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Encountering the Other: An Interdisciplinary Inquiry into Horse/Human Interaction

By Hana Gartner

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This thesis asks how and why a serendipitous and spontaneous personal encounter with a being from another species created an ongoing bond. Through the lens of three intersecting disciplines: environmental studies, animal behaviour and health science, I explore how the horse, over time, has gone from warrior and labourer to serving humans as teacher and therapist.
Much of the existing literature extols the benefits of human-animal interaction (HAI), reinforcing an intuitive instinct that animals are good for humans. However researchers still cannot explain the mechanisms through which these benefits are delivered.
This study examines the correlation between horse and human heart rates recorded on portable activity trackers during equine assisted learning sessions. We found no correlation of heart rate variability between humans and horses. With little available empirical evidence and mixed outcomes, researchers are unable to make conclusive statements about the beneficial effects of HAI in the long term.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Pages 87
Department Interdisciplinary Studies
Degree Master of Arts
University York University
  1. Animal-assisted therapies
  2. Equine-assisted activities
  3. Equine-assisted learning
  4. Hippotherapy
  5. Horses
  6. Human-animal communication
  7. Human-animal interactions
  8. Mammals
  9. open access
  1. open access