Applying behavioural science to the way we keep, work and care for horses. I’m very proud to have co-authored this book with a group of esteemed colleagues.
Intended for people who work with horses and for owners who want to learn more, Equine Behaviour in Mind provides ideas for practical ways that changes can be incorporated into daily interactions with horses. This book advocates a mindful approach to working with horses, encouraging the reader to think in a horse-centric way. Academic behavioural research is used to underpin understanding of horse behaviour and changes that can be made to positively improve horses’ lives. The aim is to provide both the theory behind behaviour-minded horse management and the practical application to enable impactful changes to be made. Real world examples and case studies are provided to highlight these points. Horse behaviour is discussed in a range of contexts, including breeding, training and competing. A behaviourally minded approach to teaching riding, to medical and dental check-ups, to rehabilitation and rescue, and to driving change for horse welfare in both developed and developing countries is also covered. Equine Behaviour in Mind will enable readers to think critically in an objective way about how they manage and work with their horses.
A study published in the journal Social Anthropology suggests that riders and horses can together enter into a unique state of interspecies “co-being”, where human and horse evolves to “fit” better with each other, both physically and mentally.
Anita Maurstad, PhD, a professor at Norway’s University of Tromsø and Dona Davis, PhD and Sarah Cowles BA of the University of South Dakota conducted open-ended interviews with 60 riders in a variety of disciplines in Norway and the mid-west USA to explore their relationship with their horses – why they ride and how this influenced their identity and their family life. They identified three major themes: embodied moments of mutuality, engagements of two agentive individuals, and mutual domestication through being together. Through a process conceptualised as co-being, horse and human meet, attune and change as a result of their meeting, existing as one unique, combined notion within the nature-culture of the equestrian world. Rather than experiencing their horse as a reflection of themselves, riders understood their horse as a personality unique from other horses and different from themselves as humans. Physically and mentally, each species learned to adapt to the other in unique ways for the specific riding partnership, which became a collaborative practice through embodied interaction. Crucially, this relationship could only develop over time.
Riders experienced beneficial physical and therapeutic qualities as a result of their connection with their horse. Horses, whether they are owned for leisure, sport or therapeutic activities, exist partly with humans and partly with other horses, and it is argued that they learn as individuals within a horse-rider pair partnership to relate in ways that bring them benefits. It’s further suggested that this is beneficial for equids as a natural-cultural species; however questions of choice and control within the horse-human relationship, and wider issues of anthropocentrism, must be considered.
I met the lovely photographer behind these amazing animal portraits when I was on my Wadi Rum trail ride in March. Check out Corinne’s amazing shots, she really captures a variety of characters! (Click the link below)
Studio Plan B
A short, instructive video about the effect of the bit in the horse’s mouth. Find out why your horse opens his mouth when you take up a contact.
Equine behaviourist Felicity George reports on the 2012 conference of the International Society for Equitation Science (ISES), a not-for-profit organisation that aims to enhance horse welfare and improve the horse-rider relationship by facilitating research into equine training. Covering a wide range of equine matters including equine and rider phsyiology and training, our emotional response to horses, use of the whip, Join-Up, “overshadowing”, vet visits, equine stress, new technologies to evaluate riders’ aids…. Felicity presents a thorough and thoughtful reflection of the many and varied conference presentations, some of which are already having significant practical effect, others have sparked somewhat heated debate!
An email enquiry today had as its footnote a quote from long rider A F Tschiffely, and sent me right back to my childhood when I read this amazing book, Tschiffely’s Ride. Tschiffely rode two Criollo horses over 10,000 miles from Buenos Aires to Washington DC in 1925, arriving there in 1928 after many and varied adventures. The horses had been feral on the Pampas and had only recently been rounded up when Tschiffely procured them at ages 15 and 16. He called them Mancha (spotted) and Gato (cat). They turned their noses up at oats and alfalfa, preferring to eat coarse straw, and after they were done helping A.F.T. to complete what is hailed as the epic horse journey of all time they lived on to the fine ages of 32 and 37.
Later on Tschiffely wrote a second book about his ride, entitled The Tale of Two Horses, telling the story of the epic journey as seen through the eyes of Mancha y Gato. I read that as a child too – would love to revisit it now and see what I think this time round!