Happiness and horses

Exploring how our relationships with animals can make us healthier

A lot has been written about the positive effects that animals can have on our social, emotional and mental well-being. University of Regina researcher Darlene Chalmers set out to determine whether clinical research would substantiate the mostly anecdotal evidence about the benefits of human-animal interactions.

Chalmers and her research team, which included both social workers and veterinary professionals, studied how the interactions between people and their horses affect the owners’ overall well-being.

The researchers discovered that the physical and emotional aspects of caring for a horse—and the relationships that form as a result of that care—are highly beneficial to not only the owners, but also to the horses.

The team’s findings are already being used by programs that bring humans and animals together to improve people’s physical and mental health. They could also be applied by veterinarians, providing them with an important diagnostic tool that can enhance the welfare and care of animals.