Merkies, K., Franzin, O. 2021. Enhanced understanding of horse–human interactions to optimize welfare. Animals 11(5), 1347.

Horses (Equus caballus) have been domesticated for millennia and are regularly utilized for work, sport, and companionship. Enhanced understanding of human–horse interactions can create avenues to optimize their welfare. This review explores the current research surrounding many aspects of human–horse interactions by first highlighting the horse’s sensory capabilities and how they pertain to human interactions. Evidence exists that suggests that horses can read humans in various ways through our body odours, posture, facial expressions, and attentiveness. The literature also suggests that horses are capable of remembering previous experiences when working with humans. The interrelatedness of equine cognition and affective states within the horse’s umwelt is then explored. From there, equine personality and the current literature regarding emotional transfer between humans and horses is examined. Even though horses may be capable of recognizing emotional states in humans, there remains a gap in the literature of whether horses are capable of empathizing with human emotion. The objective of this literature review is to explore aspects of the relationship between humans and horses to better understand the horse’s umwelt and thereby shed new light on potential positive approaches to enhance equine welfare with humans.

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