Horse Behaviour & Psychology

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This is the first of a two-part article about a special horse of mine named Bellagio (barn name Geo), a nine-year-old Warmblood gelding I’ve had for about three years. He is super sensitive and doesn’t have a lot of natural confidence. When he came to me he was very explosive, would react at the slightest thing, and was becoming very dangerous to ride. Over the past few years, I have done a lot of different exercises to help build his confidence with anything that is “out of the norm” for him.

jonathan field natural horsemanship horse tarp training natural horsemanship equine tarp training

Helping a Worried Horse - I do a wide variety of exercises with my horses to help them become calmer and braver in various situations. My goal is to have them trust what I ask of them, and be okay with it because I am asking. In other words, for me it’s not about the tarp but about Geo’s trust in me to put the tarp on his body. If he trusts me at the heart of it, then tarps, garbage cans, or stumps on a trail won’t bother him.

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Cribbing is a compulsive behaviour or stereotypy that is bothersome to many horse owners because of the damage it may cause to both the horse and the farm itself. While cribbing, the horse places his upper incisors on the surface of the object, flexes his neck, pulling against the object, and sucking in air. There are many beliefs as to why horses begin and continue to crib. Most believe that horses crib in response to boredom or frustration. Others feel these stereotypies are learned behaviours. While there is evidence of a heritable component to cribbing, studies have shown that very few cases are a result of watching other horses perform these behaviours. A decrease in gastric pH has also been shown to increase the frequency of cribbing in horses.

Horse Shaming, april clay, horse rider psychology, equine psychology, horse psychology

What’s the Antidote? We are inundated with images and stories of shaming these days. Some are humorous, some very hurtful. Shaming is attempting to make someone feel pain and remorse for something they have done – or worse yet, for just being themselves. Shaming and blaming are close cousins. When you shame, you are also saying: You are the one who is responsible for the wrongdoing. Sure, there is also humourous and harmless horse shaming. We’ve all heard things like: “I poop in my water bucket every day,” or “I don’t play well with others,” when people pretend to speak for their horses. Then there’s the other kind of shaming, when a rider speaks openly about the shortcomings of their horse, or uses their inside voice to shame, blame, and complain about their mount.

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If our horses could share their New Year’s Resolutions, we bet they’d go something like this…

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Fall fairs, circuit championships, and club awards banquets signal the end of another horse show season. So how did it go? Did your shows, rodeos, or competitive trail rides meet your expectations?

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Unwanted behaviour may be caused by a poorly fitting saddle. Often rider error is perceived to be the cause, addressed by suggesting ways to change rider behaviour. In some cases, consulting a veterinarian is suggested.

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