Horse racing is a sport where both jockey and a horse train together, compete as a team, and they share either victory or defeat. Yet we cannot help but wonder, how does the whole experience look from the horse’s perspective? Do they know what is at stake? Do they get competitive on their own, or do they kick it into high gear because they are spurred on by the jockey?
We will never be able to know with absolute certainty. Luckily we do know a lot of things about horses and their psychology, and based on that it seems that horses are aware of the outcome. Here we will explore why it would be reasonable to assume that horses are aware of the outcome of the race.
Horses and Jockey Share an Empathic Bond
Horses are used in Equine Assisted Therapy because they are keen observers and hyper-sensitive. In other words, horses are aware of the emotional state of the people around them, and one needs to be calm and confident in order to ride a horse. If this is the case, the horse can definitely sense the joy of victory as their jockey would be thrilled for winning. Also, horses have memory for emotions and are quite intelligent, which implies they can remember how their victory feels.
Horses Play and Compete in Nature
Almost all mammals like to play, especially while they are young, as they learn and hone their skills throughout these games. Although it’s not like the actual race, those games are a sort of competition. So, some basic concept of victory exists and animals can be aware of it.
Even rats who are tiny and have significantly smaller brains do know that losing feels bad. Rats fight as a form of play, and the bigger rat is always stronger and can win 100% of the time, but it chooses to win on purpose in approximately 30% of the time because if the other one finds out there is no chance of victory, it will stop playing.
Male horses also have the desire to dominate and reign supreme over other males in the herd. So it is believed that they want to win even in a racing scenario as it would serve as a display of dominance.
Horses Run Instinctively
Horses live in herds and they move as a group as well. Even when there is no good reason to run, like an approaching predator, they will do so. Horses basically run as a form of recreation, and they run as a herd. Now, while running, some of them will merely try to keep up the pace whereas others will try to compete and get ahead. In other words, they have personalities of their own, and some of them are in a way competitive and love to win.
When they are in the race, it is perfectly plausible that they view it as a herd in motion and their instincts kick in. Of course, they can also be demoralized for losing, however, it is the emotion that will not linger as it does with us, humans.