The Benefits Of Music For Horses
The research supporting music therapy is one of the most significant reasons it has become a widely accepted treatment for a range of disorders and diagnoses in adults and children. But, can it help our horses as well?
Music has a significant effect on human emotions. It can make people feel happy, sad, energized, excited, or relaxed. Have you ever had a song come on the radio that makes you immediately smile or feel content?
Science has proven that listening to music directly affects mood-enhancing chemicals in humans. Specifically, an increase in Dopamine and Endorphin levels and a decrease in Cortisol levels. Endorphins are a group of chemicals that help to relieve stress and boost happiness. Dopamine has a part in our cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning and plays a direct role in the reward experience induced by music. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is shown to be dramatically lower while listening to relaxing music. The lowered levels help ease anxiety and create more of a feeling of well-being.
So how does this relate to music and your horses? Well, the first significant benefit is the relaxation of the rider. Listening to “calming” music (Songs that are generally less than 80 beats per minute) releases chemicals in the body that can decrease the rider’s heart rate, minimize stress, and help even the most anxious rider relax. From our heartbeats to our brain waves, our bodies and our horse’s bodies are naturally hardwired with rhythm. Music can help horses and riders to find that rhythm together.
Research at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences reported that an increase in a human’s heart rate directly affects the heart rate of the horse they are leading or riding. In fact, horses can hear the heartbeat of their human from four feet away. This is why our horses have an uncanny ability to sense the slightest adjustment in our energy and mood when interacting with them.
So do horses like music?
While playing classical music to stabled horses, researchers from one study measured cortisol levels and heart rate and noted significant signs of relaxation. Additional researchers from a separate study discovered that music positively affected racehorses’ performance and overall well-being over the investigation. They were more relaxed and performed better in races than their counterparts who had not been exposed to music. It should be noted that benefits were more evident when horses were exposed to lower BPI music such as Classical, Country, or music below 100 BPI (beats per minute).
Some people may be worries that playing background music while riding or in the stable will block out too many natural environmental sounds that horses use for situational awareness. However, research and equestrians have found calming success with using music therapy with horses. Though horses have a more extensive hearing range than humans, we enjoy relatively similar frequencies of noise. The number of sound vibrations emitted per second in noise is its frequency which is measured in hertz (Hz). The lower (or higher) the frequency, the lower (or higher) the pitch of the sound. Humans have a Hertz range of 20-20,000. Horses have a Hertz range of 55 – 33,500.
There are many ways to use music at home for the benefit of your horses and yourself. It’s best to test different kinds of music for your horse and observe his behavior before implementing any long-term music therapy. Particularly music therapy that is used during stressful situations.
You can play music for your horse:
While riding. Having music playing while you’re riding can help you focus on the tempo and beat of your horse. It can help you relax if you are an anxious rider. Just like dancing can help you relax your hip joints, listening to music can also help you relax your hips and seat as a rider.
During grooming or a nice massage. Science proves that massages help relax horses similar to people. Adding music to this routine can further increase the benefit of their massage!
In the barn and managing stressful situations. Visits from the farrier, vet, or dentist are no fun. Neither is transport or recovery from illness or injury. Situations like fireworks and storms can also be a very stressful time for horses. Playing relaxing music can help block out stressful sounds or just help your horse deal with their anxiety during a difficult time