The theory was that nervous people make horses calmer. Take a minute to let that soak in.
Of course the horses don’t perceive a threat from the inexperienced and nervous novices, blindfolded or not. And horses that have had good handling throughout their lives can be very tolerant, particularly of inexperienced and nervous beginners who pose them no threat and mean them no obvious harm. But to draw from that the broader conclusion that all horses are automatically calmed by all nervous people—and worse, made nervous by calm people!—flies in the face of every good horseman’s common sense and experience.
And to extend that out to generalized herd behavior, again, defies observation. Horses grazing at pasture may relax while they post vigilant sentries to keep an eye out for danger, but one very nervous horse on high alert will definitely set all of them on high alert. Anyone who’s been around horses for any period of time knows this. And anyone with a close horse-human relationship knows that a nervous/tense handler or rider has the same effect on a horse as that fellow herd member on high alert does.
When horses trust us, they look to us for cues on how to behave and, if we are nervous or tense, they will pick up on it and mirror it, even if they don’t know why. Often, if our horses are nervous and tense, it will make us nervous and tense as well. We do affect one another closely, and it is not always clear whose emotional state initiates. But I fail to see how our being nervous will calm a horse or vice versa. Rather, if we can discipline ourselves to relax, they will often trust us and relax as well, even if they don’t know why. That’s part of the magic of the horse-human bond. And it’s part of why I don’t buy this study. Experience just doesn’t bear it out. At least not my experience…