Engagement with the horse: interaction, training, riding

Activities with horses are marked by conservatism, but the changes in our society, including scientific advances, changes in attitude towards animals, and the lack of military or agricultural use for horses, are provoking re-evaluation of what we do with and to them. New fields of understanding are evolving, concerning in particulat:

  • Welfare: behavioural/emotional as well as physical

  • Maintenance that allows the freedom to express natural behaviour

  • Understanding of stress-related behaviour including aggression

  • Excessive emphasis on control and “submission” is counterproductive

  • Use of pain and force to achieve control, including postural control, is

In most countries, legislation, professional qualifications and standards in public sport lag far behind the solid body of scientific knowledge on animal suffering.

  • Training methods

  • Use of natural behaviour *

  • Use of learning theory

* I hesitate to use the word “natural” since it has been greatly abused recently. What I mean is the understanding I have gained from studying feral horses, which leads to a rapid rapport with horses in any field of training or discipline.

  • Human preparation. An increasingly urban, technological lifestyle is leading to a decline in traditional human capacities:

  • Body awareness, hence communication via body language

  • Experience in moving around animals

  • Experiential, observational and practical learning

  • Control of fear and anxiety

These considerations necessitate changes in teaching methods.