Angelo Telatin

training and welfare

The Maze of Horse Training Methods: Unraveling the Key Terms

From classical dressage to natural horsemanship, the world of horse training boasts hundreds of methods. But with so many options, how do you choose the right one for your horse? Before diving in, let’s unpack some key terms that will equip you to apply the correct knowledge to the proper practice.

  • Ethology is the scientific study of animal behavior, focusing on behavior in natural conditions. Ethologists observe animals in their natural environments to see how behaviors aid in survival and reproduction.
  • Learning psychology is the branch of psychology that studies how people and animals acquire knowledge and skills. This field aims to understand the processes involved in learning to enhance teaching and improve learning outcomes.
  • Training is the process of teaching or developing skills, knowledge, and behaviors through practice and instruction to improve performance in a specific task or job.
  • Husbandry is the practice of breeding and raising livestock, involving the care, cultivation, and management of animals to ensure their health, productivity, and welfare.

Ethics is the branch of philosophy that studies principles of right and wrong behavior, moral values, and standards guiding individuals in determining what is morally acceptable and how to live a good life.

Public Scrutiny and Ethical Horsemanship

Public opinion is increasingly scrutinizing the horse industry and trainers on animal welfare and ethical treatment. The growing demand for responsible horsemanship practices within the industry that gave birth to many “Natural Horsemanship”.

Flawed Equations in Horse Training

In an attempt to gain social acceptance, some trainers have developed a flawed approach:

  • Equation 1: Ethology – Natural = Good, Therefore Natural Horsemanship = Good
  • Equation 2: Horses Need Leaders, therefore Establishing Leadership = Happy Horse

These statements have several problems:

  • Horses Aren’t Ridden in Nature: Ethology studies how horses live naturally, informing good husbandry practices, not riding techniques.
  • Learning Psychology is the science of teaching: Training teaches horses skills. Learning psychology helps us train effectively without stressing the animal, ensuring high welfare.

Horses and Leadership: Dominance hierarchies, as traditionally viewed in “leadership,” don’t exist in horses (or wolves, which have family structures, mom dad and offsprings.  No need for “alphas”). As social non-territorial herbivores, horses prioritize togetherness for survival. In some natural horsemanship methods, “leadership” is misused to justify human aggression.

Our Approach to Horse Training

During our training, clinics and seminars, we delve  into ethic horse and human relationship, we  analyze how combining learning theories with any horse training techniques we cand enhance horse performance and improve welfare. From Olympic competition to pleasure riding.

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