Answer – REAL
According to one study, a unique state of “co-being” (co-being describes a relationship “in which each partner evolves to fit better with each other, both physically and mentally”) can indeed exist between a rider and their horse. Analysis of narrative data from 60 interviews with a wide variety of riders, both in Norway and the Midwestern USA, identified three areas of this “co-being” state, with the result being a description of “how horse and human meet and change as a result of their meeting”. More specifically, it was determined that humans learn to act and communicate in ways that work with their particular horses, and the horses also learn how to act and communicate in ways that work with their riders. In an interview for “The Horse” magazine, Maurstad was quoted:
“Riders speak a lot about joy and enjoyment,” she said. “And the horse relationship is explained as good for the body and good for the mind; it has both physical and therapeutic qualities”. “Horses are partners in pairs and their physical and mental well-being is something that riders care for. This, I believe, is good for the horse, good for this particular natural-cultural species, and not in opposition to their nature.”
On some level, I believe that most of us already knew this, but how great is it to have the science to back us up.
Scientific article: “Co-being and intra-action in horse-human relationships: a multi-species ethnography of be(com)ing human and be(com)ing horse”, Maurstad, Davis, Cowles. Social Anthropology, vol. 21, issue 3, pp 322- 335, Aug. 2013.
From “The Horse”: “Study: Some Horses, Riders have a ‘Co-Being’ Relationship”, Lest’e-Lasserre, the Horse, Nov.21, 2013, Article #32915.