it's a start
Posted by Rena on 7/28/2012, 6:49 pm, in reply to "opinion on this article Study: Horses More Relaxed Around Nervous Humans "
My first thoughts were about how sometimes children or even drunk folks sometimes seem to "get away" with what some of us would not .. when a horse takes care of a weak / impaired human, when the same horse might act up or challenge a more experienced rider. My mare Sony did that .. it was fascinating to me. |
I have followed the equine science thing and it is in it's infancy. Yup, I'm envious that I am not in the field, doing what appears to physicists as "science lite" and setting up "little" studies to prove this or that. Must be a nice job if you can get it!
Bit of sarcasm, skepticism and a dash of envy aside .. I am awfully glad that animal psychology studies, in particular equine ones, are being done at all!!!
These type of studies are a start .. imperfect studies as the science goes, but important in setting the base for what hopefully will grow from here.
As much as humans think we know about horses, from a scientific point of view we know next to nothing in a formalized scientific format. We think we know, but we recall anecdotes, not "data." We think Xenophon or another ODG (Old Dead God) said it all about horses, but we barely have a notion of the *art* of riding; real science is pretty scarce. Hence, the "fights" about techniques, etc -- IMO, if we compared horses with music, it's like learning to sing /play by ear alone and by imitation, without the benefit of written scores, formalized music theory sharing, or even a consensus about notation.
For what is worth, we also know appallingly little about many aspects of human psychology .. but there also, making good progress lately in the last decade.
Some of the psychology research is helped by technology and gadgets and the amazing progress in the lab, think DNA and such, and of course by the availability of computer/ statistical stuff -- but creating good statistical data is not trivial.
So to make a long story short, I look at this particular study as a TINY step in a good direction -- trying to formalize and prove/disprove/change a particular hunch or hypothesis about the horse-human interaction.
I cannot analyze this study on the base of the short report in The Horse, I'd have to read the original study then chat about it with the authors or others. I'd need a specialist to explain to me some of the basics (define "nervous") etc etc. The statistics of such a small sample are awfully dicey, it might qualify as a "pre-study" and help scientists and psych students set up better studies to follow up (if there is money for such endeavors.) Nothing wrong with that, this is how science works .. a "small" study can show that a "bigger" study is relevant and not a waste of anyone's resources.
But as a scientist, let's just say that the generalized headline does not science make .. no one can draw a definitive conclusion from one teensy study .. but it's a good start! Glad The Horse wrote about it and that the study was done!