The Brakes

Did you wish your horse would slam on the brakes right when you ask? Do you make it halfway around the arena before he finally halts? Or worse, do you reach the barbed wire fence a little too soon? Retraining the stop response is fairly easy — here’s how. Continue reading

Rid Your Horse of Rearing

Identifying the origin and cause of rearing is very important for the appropriate resolution of the behaviour (Hothersall and Casey, 2012). Pain in pain-related rearing must be eliminated before attempts to modify behaviour can begin (Jonckheer-Sheehy et al, 2012), and an understanding of how the behaviour was reinforced in the past is also helpful in behaviour modification (Hothersall and Casey, 2012). McGreevy (2012) and Mills (1998) agree: before applying Learning Theory for behaviour modification, they recommend identifying the ethological relevance of the behaviour to the horse, as well as removing any causes of pain.

Next, a behaviour modification approach based on Learning Theory and tailored to the horse’s specific situation can be formulated (Hothersall and Casey, 2012; McGreevy, 2012). For example, aggressive behaviour often arises due to social isolation (Creighton and Hockenhull, 2010). Therefore, aggressive rearing may be treated by introducing social contact with conspecifics (Hothersall and Casey, 2012). If the rearing has been shown to have originated as a way to avoid pain, an aversive stimulus, or an impossible task, presenting an insignificant version of the stimulus and teaching the horse an alternative response through counter-conditioning may be effective (Hothersall and Casey, 2012).

Because rearing is highly reinforcing to the horse displaying the behaviour, it will be difficult to bring to extinction. McGreevy (2012) stresses that the horse must be capable of doing what is being asked of it, and that a quick fix is an unrealistic expectation. Increasing the force applied to the horse will not help to resolve the behaviour (Mills, 1998; McGreevy and McLean, 2009).

The Horsegentler

References

Creighton, E and Hockenhull, J. (2010) Feeding routine risk factors associated with pre-feeding behaviour problems in UK leisure horses. Journal of Veterinary Behaviour, 5, 48.

Hall, C; Huws, N; White, C; Taylor, E; Owen, H; and McGreevy, P. (2013) Assessment of Ridden Horse Behaviour. Journal of Veterinary Behaviour, 8(2): 62-73.

Hockenhull, J and Creighton, E. (2012) Training horses: Positive reinforcement, positive punishment, and ridden behaviour problems. Journal of Veterinary Behaviour, 8(4): 245-252.

Hothersall, B and Casey, R. (2012) Undesired behaviour in horses: A review of their development, prevention, management and association with welfare. Equine Veterinary Education, 24(9): 479-485. doi: 10.1111/j.2042-3292.2011.00296.x

McGreevy, P. (2002) Development and Resolution of Behavioural Problems with the Ridden Horse. Presented at A. Dorothy Russell Havemeyer Foundation Workshop on Horse Behaviour and Welfare, 13-16 June 2002 in Hólar, Iceland.

McGreevy, P. (2012) Equine Behaviour: A Guide for Veterinarians and Equine Scientists. Saunders Elsevier. ISBN: 978-0-7020-4337-6

McGreevy, P and McLean, A. (2009) Punishment in horse-training and the concept of ethical equitation. Journal of Veterinary Behaviour, 4(5): 193-197.

McGreevy, P and McLean, A. (2010) Equitation Science. Wiley-Blackwell ISBN: 978-1-4051-8905-7.

McLean, A. (2008) Overshadowing: A Silver Lining to a Dark Cloud in Horse Training. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 11(3): 236-248. DOI: 10.1080/10888700802101064.

McLean, A and McLean, M. (2008) Academic Horse Training: Equitation Science in Practice. Australian Equine Behaviour Centre: Australia. ISBN: 978-0-9581098-1-9

McLean, A and McGreevy, P. (2005) Behavioural Problems with the Ridden Horse. In: Mills, DS and McDonnell, SM. (2005) The Domestic Horse: The Origins, Development, and Management of its Behaviour. Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 978-0521891134

Mills, DS. (1998) Applying learning theory to the management of the horse: the difference between getting it right and getting it wrong. Equine Veterinary Journal, Suppl. 27: 44-48.

Jonckheer-Sheehy, VSM; Delesalle, CJ; van den Belt, AJM; van den Boom, R. (2012) Bad behaviour or a physical problem? Rearing in a Dutch Warmblood mare. Journal of Veterinary Behavior Clinical Applications and Research, 7(6): 380–385