In 2012, I met my first horses. They serve in Portland's Mounted Patrol Unit and are stabled near downtown, easily accessible by public transportation. Every encounter with them was a happy event for me. It didn't matter which horses were out that day or if they paid any attention to me. My mood lifted as soon as I saw them. Every time I saw them. So I began visiting them regularly on their days off.
Over time, my fascination grew into a sort of research project. I wanted to learn all I could about horses in general because these particular individuals interacted in ways that mimicked conversation. Their facial expressions changed while they looked into each others' eyes, as if new information was passing between them.
So I read dozens of books on humane horsemanship and equine therapy and I found horse trainers, animal behaviorists, and equine therapists who all agree that horses talk. Humans just can't hear them. Not with their ears anyway. Then, in June 2016, the first scientific study confirming horses 'talk' to human handlers was published.
I also found out that human-horse bonds increase human oxytocin levels while lowering stress hormones. This explained why I enjoyed the company of horses; but, more importantly, it also explained a cultural phenomenon. There was a time when Americans required close human-animal bonding in order to succeed. Now that traditional farm life has all but disappeared, most of us who were born after 1950 are oxytocin-deprived. Psychological/developmental dysfunctions are rampant because people need to interact with animals for their brains to work right.
For the first time in recorded history, humans do not depend on horses to accomplish our heavy labor. So what purpose do horses serve in our modern lives? They improve quality of life for humans in three ways:
Horses are superior to humans in their ability to correctly perceive intent.
Horses know how to peacefully coexist and we can learn from them.
Studies confirm that just being around horses is a calming influence for people.
It didn't take me long to notice that my friends acted differently when I ran into them on the streets. You know how your lover-mate-partner acts when they are around their parents? It was like that. My friends were definitely "on duty." Yes, it was nice to see me, but they were busy. So I don't run up to pet them on the street anymore. I just wave. I'd rather visit with my friends when they are relaxed.
Some people want to remove horses from urban environments on grounds that it's more humane. But horses take pleasure in excelling at their jobs, they don't like to be bored or lonely, and they are eager to interact with humans. And since interaction with horses makes people kinder, it's a great way to reduce crime. So I suggest protecting city people and horses by ensuring superior care for city horses.