Anthropomorphism - Don Jessop - Mastery Horsemanship
Anthropomorphism - Don Jessop

Anthropomorphism - Don Jessop

November 03, 2020 2 Comments

Because I've written about this before I'll be brief and to the point.


noun - The attribution of human characteristics or behavior to a god, animal, or object.

It's common in the horse industry to hear the term anthropomorphism from trainers. Horse trainers say, don't apply human emotions to your animal. They say your animal doesn't experience human emotions. But they're wrong!

Animals experience grief, fear, pain, frustration, anger, hypertension, anxiety, depression, sadness, happiness, excitement, contentment, awkwardness, playfulness and many more emotions. Just like humans. Anyone too blind to see this in their animal shouldn't have animals. Animals shouldn't be treated like slaves or inanimate objects. They should be treated with reverence and respect, the same way we would treat a child, a student, an athlete on your team, or an employee in your organization.

Here's the "kink" in thinking about horses however. Here's where people get stuck...

Most natural, positive or progressive minded horse people know that animals feel emotions, even human-like emotions. Where people get in trouble is when they apply their own current emotions on the animal. 

In other words... "If I feel sad, then my horse feels sad too." This is not true. It could be true by sheer coincidence, but certainly not true by any other means. When we as trainers say not to anthropomorphize, what we're really saying is, don't put your current feelings onto your horse.

Sometimes, I'll hear a student say, with a great big smile on their face, "My horse is having such a great time." Then I'll look at the horse and think. "OMG, that horse is NOT having a great time." If you feel happy, don't assume your horse feels happy in that moment too. If you feel scared, don't assume your horse is scared too. If you feel angry, don't assume your horse is angry at you or trying to make you angry, which could easily lead to a fight. Try to read the horse. I have courses, inside our Mastery University, dedicated to reading the horses current emotions rather than applying our own.

If you can learn to read the horse, you can be a true leader.

Take a look at this picture and tell me what this is horse feeling.

Ten people will have ten different answers and the answers will be most often be dictated by the current emotion of the person looking at the picture. 

The reality is that it's nearly impossible to get a good reading from one picture. Motion helps read e-motions better. But, better than trying to read the feelings, try and read the attention and energy output. At least if you can determine that, you can begin to make simple corrections to guide the attention and change the energy level. These, and many other tools, are available to you in the Mastery University. Check it out today!

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2 Responses

Cheryl Casati
Cheryl Casati

November 11, 2020

Thank you for this clear, and very true statement. There was a video that highlighted that horses do grieve I watched about 5 years ago. It showed the small herd grieving over their herd mates’ body, and STILL grieving at the same spot after he was buried for a day or 2.

Marianne Spitzform
Marianne Spitzform

November 04, 2020

Thank you for this. Just as you say, it is obvious to anyone who is quiet enough inside, all the many ways our horses feel. Just wanted to send some appreciation!

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