The Wrap Up: Questions on My Pet Issues

Wrapping up Enlightened Horsemanship Through Touch will involve the weaving of a lot of loose ends. During this three year experiment, I discovered my purpose as a writer. And I found a lot of folks out there who either share my interests or who make interesting and informed contributions to conversations about those interests. Shared biology, neurobiology, psychology, neuropsychology, sociology and equine behavior as they relate to human-equine interactions, specifically training, with a focus on the sensory system, will be my focus.

In the interest of furthering my knowledge about those topics, I’m planning on posting a series of topics and questions that I sincerely hope you all will respond to. In the eventuality that this work leads to a publication, anyone who responds here or via email will be duly credited.

Many, many thanks for reading, and/or taking the time to explore these issues with me.

On to the first question: WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE WERE THE SOCIAL AND EVOLUTIONARY BENEFITS/REWARDS OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF MIRROR NEURONS AND BODY SYNCHRONY IN HORSES AND HUMANS? WHAT ARE THE REWARDS NOW AND HOW CAN WE EXPLOIT THEM FOR MUTUAL BENEFIT?

I’m thinking about the evolutionary and biological precursors of the herd instinct. According to Frans De Waal, as a reflex, and as a biological entity, the herd instinct (and even man as a social animal) goes way back to the deepest, oldest layers of our brains. We share these layers not just with other mammals, but even with “lower” orders such as amphibians and fish. Even as humans began to hunt the savannas, we were still prey animals. Individuals hide within a larger herd to increase security from predators.* De Waal stresses security as the first and foremost reason for social life, and how predation forces individuals together, on both sides of the equation: predator and prey. Needless to say, when reading this, I thought immediately of horses and humans, and how they relate among themselves and to one another.

I am wondering about the roles of mirror neurons** and body synchrony*** in both horses and humans.

Thanks for thinking!

* Frans de Waal, The Age of Empathy, p 19.

**see also: Mirror Neurons Support the Need for Compassionate Horsemanship and
Mirror Neurons, Ownership of the Self, and Proprioception

***Body Synchrony: (whether it is via the pathway of mirror neurons is unknown) the mechanism by which animals move in coordinated movement. Think of large schools of tiny fish rapidly changing direction to avoid a shark, or thousands of wildebeest changing course upon an unseen cue, or, in a scenario more familiar to most of us, a herd of horses doing the same. Even humans make use of body synchrony in conversation, etc., and enjoy such processes as walking in step, dancing, and singing.

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