Emotional Transfer in Human–Horse Interaction: New Perspectives on Equine Assisted Interventions
Italian National Reference Centre for Animal Assisted Interventions, Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, 35020 Legnaro (Padua), Italy
Department of Information Engineering, University of Pisa, 56122 Pisa, Italy
Feel-Ing s.r.l., 56122 Pisa, Italy
Department of Veterinary Sciences, University of Pisa, 56124 Pisa, Italy
Bioengineering and Robotic Research Center “E. Piaggio”, University of Pisa, 56122 Pisa, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 22 October 2019 / Revised: 19 November 2019 / Accepted: 22 November 2019 / Published: 26 November 2019
Equine assisted interventions (EAIs) represent an emerging field of animal assisted interventions (AAIs), employing horses in a wide variety of activities with humans. Based on the socio-emotional competences of this species, which evolved sophisticated communicative skills to interrelate with humans, we here hypothesized the occurrence of an interspecific emotional transfer during interventions. The emotional transfer hypothesis suggests a mutual coordination of emotional states of humans and horses, which are going through a coupling process during the interaction. Even though this mechanism is supported by few existing studies on human-horse emotional fine-tuning, it could play a key role in EAIs. We moreover propose to measure this coordination through monitoring physiological variables with a novel multidisciplinary method. In the future, having an insight on emotional states of animals involved in AAIs could be useful to ameliorate the wellbeing of both animal and human subjects and to better standardize operational strategies.