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By Jo Cleland

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The Origin of Emotions Emotions are physical reactions to external events. They are either innate or are learned during the course of a lifetime, and they serve to harmonise the needs of the body with external circumstances of life. This arbitration mechanism enables the body to produce a behavioural reaction that is optimally geared towards fulfilling its own needs and goals. This is a sober, rather scientific explanation of the complex phenomenon known as ‘emotion’. In reality, there is much that we do not understand concerning the emotions, and formulating a general definition is problematic.

It was only during the last 5000 years that humans have exercised a substantial influence on the development of the horse. This process of keeping and breeding animals in captivity is called domestication. Humans selected specific traits among the original subspecies of the horse and bred different breeds, depending on the nature of the task for which they were used, or according to subjective ideas of beauty, by selectively breeding from particular parent animals, whose genes were then passed on to future generations.

Horses behave more or less the same way today as their ancestors have always done, in the ways which have proved most useful in nature. Even domestication by man has not been able to change this. Ethology, the science of behaviour, can help us understand the horse’s needs better and to participate in its experiential world. For this purpose we have to consider our means of influencing the horse, as well as its natural potential: Every horse is a unique individual, a product of its genetic heritage as well as its environment.

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