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Lucy Rees

Observations on Observation


Observation, or noting, covers a wide spectrum of activity from unfocused, passive awareness involving all senses (including some that are poorly analyzed), to highly selective data collection. It may be qualitative or quantitative, involve the observer as participant or not, and based on empathetic emotion recognition or cognitive/technological objectivity.

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The fallibility of human senses, observer effects, and confirmation biases have led to the idealization of software use in data collection, though its programming does not exclude bias. In human-horse interaction, recognition of specific expressions may aid, but does not substitute for, overall awareness gained from experience although interpretation and poor definition of terms often affect human action, horse welfare and the safety of both.

Examination of the interpretation of social dynamics, both in feral and domestic groups and in human-horse interaction, an area that is currently undergoing considerable revision, illustrates these considerations. Observations on synchrony in horse groups, a new area of research, leads to a nee focus on human-horse interactions with psychological benefits for both partners.

Lucy was raised among horses and fascinated by animal behaviour from an early age, she studied zoology at University College London, specializing in ethology and neuroscience, before doing postgraduate research in Sussex University. Returning to her native Wales, she became known for her success with “problem” horses and her insight led to the publication of The Horse´s Mind (1984), with influence for its combination of an ethological approach from experience gained working in Britain, Ireland, the USA and Portugal.

Lucy teaches equine ethology in universities in Wales, England, Spain and many Latin American countries, and has been the protagonist of three documentaries: To Ride a Wild Horse (HTV 1984) in which she caught and rode a wild mustang stallion in Arizona; Chamana de Caballos (The Horse Shaman, Catalonia 2002) and Salvajes (Wild Pottokas, Alucina 2017).

​Lucy has studied many populations of feral horses in the Americas, Australia, and Venezuela. Lucy currently runs the Pottoka Project, consisting of a herd of feral Basque ponies in the mountains of north Extremadura, where she lives and hosts people from across the world helping them experience wild horses.

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