How Horses Heal

Chapter 3
Horses Healing Humans . . . Bodies and Minds

Many humans with certain types of emotional damage experience positive feelings of familiarity as they unconsciously identify with the two primary equine survival traits of hypervigilance and herd-dynamic-based social skills. These shared traits and interspecies identification can create mutual feelings of safety, acceptance, and compassion for both human and horse. In turn, this identification can lead a person to the self-awareness necessary for healing their emotional wounds. Equine therapy is basically interspecies mirroring. All the mirroring effects that take place between horses and humans happen as nonverbal communication.

One of the most intriguing pieces of neuroscientific research to support this comes from the discovery and knowledge of what has been identified as “mirror neurons.” Mirror neurons reside in the brain of both humans and animals (including horses). The reason they are called mirror neurons is because they are activated both when the subject takes an action and when the subject observes the same action performed by another. Many researchers in the field of neuroscience believe that one function of mirror neurons is to create the capacity for emotions such as empathy and compassion. If this is true, it would add scientific credence to the existence of the powerful nonverbal communication and connections between horses and humans.