Exploring Synchronicity in the Heart Rates of Familiar and Unfamiliar Pairs of Horses and Humans Undertaking an In-Hand Task

Hockenhull, Jo, Young, Tamsin, Redgate, S and Birke, L (2015) Exploring Synchronicity in the Heart Rates of Familiar and Unfamiliar Pairs of Horses and Humans Undertaking an In-Hand Task. Anthrozoös, 28 (3). pp. 501-511. ISSN 0892-7936

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Physiological responses that occur in horses and humans during their interactions, on the ground and during ridden work, have been investigated in a number of studies with some conflicting results. These suggest that in some situations emotional state may be transferred from humans to horses and that there is the potential for the heart rates of horse–human pairs to become synchronized during ridden work. Here we explore the effect of familiarity on the physiological responses of horse–human pairs completing a task in-hand, using heart rate as an indicator for emotional state. We investigated differences in heart rate response between familiar and unfamiliar pairings and the possibility of heart rate synchronization within each pair. Complete sets of horse and human heart rate data were available for 17 horses. We found a significant order affect, with higher horse heart rates seen the first time around the course regardless of whether a familiar or unfamiliar handler was leading (Wilcoxon test: Z=–2.67, p<0.05). However, despite this, the horses’ mean heart rates for each course were significantly higher with the unfamiliar handler than with the familiar handler (Wilcoxon test: Z=–4.46, p<0.001). In contrast, human heart rates were higher when paired with a familiar horse compared with an unfamiliar horse (Mann-Whitney U test: Z=–5.08, p<0.001). Significant correlations between horse and human heart rates were seen in three familiar pairings and two unfamiliar pairings. Our findings indicate that the relationship between horse and human heart rates during interactions is not straightforward or consistent between horses and humans, and is likely to depend on a number of factors such as experience of the test situation. Although the lower heart rates seen in horses being led by their familiar handler suggest that they are more relaxed with someone they know, this could not be said for the human partner.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: anxiety, familiarity, heart rate, horse–human relationship, synchronicity
Divisions: Social and Life Sciences
Depositing User: Mr Stewart Milne
Date Deposited: 17 Feb 2016 16:25
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2018 15:01
URI: https://glyndwr.repository.guildhe.ac.uk/id/eprint/9122

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