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Understanding Your Horse

Understanding Your Horse. Why does he do that? Evolution of the horse Horse dates back around 65 million years Humans around 4 million years. The starting point! A dog sized animal 4-11kg 4 toes Eyes forward faced Unspecialised molars; probably a fruitivore

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Understanding Your Horse

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  1. Understanding Your Horse

  2. Why does he do that? • Evolution of the horse • Horse dates back around 65 million years • Humans around 4 million years.

  3. The starting point! • A dog sized animal 4-11kg • 4 toes • Eyes forward faced • Unspecialised molars; probably a fruitivore • Lived in forest and swamp habitat

  4. Survival of the fittest • This refers to the survival of individuals best adapted to their environment or best adapted to the environment that they live in. • Selection pressure – the driving force behind evolution through natural selection. • The decrease in forest and swamps due to climate change i.e. increase in global temperature – drying out; resulted in more grazing land

  5. They had to move to the open plain where they would be in full view of predators, where fruit and fleshy leaves were rare. • Horse was in view of predators all the time and therefore has evolved to deal with predators to survive • Fast moving to survive

  6. The horse still thinks this way

  7. Behaviour and natural selection • Differences in behaviour • Spooky • Dopey

  8. The more alert horse – • better mother • longer life • more offspring

  9. Dopey - less chance of survival.

  10. Behaviour is adaptive. • Natural behaviour that you see, helps survival and reproduction • The horse has evolved for an environment that he cannot hide ie the open plains, constantly looking for danger and very aware of other animals.

  11. Equine Adaptions • If the horse cannot flee it fights • Fight or flight • Social animal living in a group • Relies on herdmates for survival – lookouts. • They do not like being alone • Communication is a requirement for living in a group and so is predictability.

  12. The Domestication of the Horse • Thought to have been domesticated about 4000BC through evidence of a bit on the lower jaw. • One of the last animal to be domesticated

  13. We breed the horse for what we want – • Size • Speed • Behaviour

  14. Has the Horse’s Behaviour Changed? • We tend to breed for appearance and performance rather than behaviour and the ability to cope with the human made environment. • The psychology of today’s horse is similar to that of the first horse.

  15. Behaviour problems and Abnormal Behaviour • Definition of Behaviour Problem • “A behaviour pattern that gives the horse manager a problem”

  16. Behaviour problem is a very loose term depending on the people involved. • Definition of Abnormality • “ A behaviour that causes harm to the animal or other animals”

  17. Abnormality is only shown by a few animals; 10-20% in the population. • Self mutilation or self harm • Human perception – a behaviour that is not normal is bad.eg withdrawal, self-mutilation, stereotipy.

  18. Damage to other individual • Aggression is not an abnormality, protecting the foal. • Sometimes what we think may be abnormal is, in fact, normal

  19. Consequences of Abormality • Surgery to prevent crib biting and wind sucking • Recent research is identifying that crib biting stimulates saliva production to combat acid in the stomach. • Stallion ring – causes pain to the animal, not used as much today as the stallion will not be interested in breeding.

  20. Definition of Normal • Decide what is normal and what is not. • If you do not see a behaviour it does not mean it is not there. Eg. A horse in a loose box cannot graze. • Put the horse in an environment where you can observe the behaviour.

  21. “Vices” • Used to describe many behaviour problems • Vice – a bad habit • This implies that horses have a bad habit therefore it is the horse’s fault • Not an appropriate term

  22. Sterotypies • A repeated, relatively invariant sequence of actions that have no obvious benefit to the horse. • Never been recorded in wild horses

  23. Individuals may also develop their own unique stereotipies • Can be over or under stimulated • When you see the sterotippy developing, you have a problem, therefore you need to change the environment.

  24. Treatment of stereotypies • Crib collars and various operations – cause pain • Stop the problem temporarily, starts again when collar taken off. • Could it be that we are stopping them from coping with their environment? • Stopping the stereotypy can cause another reaction that could cause more harm.

  25. The only way to get rid of the stereotypy is to change the environment.

  26. Self mutilation • Stallions that are more isolated. • In the worse cases – sedation is required

  27. Aggression • Different types of aggression • Mobile aggression – the horse rushes to get you • As a result of thwarting of motivation • Frustration causes aggression • “dominance hierarchy”

  28. Horse hierarchy is complicated and always changing • Current (human) thinking – to teach the horse who is boss • A situation were they will challenge you because the hierarchy is changing – causes a lot of aggression. • Dominance notion may be responsible for a lot of unnecessary human aggression towards horses.

  29. Wood chewing • Not uncommon in the wild – minerals? • Can be dangerous – splinters • Lack of roughage in the diet – boredom • Horses do eat living wood in the wild as a food source for them • New Forest ponies eat branches.

  30. Eating bedding • Straw is a food source • Horse cannot categorise between food (hay) and bed (straw) • If there is not enough forage (hay) they will eat their bed

  31. Our behaviour affects their behaviour • The only problem horses have is humans!

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