New Study Explores Interaction Between Humans and Horses

Researchers from the University of Turku in Finland have launched a questionnaire survey, led by French researcher OcĂ©ane Liehrmann, to understand the deeper layers of interaction between humans and horses. Liehrmann, with a background in biology specializing in animal behavior, emphasizes the importance of examining how our interactions with horses affect their welfare and daily behavior. The researchers aim to gain a deeper understanding of the influence humans have on horses’ welfare and behavior.

Horses have been humans’ faithful companions, workforce, and partners in sports for centuries. However, it is only recently that science has begun to focus on the depth and complexity of our relationship with horses. Liehrmann’s work represents part of this increased research, seeking to understand the animals on their own terms.

“Horses are thinking and feeling animals that require understanding and respect. They are not just a tool or a sports performer; they are living beings with their own needs and desires,” Liehrmann states. Her words capture the essence of the current paradigm shift in animal welfare, where the need for a holistic approach to horsekeeping is increasingly recognized.

Liehrmann’s research focuses on a crucial aspect of horse welfare, the way we stable our horses. Traditionally, horses have been stabled in individual boxes, a system that limits their natural urge to move freely and interact socially. “We must redefine what it means to give horses a ‘good life’. They need space to unfold and the opportunity to form relationships with their fellow species,” Liehrmann explains, emphasizing the importance of meeting the basic social needs of horses.

By completing the questionnaire, which takes about 40 minutes, horse owners and caretakers make an invaluable contribution to science. “Every response is a puzzle piece that helps us form a more holistic picture of the horse’s quality of life,” says Liehrmann. Participants are asked to reflect on their behavior and the way they interact with their horses, as well as provide details about their horses’ personalities and living conditions.

The results of the survey will have far-reaching implications. “With a better understanding of horse-human relations, we can not only improve horse welfare on an individual level but also raise standards for horsekeeping worldwide,” Liehrmann points out. Her enthusiasm for the project is contagious, and it’s clear she sees this work as bridging the gap between science and practice.

Liehrmann’s own experiences from her doctoral studies, where she worked closely with horse owners, have given her a deep understanding of the many different environments horses can live in. “Whether it’s in training, competition, or leisure, each environment has its own unique impact on the horse,” she says. This view is central to her research and the questionnaire she has developed.

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Liehrmann also emphasizes the importance of long-term relationships between horses and their owners or the people they interact with daily. “Our data shows that horses that have had stable and ongoing contact with a specific person are less frightened when faced with new situations. This indicates a possible advantage of long-term bonds, which can have a calming effect on the horse,” she explains.
To contribute to this research, you can follow the link to the survey investigating the human-animal relationship, and participate by filling out the questionnaire. Your insights and experiences are invaluable and can help shape a future where the horse’s welfare is paramount.

Here you can watch an interview with Oceane Lierhmann, explaining the background for her studies animals,

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