To find out, the IHM research team partnered with Dr. Ellen Gehrke, a qualified HeartMath instructor, to do a preliminary research project with horses. Dr. Gehrke has combined her 20 years of teaching leadership and management experience with her passion for training wild horses.
In this pilot study with four horses, we hoped to see if there was evidence that a horse’s inner state was reflected in its heart rhythm patterns, similar to what we have found in humans and dogs. Additionally, we wanted to determine if there were any indications that her horses were responding to a change in Ellen’s emotional states.
We placed 24-hour ambulatory ECG recorders on Ellen and on each of her four horses to measure their heart rate variability (HRV) during a series of different conditions and interactions. There were periods when each horse was alone eating in the corral while Ellen was sending them loving energy using a HeartMath technique called a Heart Lock-In®. There were also periods when they were being groomed and ridden. This protocol was followed separately with each of the four horses.