Positive emotions don’t just make you feel good in the moment; they have long-term benefits for both you and your horse’s well-being.
- Positive emotions, such as joy, gratitude, love, and curiosity, make you more open to new ideas, experiences, and possibilities. This allows you to see opportunities and solutions that might be overlooked when in a negative or neutral emotional state.
- Over time, layering positive experiences builds mental strength, adaptability and problem solving abilities.
- Engaging in play can open your mind to new experiences, develop problem-solving skills, build fitness and trigger happiness and social connection.
- Positive emotions play a massive role in building and maintaining positive relationships. When you’re in a positive emotional state, you’re more likely to be kind, empathetic, and supportive.
- Positive emotions can benefit your physical health, by boosting your immune system, reducing inflammation, and promoting overall well-being. Experiencing positive emotions regularly can also have a protective effect on your physical health, potentially leading to a longer, healthier, happier life.
- Horses prefer to interact with people wearing a happy expression. They are able to distinguish between a cheerful voice and an upset voice, as well as between happy and angry body language. Horses will remember a person after one single, solitary interaction and will remember whether that interaction was positive or negative. Horses respond faster, and remember better, when trained with positive reinforcement, such as praise or treats, than when trained with negative or neutral reinforcement.
Incorporating practices that generate positive emotions into your daily life can be a powerful way to improve your interactions with horses and humans, as well as your own quality of life. It’s not about avoiding negative emotions but rather balancing them with positive ones. You can help yourself cultivate positive emotions by practicing mindfulness, gratitude journaling, phrasing your interactions in a positive light, choosing to surround yourself with positive and supportive people, and by actively practicing compassion and kindness.
While studies on the benefits of positive emotions tend to be limited to humans, I think you can see how encouraging your horse to have positive experiences would have similarly positive results on their relationship with you. It can also enhance their ability to cope with challenges, build resilience, gain confidence, and foster positive, trusting relationships with those around them. This, in turn, can lead to improved performance and ease of handling, especially in potentially stressful situations.
“Be positive when teaching your horse. Be clear about what you want them to do, and then praise what you see that you like.”