The word anthropomorphizing is a popular term used in warnings to horse owners and trainers not to anthropomorphize horses. It is a difficult enough word to say (anthro po mor fizing), let alone to understand what it means especially in the context of our horses.
Merriam-Webster states the definition is to attribute human form or personality to things not human1 and Wikipedia describes attribution of human form or other characteristics to anything other than a human being2. Both Webster & Wiki seem to be saying the same thing, so it seems we should not attribute human characteristics to our horses? The question begs what separates us as human beings from animals besides the obvious physiology?
Most experts describe the differences between humans and animals are self-awareness, self-consciousness, the ability to contemplate consequences, reflection on one’s purpose, origin, etc. We are unable to know whether animals, horses in particular, reflect on their purpose or origin, and most would agree horses live in the here and now, in the moment, relying on their sensory input which invokes instinct, but what about self-awareness and the ability to contemplate consequences? Isn’t self-awareness and contemplation of consequences exactly what we are teaching our horses when we train them? Are we not anthropomorphizing our horses by bridging their sensory input with their brains to think before they respond or react? And what about training to contemplate consequences, are we not doing that too?
Anthropomorphizing isn’t a bad thing, it is actually what we do when we are training and working with our horses. Where the trouble lies with anthropomorphizing our horses is when we forget that the horse has a huge sensory input center, its entire body, which responds to the slightest touch, sight, or sound, that can be dangerous to us, our veterinarians, our farriers and others. As horse owners, it is our job to demonstrate to our horses herd leadership which develops trust in us while we teach appropriate safer responses for integration into the domestic world. We must always keep in mind when around and working with our horses that they are genetically wired to require a herd leader at all times, even in a herd of two, you and your horse. It is our job to be the competent, compassionate, trustworthy herd leader that establishes healthy boundaries, and healthy behavior.
To learn more about being the herd leader your horse is genetically requiring you to be, watch FREE Missy Wryn’s entire Training the Whole Horse video series on her YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/wholistichorsewoman. Missy is the creator of the All-In-One bitless bridle, founder of IRON FREE RIDING, Sisters of the Saddle, the B Horse Club and the Equine Support Center for Fibromyalgia. For more information visit Missy’s website at www.MissyWryn.com or call toll free 888-406-7689.