Scientists Study Horse, Human Heart Coupling

Researchers have learned that horses and humans tend to align their physiological responses to emotional stimulation.
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Scientists Study Horse, Human Heart Coupling
Horses and humans tended to “couple” their HRV—a strong indicator of emotional status—in Part 2 compared to Part 1, during which they were separated, Baragli said. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Paolo Baragli
Have you ever felt that special connection with your horse? Have you had that feeling that you and your horse are on the same wavelength, connected as one, following the same emotions, and bonding through some invisible link?

Italian researchers are hot on the trail to understand what exactly is going on with that connection so many riders and owners claim to feel. Through high-tech research using wearable monitoring systems and advanced algorithms, they’ve determined that horses and humans tend to align their physiological responses to emotional stimulation.

At least, that’s the case in this preliminary study, said Paolo Baragli, DVM, PhD, researcher in the University of Pisa Department of Veterinary Sciences, in Italy. Along with colleague Antonio Lanata, PhD, of the University of Pisa’s E. Piaggio Bioengineering and Robotics Research Center and the Department of Information Engineering, he’s investigating the mysteries of the horse-human heart connections.

In their pilot study, they tested cardiac parameters of 11 humans and one mare as the humans individually spent time with the horse

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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