How Horses Feel and Think




Understanding Behaviour, Emotions and Intelligence





Copyright © 2011 Cadmos Publishing Ltd, Richmond, UK

Copyright of original edition © 2009 Cadmos Verlag GmbH, Schwarzenbek, Germany

Design of print edition: Ravenstein + Partner, Verden Setting: Das Agenturhaus, Munich

Cover photograph: Christiane Slawik

Content photos: Christiane Slawik

Drawings: Maria Mähler

Translation: Dr Thomas Ritter

Editorial of the original edition: Anneke Bosse

Editorial of this edition: Christopher Long



All rights reserved: No Part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

A catalogue record of this book is available from the British Library.


ISBN 978-0-85788-000-0


eISBN 978-0-85788-608-8



A Journey of Discovery into Equine Psychology

A Journey of Discovery into Equine Psychology

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see the world through the eyes of another person, just for a day? How do they experience their emotions? Do they see colours like I do? How does their smile feel? Well, what would a day in the emotional life of a horse be like? An exciting thought experiment!

Of course there are limits to how far you can explore the experiential world of another being, especially of another species. Yet, by now, so many insights have been gained into the structure of the horse’s brain, into its hormonal regulatory system, into learning behaviour and many other areas of equine life that had previously been inaccessible to us, that we can at least get a glimpse of this strange world. As our knowledge of science and animal physiology develops, it is becoming clear that the brains of all mammals resemble each other a great deal with respect to their basic structure and functions. Differences between the equine brain and the human brain certainly do exist, but they are a matter of degree rather than of basic principle. However, we should not make the mistake of humanising horses, but instead must accept their unique character traits and emotional idiosyncrasies as the heritage of their wild ancestors.

In addition, every horse has its own personality as a wonderful creature with its own unique world of experience. We will see how multi-faceted its thoughts and emotions have to be. The explanatory models of the traditional riding manuals regarding behaviour are not even remotely adequate to do justice to the nature of the horse.

As a horse lover and behavioural biologist, I want to use this book to build a bridge between the world of scientific research and the equestrian world, using today’s scientific insight to present the natural rights and needs of the horse. Current research findings and explanatory models from behavioural biology help us to understand many interesting phenomena of equine life. I want to let you participate in the variety of studies and the thoughts of other researchers, and to give you a first insight into equine psychology.

But there is infinitely more to learn here. Therefore, embark on a journey of discovery! Let yourself be inspired by the texts, examine the photos closely and gather as much information as possible. Beyond this, there is only one being that can help you to get to know the personality of the horses: the horse itself!

Let us now delve into the fascinating world of horses – perhaps we will see it with somewhat different eyes afterwards.


Marlitt Wendt,

February 2009