In 2012, I met a herd of eight horses playing in an arena and I began visiting them regularly. Every encounter 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 drew near.
Over time, I noticed them interacting in ways that mimicked conversation. Their facial expressions changed when they looked into each others' eyes, as if new information were passing between them.
That’s when my fascination grew into a research project. I read dozens of books and the most important thing I learned was that conventional wisdom about horses had been overturned in the last decade.
A good starting place for anyone to begin their own research is with this excerpt from pages 162-163 of Dancing with Your Dark Horse (2005) by world-renowned horse whisperer Chris Irwin:
"The phrase “natural horsemanship,” for example, is a dangerous oxymoron. It suggests that horses are fine as they are, that humans screw them up, and the trainer’s job is to return the animal to its original state of grace. The problem here is that there is nothing natural about what we are doing. We are not only trying to convince prey animals to allow predators on their backs and control their every movement, we are trying to get them to like it. … I don’t want a natural horse; I want a supernatural horse. Horses are “naturally” flight animals—prey victims waiting to happen who get stressed out at the slightest noise or change in their environment. What we can and should do is tap into the natural psychology and etiquette of the herd. That allows us to pursue our own ends while keeping the horse’s best interests in the forefront. That’s quite different. … We’re using natural means, but to artificial ends. … What a collected horse and rider are aiming to do is create a unit in which the body, mind, and spirit of both creatures are balanced and working together toward achieving maximum potential. The rider becomes a sort of benevolent shepherd to the horse and has its complete trust, while the horse becomes an agile and powerful companion, willing to help out with what the rider can’t do for himself."
In 2014, a university study concluded that just being around horses increases human oxytocin levels and lowers stress hormones. While this explained my own experience, it also—more importantly— explained a cultural phenomenon.
There was a time when Americans depended on horses to accomplish our heavy labor. But after 1950, traditional farm life all but disappeared, leaving most of us oxytocin-deprived. This means our brains stopped working right. It’s the reason why psychological/developmental dysfunctions are rampant in our cities today.
My research also introduced me to horse trainers, animal behaviorists, and equine therapists who all agree that horses talk. Humans just can't hear them. Not with their ears anyway.
In 2016, the first scientific study confirming horses 'talk' to humans was published.
Some people want to remove horses from urban environments on grounds that it's more humane. But urban environments are where we need our horses most. We now understand that horses enjoy their jobs and take pleasure in excelling in them. They don't like to be bored or lonely, and they are eager to interact with humans. Since interaction with horses improves quality of life for humans, it means our mounted patrols are beneficial; they function as community policing at its best.