Your Guide to Equine Health Care

Horses, Humans, and Trust

Do horses experience trust the same way humans do? A certified equine behaviorist shares her thoughts.

Horses, Humans, and Trust
Harmonious communication and physical coordination between horse and humans relies on mutual trust and cooperation. | Photo: Thinkstock

Q: What does it mean to earn a horse’s “trust,” and is trust the same for horses as it is for humans?

—Via e-mail

A: Trust is essential to forming and maintaining social attachments, and when people are in trusting relationships, they are healthier, happier, and more productive.1 Cooperative horse-human partnerships also seem to be based on trust, and various games have been promoted for building trust in horses.2 Recent research in equine-assisted mental health has explored how people develop trust by working with horses,3 but is trust the same for horses as it is for humans, and how does one go about gaining a horse’s

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Written by:

Robin Foster, PhD, CAAB, IAABC-Certified Horse Behavior Consultant, is a research professor at the University of Puget Sound in Seattle, Washington, and an affiliate professor at the University of Washington. She holds a doctorate in animal behavior and has taught courses in animal learning and behavior for more than 20 years. Her research looks at temperament, stress, and burn-out as they relate to the selection, retention, and welfare of therapy horses. She also provides private behavior consultations and training services in the Seattle area.

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