Health and Wellness in a Heart to Heart With Your Horse
I have heart to heart conversations with my 2 horses all the time, and I always appreciate the experience of this connection. Of course their response to my conversation does not happen with words, but it feels like a conversation. I think many people would say that they tell their horses things they would tell no one else and that these conversations improve how they feel. It is this opportunity for connecting that those involved in therapeutic riding recognize as one of the greatest advantages to being with horses. In fact, establishing a connection is one of the foundations therapeutic riding practitioners use to promote health and wellness.
Horse and Human Bond: Research Provides Support
Until recently, most of the research done that explores this connection has been descriptive. Finding ways to validate the experience of connecting with another species is a challenge, but is necessary if the experience and the benefits are to be believed and accepted. Between 2005 and 2007, Dr. Ellen Kaye Gehrke conducted a 5 phase research study to answer the question: Is there an energetic connection between horses and humans when interacting with one another? In her study, she used electrocardiogram (ECG) monitors on horses and humans to collect data that measured their heart rate variability (HRV) in different circumstances.
Her findings suggest that there is an energetic connection, but more research is necessary. Two significant preliminary findings are that horses are sentient beings and it is the responsibility of the human to promote bonding through projecting feelings of care and appreciation to the horse. This research provides support for what practitioners of therapeutic riding have been saying about the horse and human bond and for what horse owners know to be a link to their own health and wellness.
Ellen Kaye Gehrke PhD. The Horse-Human Heart Connection: Results of Studies Using Heart Rate Variability.
Another study from Sweden supports the use of Heart Rate (HR) as an effective tool to investigate the horse and human bond.
Keeling, L., Jonare, L, & Lanneborn, L. (2009). Investigating horse-human interactions: The effect of a nervous human. The Veterinary Journal, 181, 70-71.
A Heartfelt Wish For Happy Trails