviors and motivation. The equine limbic system is essential to the survival of the horse. The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) signals the 'fight-or-flight' response when danger is present, and when it is safe to rest. Social animals attune to each other for reassurance and comfort, which is why it is essential for horses to feel a sense of belonging within a herd.

Has it been proven that animals have emotions? Leading animal scientists believe they do. We see they mourn when an offspring or pasture mate is sold or dies. Cows bellow when separated from their young. Positive emotions open and invite the world in; the body is relaxed. However, in contrast, negative emotions cause a tight, contractual feeling and everything shuts down and turns inward. In horse training, positivity invites unity, negativity invites isolation.

The emotional stress of weaning, training, and competing, also known as human interaction or interference allows for the negative emotions to become trapped. In the wild, if a mare is pregnant, she will wean her foal around 10 months of age to allow for the production of colostrum for the new foal. If the mare is not pregnant, she will nurse the foal for nearly two years. A far cry from the five months the human allows for mares to nurse their foals; pure human convenience, and the cause for stressful situations.

Now, what happens when you purchase a horse with a lifetime of negative interactions? That horse is sure to have trapped emotions. How can we humans release those trapped emotions and create a happy, healthy horse? First step...acknowledge that trapped emotions are possible, open minded!

For more information about releasing trapped emotions in your horse, contact Carolyn Wright at 919-200-8796. Please leave a message with your name and contact information.

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The mare gradually weans her foal, some still occasionally nurse at the age of two. Unfortunately, breeders will wean too early. The foal is dramatically, abruptly separated from the mare at approxima


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