From Prey To Partner: How The Horse-Human Relationship Has Evolved

Nearly 4 million years ago, humans and equids traveled the same paths in what is now Tanzania. This coexistence is believed to be the starting point of the relationship that has helped shape the world, Dr. Sandra Olsen reported at the International Society of Equitation Science convention.

A zooarchaeologist and professor at the University of Kansas, she noted that horses have played many vital roles throughout history, including transportation, religion, property, military service, sports and more, reports The Horse. Horses have been valued for various reasons as well, including for their power, their milk and their meat. In today’s world, they are valued for their companionship, she explained.

This relationship has evolved depending on the area of the world, the resources available, the culture and the political situation. This evolution has not always been linear, she noted, and in some periods of time there have been gaps where evolution stops completely.

Understanding equine emotions is not new; Paleolithic civilizations had the ability to “read” horse’s emotions, which they then depicted in the art they created, she notes. This indicates that they were observant and recognized the importance of understanding equine behavior. The significance of understanding emotions in ancient times meant that the humans better understood their prey—horses—making them better hunters.

Though horses have been treated as signs of wealth and status, didn’t necessarily correlate into horse’s caretakers being especially skilled at meeting their equine health and welfare needs. Olsen noted that the quality of welfare for horses is dependent on the horse’s value, as well as the political and economic conditions of the culture in which they live. Society’s compassion for animals also determines equine welfare, she said. The future of the horse-human relationship may lie in the expansion of what a horse is valued for, she says, such as equine assisted therapy.

Read more at The Horse.

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