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Home:Equine Diseases: Equine Behaviour Problems

Equine Diseases


Behaviour Problems with Horses


Most Equine Behaviour Problems manifest themselves because of stress, fear and confusion. Stress is the main contributing factor. Unlike equine diseases, equine behaviour problems involve a lot of psychology on the part of the owner. Horses are naturally nervous creatures. They like to be with other horses as the herd instinct is very strong. The horse does not naturally take to someone being on his back so if his training in this regard was in any way lacking, behaviour problems when being mounted will be the result.

Lack of understanding of how a horse thinks can lead to a lot of horse behaviour problems. There are many excellent books on the natural instincts of a horse and an understanding of these will help you solve most equine behaviour problems. You can learn to read hour horse's every move and what he is trying to tell you. You have to try to get inside your horse's head.

One way of doing this is to try and think of how your horse would behave in a natural horse environment i.e. in the wild. In trying to work this out, you need to consider that the horse is

•  a flight animal

•  a herd animal

•  a trickle feeder

•  it's sight is very different from ours

•  it's senses are more acute

However, like humans, the horse will respond to fear with either fight, flight, fear or freeze! Your horse needs to understand that you are the boss and to learn to trust and respect you. This is achieved by consistency in your dealings with the horse at every level and is demonstrated by firmness when he does wrong and praise when he does right. Horses are very responsive to voice and quickly learn 'good boy/girl' and 'no'.


Some of the most common Equine Behaviour Problems


The list is long:

•  Bucking

•  Biting

•  Barging

•  Rearing

•  Bolting

•  Not Loading

•  Spooking

•  Crib-biting

•  Wood-chewing

•  Napping

•  Head-shaking

•  Weaving

•  Separation anxiety

•  Difficult when being shoed

•  Hypersensitivity to grooming

•  Phobias

•  Aggression

to name the mainly encountered equine behaviour problems.


Causes of Equine Behaviour Problems


Each equine behaviour problem case has a unique series of events that have led to the existence of the problem. Every horse is unique and the causes of the behaviour problems will differ for each horse. You may wish to seek out the help of an equine behaviourist or an equine psychologist to help determine the causes and draw up a plan of action.


Remedies for Equine Behaviour Problems


As mentioned above, the first stage in the rehabilitation of horses with behaviour problems is to try to get an accurate diagnosis for your horse's particular problems. Whether you undertake this yourself, or get the help of an expert, or a combination of both, account needs to be taken of the origin of the problem behaviour, the temperament of the horse, the early environment it experienced, its previous learning experiences, and the current context in which the behaviour occurs. All this information is relevant to an accurate diagnosis and a plan of action.

Whatever the diagnosis, the plan will undoubtedly incorporate removing stress from your horse's life. There are many wonderful success stories with this method. Horse and owner need to be considered as a unit. Your horse will be happy knowing where his boundaries lie. You have to know why your horse is not doing what you ask of him before tackling the remedy.

Once the diagnosis has been arrived at, you will wish to evaluate the various methods of treating equine behaviour rehabilitation, perhaps with the expert, before the plan of action is drawn up. Just for your own information, methods which have been used both currently and in the past range from negative reinforcement, positive reinforcement, punishment, reward, aversion therapy, de-sensitisation, counter conditioning.

Your advisor will have the most up to date information on the viability of the various methods as well as, most importantly, the latest proven techniques. For example, he/she may be keen on using holistic remedies such as equine breathing, shiatsu and reiki.

Information, advice and research will empower you to undertake the resolution of your horse's behaviour problem/s with great confidence and, who knows, you may become an equine behaviour expert yourself.