Book Review: Horse Brain Human Brain

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The Neuroscience of Horsemanship

By Janet Jones, PhD

Published by Trafalgar Square Books/ 312 pages. Paperback, Kindle

Reviewed by Margaret Evans

If there was ever a book whose time has come, it has to be Horse Brain Human Brain by Janet Jones, PhD. Jones is a cognitive scientist who applies brain research to the training of horses and riders by using the principles of working with horses at the neurological level, that internal space where the brains of two different species interact.

The book is an absolute gem of thoughtful, intelligent observations about the complexities of cross-species communication. It is divided into five parts. 

Part One looks at the challenges when two opposing species – predator and prey – form team relationships. 

Part Two looks at the considerations for how each perceives their world including perceptions of sight, sound, taste, touch, and body position awareness. 

Part Three looks at the fascinating way horses learn, imitate, solve problems, and remember. 

Part Four focuses on equine attention, emotion, and forethought. She addresses fear, anxiety, and trust and looks at the way horses express their emotions while interpreting ours.

“Part Five takes on the topic of true horsemanship,” says Jones. “Knowledge and skill are part of horsemanship, but I’m also talking about an ethical philosophy of care.”

The book is illustrated with excellent line drawings, diagrams, and sidebars that help explain not only the complexity of some of the messaging, but the internal functioning of the brain. As much as the book explores the horse’s brain, Jones dissects the human brain and the cause and effect of why we do the things we do and therefore how we approach training. 

Horses, she says, communicate with us all the time, just not in the way humans communicate with each other. 

The insights in Horse Brain Human Brain are fascinating and incredible tools to help riders and trainers better understand their horses, their own responses to how horses behave and respond, and how to move forward in training goals. This book deserves a place on every equestrian’s bookshelf.  

Book Review: Horse Brain, Human Brain

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