View Full Version : Horse Behaviour and psychology

19-04-01, 04:14 AM
I would like to start a thread on peoples understanding of Horse behaviour and psychology. Here is a chance to air your views but please can no-one attack anyones post.
This is to be done in the spirit of sharing ideas not knocking others. Who cares if some people find it hard to put their views across politely in writing. Please express your understanding of the horse and it's nature. Please do not comment on the person writing the post. I for one am very interested to hear what you have to say.
:D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D Please be positive...

judi (Guest)
19-04-01, 04:49 AM
This is a fascinating subject that could go on for ever! I am always wondering about this - and in particular over Easter when I was weaning off a filly who happens to have a mother who doesn't particularly like people. I would LOVE to get inside this filly's head!

Alana (Guest)
19-04-01, 06:20 AM
Well I am definately very interested in this topic, I am presently studying Science/Arts at Melb Uni and am really enjoying my Psychology subject. I have always been interested in animal psychology as I feel it's a really broad study with so much room to move and so much to be discovered. Of course being the totally obsessed horse lover 24/7 that I am then I am hoping to make Equine Psych and behaviour a career. Not wanting to start any arguments but I am very interested in what Andrew McLean, Monty Roberts and others have to say and hope to one day do something similar but obviously with my own findings. I often think it is very underestimated how intelligent animals are and I think that understanding brain as well as body will benefit all especially when training horses. Anyway, that's what I have to say and I'll be interested to hear others opinions.

SNH (Guest)
19-04-01, 06:38 AM
Judi, please tell us about your weaning experience. I will be in the same situation shortly with two temperamental females. Thanks.

BTDT (Guest)
19-04-01, 07:04 AM
My understanding of horse behaviour, No horse is born nasty like a child, no matter what the parents are like, Horses are creatures of habit and learn through reward whether it be give of hands ,legs, release of pressure, feed, or a simple pat.
I tend to agree with some of what Monty Roberts writes, and if you actually sit and watch a horse you will understand what he says.

19-04-01, 07:30 AM
This is a fasinationg subject and I would love to read what people have to say.

rappie (Guest)
19-04-01, 07:35 AM
this is really an interesting topic - we get to do some at uni this semester too ....

i think the best way of understanding horse behaviour is to spend time just watching horses, and really paying attention to how they respond you and other horses. I think its a shame that some people (no one in particular!!!!) only try to understand it when they have a problem, when the horse may have been telling them something the whole time it was developing. I have read Parelli's books and own Monty Roberts - not to say that I am an avid NH fan but i think everything has its place. Whether or not what they advocate is right or wrong, it certainly lifted the awareness that horses DO have behaviour that can by recognised, just as people do. The fact that non horsey people are fascinated by the way that horses can learn (or that they actually think - something very new to some vet students :) ) as a result of seeing Parelli / Roberts work shows that they are doing something for the horses image - though it really is just a commercial opportunity to present what many people already know and what you can learn from a horse. At least someones doing it. its nothing new.

Everything we do with horses has something fundamental to do with their behaviour and uses rudimentary psychology - yielding to pressure to move away or come closer etc, and it is fascinating to watch the simple things like fighting over a biscuit of hay and know that its part of a much more complex hierarchy.

So yeah...i know that was a bit of a bumble but its hard to explain. Horses are creatures of habit, used to being the prey and as horse people we should try to understand or at least be aware of that.

19-04-01, 09:21 AM
This is great guys.
Hey you psychology students, can you please explain what the study of psychology and behavior entails and what the words mean?

19-04-01, 10:25 AM
well....if vet students count...i was just flipping through our notes

"the behaviour of an animal is what it does, how it reacts to aggressors, finds a mate, rears its offspring, gathers its food and so on. it concerns the manner in which an animals adapts to environmental change and is a dynamic process....outcome of both environmental and genetic traits..

capable of adapating to their environment....called patterns of behaviour, enable animals to utilise their environment and establish social structure.

ethology is hte scientific study of animals behaviour and is concerned with explaining animal behaviour in both casual and functions terms"

as for psychology i know nothing really...but i guess psyche is like the intrinsic bit of your personality, who you are, so to speak so im guessing psychology is the study of why and how people (and animals) are who they are, why they act how they do and how their environment may affect their behaviour...sounds the same as behaviour but has more to do with changes to personality than how they act, and may be due to chemical or bodily involvement. Someone correct me if im wrong :)

19-04-01, 01:52 PM
Thanks Rappie.
Any other students or proffessionals want to comment, or heck amatuers for that matter?
Anyone got any questions?

19-04-01, 03:09 PM
Hello micarter and everyone.
I'm a ...(gulp, dare I say it??) non-riding mum of a very horsey daughter. I used to state that I was a non-horsey mum, but I have given this label some thought lately and have decided that after 8 years, two ponies and now horse number 3, I can definitely say that I'm not as unhorsey as I might otherwise be. (does this make sense... I hope you are with me...)

Years ago I did an interesting open essay at uni and chose to investigate certain factors of (human) environmental psychology. Here the word "environment" means where you are, ie; a dingy basement in an old house, a football stadium, a high-rise modern office etc. etc.

Anyway, whilst being somewhat almost-horsey-but-not-riding-nor-ever-have, and being a keen observer of people and their ways, I wonder at the psychological profile of not the horses ...... but some of the owners.

Here is a question.

How do some humans profess to love and delight in the company of these magnificent animals, but care for them so offhandedly and casually that the animals are almost "mistreated"?
I am often shocked to see horses held in environments that, if looked at from another perspective, would constitute unbelievable (mental and physical) cruelty in a human counterpart.
They are so often held in stinking hot, bleak, dessicating yards and paddocks, for months and sometimes years on end. The opposite end of the stick is horses we see confined to boggy, waterlogged yards, exposed to all the elements from every side, with no respite, no relief. Ugh!

It must surely be lack of education and ignorance on the human owners part. Surely. Because they so often profess to love their horses!!

Who owns a lucky horse?


19-04-01, 03:20 PM
I actually left out what I really wanted to ask! (typical)

If a horse is subjected to a "less than ideal" (that's putting it nicely) environment, either long or short term, what sort of behaviours should we expect??

Does the horse's stress system (like the human cortico-steriod response) change the horses (normal) responses to environmental and other stimuli?

19-04-01, 03:22 PM
Do you think perhaps the owners don't relate to it that way?
They don't think, how would I feel if I was locked up 24/7 with just a quick run around the back yard and a jog on the tread mill or maybe a ballet lesson, each day.
Yes it is no wonder there are cranky, highly strung, nervous, and even crazy, horses about.
These people perhaps grew up just thinking thats the way horses should be treated.
So lets analise the horses needs and wants, psychologically what the horse would find comfortable, and decide on the most humane way to keep him?

Silver (Guest)
19-04-01, 11:42 PM
I have noticed too that it is often those owners who most anthropomorphose their horses who keep them in these less than ideal conditions. I shudder to think what this says about these people! Thoughtless is the kindest word I can come up with. However, horses are not people and what would be torture to a person may not be to a horse. I don't know, but I do know that I have one horse at least who is nicer to get on with if he is at least partly stabled or yarded. If he is out all the time he can get very 'feral animal' even if he is worked every day. I have other horses who are better not confined, but that is a health thing because they tend to cough if they are kept in. And we all know those horses who get very toey if they are stabled.

However I am not condoning the disgusting conditions a lot of horses are kept in year in year out. I would be most interested in some genuine scientific research on what is best and kindest for our horses, but I don't want to hear about sentimental claptrap (sorry sentimentalists) because that only tends to could the issue I think.

The other thing I find interesting is what is actually the best surface to work a horse on? I have found the popular sand arena to be not so good (cost me a lot of money and a damaged FEI horse to find that out!) But that's another thread...

20-04-01, 02:09 AM
This is a fascinating topic and worthwhile thread. I first watched a Parelli clinic back in 1995 and wished I'd had that knowledge when I first started. It opens up a whole new world and enables us to really communicate with our horses by understanding their point of view. I admire Monty Roberts and his goals but I don't agree it's necessary to saddle and ride all horses in 30 minutes or less. Andrew McLean makes some valid comments but he's too clinical for me sometimes. I've found Steve Brady and David Simons training methods helpful.

20-04-01, 03:04 AM
Interesting subject!
I found something on a German site which might be relevant to the theme. (similar ethical guidelines have been published by the FEI)
What is dominant in both statutes is the wellfare of the animal and the assumed responsibility of its human care taker who needs to provide this animal with a life which must be relevant to this breed's needs.
In other words we have to learn "horse" before we can take the responsibility of keeping, breeding, training them.
(Watch and learn from THEM)

Code No. I
Anyone in charge of a horse, takes on the responsibility for the wellfare of this living being in his/her care

Code No. II
The keeping of a horse must be appropriate to its natural requirements

Code No. III
The physical and mental wellbeing of the horse takes priority over its deployment/use

Code No. IV
All horses are to be regarded as equal: No horse should be discriminated against because of its breed, age, sex, or use - might it be at stud, for pleasure or sport

Code No.V
The knowledge of horse husbandry, the required skill and knowledge for the involvement with the horse, is part of our culture and history. We need to cherish this knowledge and pass it on to the generations that follow

Code No. VI
The involvement with the horse helps in the development of personality and character, and is especially valuable to young people. It should be encouraged

Code No.VII
Anybody who participates in the equestrian sport must, together with his/her horse, undergo an education process. The goal of this education is to achieve the greatest harmony and contentment between human and horse

Code no. VIII
The use of the horse in different equestrian disciplines must depend on its talent and abilities. To influence its athleticism and performance by the use of drugs or other unnatural means is to be eliminated and should be penalized

Code No. IX
Our responsibilities for the horse in our care also include the duty to end its life humanely and without suffering when the time has come.

("The Constitution of Ethics for friends of horses" was written and approved by the "Deutsche Reiterlichen Vereinigung (FN)". and this is a rough translation of it, sorry.......)

20-04-01, 04:32 AM
Wow! thanks Carola!
Is there anyone out there studying horses in their natural environment, for that matter what is the horses natural enviroment? Isn't the horse essentially a domestic animal, like the cow, and therefore is the wild really the horses natural environment? Are cows more content when unassociated with humans? We need some outback types here.

SNH (Guest)
20-04-01, 05:10 AM
I don't know about cows being more content without human association, but as with most domesticated animals, those brought from a large herd situation to a more "humanised" environment learn to adapt to the two legged creatures and become comfortable in the new situation. The vast majority of those who are domesticated, be it cow or horse, will probably have a superior quality and quantity of life compared to their wild relatives. And while human intervention creates problems of its own, how much better off are the domesticated animals who receive vet attention when they're sick, have their feet attended to, have help during times of difficult birthing, receive regular treatment against parasites and protection against predators etc? Those who have problems out in the wild fall victim to survival of the fittest.

Amber (Guest)
20-04-01, 06:37 AM
micarter.. Stephen Budiansky wrote an excellent book called The Nature of Horses which had quite a lot on the behaviour/psychology of the horse if you were interested in reading about it.

Anna (Guest)
21-04-01, 02:18 AM
Hi all,

Well maybe we all are possibly looking to much at the horse psychology to much. I have had a very indepth conversation with my instructor about this and she feels we are all looking for ways why the horse evades our aids, touch etc.

She believes that alot of these natural horsemanship people are just for people that want to be involved with horses but are deep down afraid of them. She told me of an incident where a really nicely educated quiet horse was turned into a nervous wreck because of the riders own fears.

She believes you have to be the leader and the horse is the follower. If you show insecurities then naturally the horse will aswell. Obviously horse have there natural ways of communicating with each other and pecking orders but when a horse is with you the teacher and rider, you are the boss, it's as simple as that.

Maybe she could be right. We all maybe looking for excuses why our horses are acting certain ways, maybe we cause it.

My instructor is a finely built person who handles huge horses and I must say they all respect her and know who's boss.

I think in todays society we are always looking at the psychology of things. Are we really doing ourselves justice?

Who knows, it is a very interesting topic and maybe we need to look inside ourselves before we try to analise the horses brain.


Rogilla (Guest)
21-04-01, 04:54 AM
Ann you are right that we do need to look inside ourselves, but not in the way your instructor would like. The problems of most horses are human induced. I rarely see a horse with a behaviourial difficulty when there is not a person involved.

In my experience, the bulk of problems in the horse-human relationship (let's not get into specifics of how to do stuff) is caused by either people who offer the horse no boundaries and no support OR people who try to subjugate the horse and demand respect for their authority. It is the middle ground that people don't get. Horses need leadership (not dominance) in their lives, but they need that leadership to offer them a good deal (comfort and safety). Most problems stem from people offering either no leadership or offering domination without the good deal. Leadership itself is a good deal to a horse, but dominance is not - despite what some educators would have us believe. Ann, your instructor sounds like she believes in dominance of the horse to establish her role as boss. In such cases, a horse may either just give in and go along with her or it may go into battle about this type of relationship. Either way, it will never lead to any sort of harmony, unity or partnership in the relationship.

OTOH, people who are afraid of horses tend to back off from setting boundaries with a horse. This is certainly stressful for both parties because horses need a decision maker in their life. If the person does not take up that role, then the horse is left to fill in the gap in order to relieve the stress of not having a leader. The result is often a pushy, unfocused and potentially dangerous horse. Like the horse with the bossy owner, these horses also never find harmony, unity and partnership in the relations with humans.

The best option for the horse and human is the middle ground - leadership without dominance - benevolence with boundaries.

Mills (Guest)
21-04-01, 05:01 AM
Yes I agree that it seems to be (in my limited experience :-) ) that horses with so-called psychological problems seem to stem from humans, or human-associated changes to their environment or training etc.

I just love watching my horses in the paddock. They are kept in a massive paddock - my two geldings with two other geldings. I never get bored watching their little interactions - even if they are just grazing there seems to be communication going on. "Not too close you, this is my patch of grass." And "Will you give me a back-scratch, please?" And it is often very subtle - just a change in body posture or even ear movement. If only we could communicate this subtly to our horsie friends instead of the usual kick, pull, yank, yell, carryon that you often see...

21-04-01, 05:24 AM
Good answer Rogilla and thanks, you saved me a whole lot of typing. :D
However The questions I asked were meant to be addressed in a way that takes us out of the picture and addresses purely the needs of the horse.
Personally I think the horse is happiest in a herd type situation but not in a wilderness type situation. Say a herd in a large paddock with plenty of shelter, feed and water, health and hoof care. Horses do seem to appreciate human company, once associated with it. Of course this is behaviour which has been influenced by environment. Like a gelding I used to own who was a race horse for 6 years and a show horse for six more. He much preferred to have access to a stable than to just be in a paddock. It was what he was used to.
So is it cruel to put this horse out in a large paddock with no stable?
On the other hand I had an Arab mare who was brought up in a paddock with no shelter, she hated the stable but got used to it. Is it cruel to keep her stabled?
I know I'm waffleing on, but I think it's interesting to get your opinion and it gives me and others something to think about.

tgh (Guest)
21-04-01, 05:31 AM
Wraith .. that is a wonderful answer ..and a definition of the human horse relationship that ought to be stuck on every bridle every halter and every saddle..headed ...these are the terms .. don't touch the implements until you understand the terms of engagement....

Rogilla (Guest)
22-04-01, 12:09 AM
Micarter you ask such broad and encompassing questions that it is an impossible and terribly daunting task to answer them fully or accurately. But I will give a few brief thoughts.

Regarding horses belonging in a herd, I doubt anyone can argue that horses are not social animals and a herd is where they do their best socializing. No matter how bonded we are to our horses and no matter how often the NH gurus tell us to behave like herd bosses and think like a horse, I believe a horse will never accept humans as it's own kind. The relationship between a horse and a horse is always going to be different from it's relationship with a human. But to say horses are happiest in a herd is oversimplifying things. In reasonable size herds you normally find that small splinter groups form away from the herd boss. This is because some horses are not comfortable closely socializing with the boss and his friends. Each splinter group has it's own boss, but these horses are usually not bossy. They are what can be called leaders. They are leaders not because they take the role of leader, but because the other horses in the group give them the role of leader. Although, thesew new leaders can sometimes lay down the law, they spend most of their time being passive. If the herd is too small to form splinter groups, you often find some horses are quite stressed out being in the herd because the herd boss and his/her henchmen/women may hassle the less dominant horses. This is not always so, by it is quite common and may require a low order horse being removed from the herd. I think herds are a little like human groups. You can walk into a room of people and feel good about being there, but other groups make you uncomfortable and perhaps even worried. Nevertheless, if that group is the only group of humans in your entire world you'd follow them around and learn to get along by following the rules even though you may be worried by the group.

You ask if it is cruel to stable a horse that is used to being paddocked and visa versa. I guess a definition of cruel is pretty personal and I don't know how to answer that with reference to it being 'cruel'. Let me say that I think it can be quite stressful for a horse to be in the situation you describe. But then stress is part of a horses everyday life. Horses in general are among the most neurotic species that I think humans have domesticated. I doubt we would have domesticated them at all if they were not so readily submissive. IMO, what I think is cruel is if you don't teach a horse about stabling and if you don't allow a horse to learn about social intereaction in a herd. I can't protect my horses from every stress they are going to meet in their lives, so the best favour I can do for them is to teach them coping skills to deal with stress. I do this by giving them the experiences that are going to teach them that even in stressful situations they are not going to die and they can rely on me to get them out of their problem. Somebody asked me the other day that since my horse goes so well in a side-pull, why do I ever bother with a snaffle bit. I said that one reason is to add refinement, but the other is that somebody, someday may want to ride my horse in a snaffle and I want my horse to be prepared for that moment. So micarter, someday somebody will need to stable their horse that has only ever been in a paddock (perhaps because of an injury). I hope they prepared that horse before it happens. If they haven't, then I think that borders on cruel.

I don't know if I answered your questions, but I gotta run now.

So now I know (Guest)
22-04-01, 12:50 AM
Just figured out from that reply exactly who you are Rogilla. I saw you some time ago and you expressed exactly these sentiments. What I do not understand is your ability to express in person, all you have ever said here without the pomposity and arrogance that you display to some people on the forum. I know, I know. Written word and difference of tone and inflection in a speaking voice, but whatever way I read some of your replies you can come across as treating the rest of the horse world as a bunch of cretins. You have been soured by the actions and words of many and you know what? It shows. It ain't your message. It is the messenger. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

BTDT (Guest)
22-04-01, 01:03 AM
Rogilla; can you answer me this question, When a young horse comes in for the first time,(has been running with horses all its life) Go near the horses feed,when its eating, tell me does it treat you like another horse threatening to kick or bite you,protecting its food, or does it treat you differently?

22-04-01, 02:27 AM
Oh Rogilla! Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it. :D
I don't care what anyone says, I think you've got a pretty good handle on things and there is a lot to learn from you, you obviously think deeply and are a student of the horse. (As well as a Teacher to the horse).
I think what you have said is one of the key requirements of a horse trainer/breaker to provide the horse with tools he can use to understand the human world and human requirements as so many people are not ready or not willing to learn how to be more horse minded.
Thanks again and please hang around in case we need any more pearls of wisdom.

(hope I haven't made anyone sick?)

Rogilla (Guest)
22-04-01, 04:59 AM
>Rogilla; can you answer me this
>question, When a young horse
>comes in for the first
>time,(has been running with horses
>all its life) Go near
>the horses feed,when its eating,
>tell me does it treat
>you like another horse threatening
>to kick or bite you,protecting
>its food, or does it
>treat you differently?

Again, I'm a bit rushed for time, so I'll give a brief kerbside answer. I'm totally sure what it is your are asking, but I'll try to interpret as best I can.

He treats me like a tough old goat. He knows I'm not a horse, but he knows he doesn't want to share his food, so he does the only thing he has learned to do to protect his food - he makes threatening gestures. But being like a goat, I am not intimidated by this behaviour and let him know that he had better move those feet away from me and the food or life could get a little less comfortable for him. I hope that addresses the question you were asking.

Rogilla (Guest)
22-04-01, 05:00 AM
Oops. I should have written "I am not totally sure what you're asking...." Sorry.

Rogilla (Guest)
22-04-01, 05:07 AM
So Now I Know, a few people on this forum do know who I am and I have been told many times that how I am in person is not even close to how arrogant I come across on CBH. I guess it is the nature of things. I don't know if you know who I am or not, but I would ask you (as I have asked others) to please respect my anonymity. Thanks.

anon (Guest)
22-04-01, 06:47 AM
Thank you Rogilla, and

Mi carter too this is good stuff.

I wish I knew who you were too but I too respect your privacy and appreciate your free advice.
These messages means a lot to all us horse lovers, it makes us really think!.

So Now I Know (Guest)
22-04-01, 08:24 AM
Rogilla. If I was going to blow your cover, I would have done it in the first post. My point was that the person is a whole lot different from the persona here. Of course I can't be 100% sure without hearing from your mouth and when I return to your State in the future, I will introduce myself and ask you straight out.

23-04-01, 02:01 PM

Here's one for you. Do you think horses are racist?

24-04-01, 02:06 AM
I appreciate Rogilla's contributions. I'd like to add that it helps to understand the basic starting point in evolutionary terms, i.e. horse as prey animal and human as predator. We need to convince the horse that we are not a threat and then he will ironically look to us for protection, comfort, companionship and leadership.

BB (Guest)
24-04-01, 03:49 AM
When working with a new horse I will for safety and boudary setting sake have a crop in one hand. I find that the way to get the best partnership from a horse is not to let it get "away" with behaviour that is unacceptable. If for argument sake as Rogilla said with feeding, I have a horse that threatened me one day and while I did not have a crop on me at that time I gave him a mighty kick up the bum, through blankets and all. Now I do not for one minute believe that my foot could inflict pain of any substantial level on this horse but it did make him stop and turn and look at me. He looked me in the eye with a new attitude. He no longer worries about me being near him and his feed. I set the boundaries without being cruel but loud enough to make him hear me.

I guess there will be people that will argue with using force like a kick, BTW I was wearing sneakers at the time and it was my big toe that suffered the most, lets face it a kick from a mere human is nothing compared to what horses inflict on each other in play.

Boundaries have to be set. I try as far as possible to use voice to reinforce and admonish, but a quick flick of a crop at the right time can have a far more effective response. I have a relationship with this horse and there is no fear from him to me and vice versa.

24-04-01, 04:08 AM
Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you Rogilla, what I was getting at is Dos'nt this prove to you that the horse is treating you like "one of its own" (quoted in post 24), as it has only been living and running with its own all its life, It is the only way it knows how to comunicate with anything,weather it be horse, human, or goat.

24-04-01, 05:27 AM
Interesting discussion. Here my 2c worth....

1. Horses are strong enough and quite capable to kill us with one strike. If a horse is stuck in a conflict/panic situation and we are in the way, we wouldn't stand a chance.
2. Horses are the most generous creatures. They co-operate rather than kill us.....
3. Their nobility allows us to dominate, force, exhaust, serve and care for them.
4. By learning to communicate with them, they teach those who want to listen to re-open channels to means of communication, based on instinctive, intuitive, more raw, pure, basic communication and be humble of what they find.
They bring out the best and the worst in people.

This is the basis for my respect and love for them.

I will always approach any horse confidently and as if it is a great joy to meet him/her. Well, it is.
I never had trouble as their response to my approach will tell me my next step of action.

In the spirit of this subject...
Does anyone know why it is so hard to tame and domesticate, train...ZEBRAS???????
(Circus acts excluded)

Dances (Guest)
24-04-01, 05:32 AM
I agree about the boundaries, horses are like children in this respect. Once they know what they can and can't get away with, they are quite happy (usually) to stay within the boundaries and avoid conflict with their human leader.

I think that many people underestimate the importance of body language, and what message they are giving to the horse simply by their posture. Horses communicate almost exclusively with changes of posture and gestures, they are very good at knowing what mood a person is in just by looking at them. That is probably why your horse is most evasive when you are in a bad mood. He's not trying to make it worse, he knows that you are angry and he is upset.
A good example of this was a young horse I was helping to put on a float. I led him most of the way on first time, but then I saw a big spider in the float. I am a serious arachnaphobe, but I tried not to be scared. Too late though, the horse looked at me then darted back out of the float. It took ages to finally get him on after that!

Sorry if I am not answering exactly the way you intended, Micarter, but i can't remember exalctly, there have been a lot of posts!

24-04-01, 11:22 AM
Hmmm, Ill think about that one.
Sorry i have been away riding Mums young horses for a couple of days. Nice mouths, no long reining. :D
Ive got to go eat now as my hubby has made me a roast dinner, Yum.

24-04-01, 12:13 PM
Can anyone say why it is that an animal's facial expression says the same thing about its current mood and basic nature no matter what variety of animal it is?

For instance, a small "piggy" eye is almost always a sign of an unpleasant nature, whether the animal be a horse, a dog or a human for that matter (maybe not a pig). A "smile" is almost always a sign that the creature is pleased, happy and relaxed. A droopy lower lip is a sign of a sullen, sulky animal that won't give of its best.

What is it that makes these expressions and appearances common from species to species and why is it so? Why doesn't a smile on a dog's face mean its about to attack and why isn't a horse with its ears pinned back really very happy?

24-04-01, 12:56 PM
Horse Problems.
I don't suppose you ment racism in it's human form as in are Arabs racially prejudiced against Warmbloods, but perhaps more are horses prejudiced against other species.

First a definition of racism:
Belief in the inherent superiority of a particular race.
similar words, unfairness, bias, one-sidedness,partiality.
contrasted words, broad mindedness, liberalness, open mindedness, tolerance, indifferance, neutrality.

I don't really think that you should anthropomorphise(sp) HP.
However in the spirit of your question, I would say yes. In that a wild horse would definitely prefer to be with it's own kind, and is certainly not tolerant of other species. Rather than calling this racism, I would call it survival instinct.
On the other hand once taking the horse out of a wild environment and making it reliant on people it will happily bond with a dog, cat, chicken or human. Thus, obviously, not entirely partial, can be broad minded and tolerant. lol. :7
So my answer? No, yes and no! lol

Susan (Guest)
24-04-01, 02:50 PM
Micarter you said:-
I would like to start a thread on peoples understanding of Horse behaviour and psychology. Here is a chance to air your views but please can no-one attack anyones post.
This is to be done in the spirit of sharing ideas not knocking others.

and then you said:-
Sorry i have been away riding Mums young horses for a couple of days. Nice mouths, no long reining.

.......I don't suppose you were knocking long reining were you. :) (sorry just having a bit of fun here)

25-04-01, 01:54 AM
Emotions and general state of well-being can cause involuntary muscle reflexes - relaxation / tension which results in an "expression".
Also the voluntary, purposeful use of muscles to communicate gives the desired expression. Ears back small eye "go away NOW!"

I don't know how they learn this without a mirror.... ;-)

JayGee (Guest)
25-04-01, 02:14 AM
One of my favourites... when you give them a scratch and they get that 'ooh yes that's the spot look', ears relaxed, head starts to bob a little, they go all dreamy and the top lip quivers and extends a bit and they start to want to reciprocate and find your itchy spot! Love it!

25-04-01, 02:56 AM
Heehee, yes, JayGee! One of mine is expert in doing this: He pushes away every layer of clothing and then wobbles his (rather rough) upper lip around my back.
Sometimes when he sees me coming he stands like a dog on three legs having a pee to tell me he wants a scratch in his groin (...he can't reach there, you know....). Strange horse.

25-04-01, 03:25 AM
I have been reading this debate, with a lot of interest. In view of what has been previously said, can someone answer this question. "Why do some horses form such a strong bond with humans"? For example, I have a 12 year old gelding, who I have had for 7 years. I bought him straight off the track. Apparantly, he was not treated very well while racing. And is a horse of great arrogance. Doesn't really like humans. He is his own horse. Yet him and I have a great bond. There have been times when I haven't seen him for months, yet as soon as he hears my voice, is cantering up to me. He would prefer to be with me rather than other horses, and is paddocked with other horses. He is spelling at the moment, so hasn't been fed or ridden for ages. Even in work, he follows me around everywhere, hangs around the house when I'm inside. So can someone please help me understand why he is like he is?

Bonnie (Guest)
25-04-01, 05:29 AM
Actually, its anthropomorphize ... :-)

And, whilst I wouldnt necessarily use the word 'racism', I have noticed that some horses appear prejudiced to other horses of a particular colour eg grey, appaloosa, pinto etc

Also interesting to note - an educated (in this case the dressage sense) horse will often prefer to keep the company of another educated horse as opposed to a horse that has had no formal education .... I have noted this with my own horses and recently it was the object of a discussion I was having with other performance horse owners. What are your thoughts HP?

B1 (Guest)
25-04-01, 01:17 PM
People don't believe this, note the response. "Nil."
This can sometimes be a rather odd area to try to get into. Not a lot of people experience this phenomenon, so the belief is it is not real.
Good on your very special bond.
Keep up the good vibes.

25-04-01, 01:18 PM
Firstly to Micarter,

I meant are horses racist between the breeds of horses. Arabs, qh, thb etc? Not other types of animals.

To Cory 1,

Horses are fantastic Judges of character. I am an extremely lucky person as almost all horses or any other animal, bond with me. Even the breakers after they work out whats going on and get over the inital shock. I am an assertive horse person but with a hell of a lot of fairness. I never prejudge them and never do anything until I know totally where they are coming from. Especially from a disciplinary point of view. Therefore, horses, being experts on leadership with fairness and justice, bond with those humans. You must be one of them.

Big subject. Could write a thesis on it.

Regards to your horse

Kate Taylor (Guest)
25-04-01, 01:23 PM
I think I can have a go at this.
In the herd situation, there are positions given to different horses as roles in their society. One role is often protector of the herd. Often young colts and fillies (weaned) and older mares not with foals are the first to warn af danger. This maybe because they have less on their minds but maybe its because they assume this role. So hence a horse that has adopted a human or humans to protect maybe the horse who gives you that undying kinship and faith. The horse has assumed that protector role and looks after you. Why you in particular. Well I might suggest that unwittingly you hit the right buttons on your first meeting. But perhaps you really like the horse and he returns the favour.
As for a horse being racist in terms of does a horse believe its superior to another horse because of physical differences I say not. Only because I have never seen a horse that say hates all ponies because of size. But do they have a distinct dislike for certain horses YES YES YES. Why? I think they become jealous. I can always get my horse up to the gate if I go and pat the mare next door. May have something to do with not wanting to be rejected from the herd ie my herd. Or it maybe that he knows she will get all the carrots if he doesn't come quick.

25-04-01, 02:03 PM
I am not explaining myself properly so I will ask it in a different way. If you had a paddock with 60 horses in it and in that paddock, there were six times 10 of arabs, clydsdale crosses, quarter horses, standardbreds, percheron crosses and thoroughbreds, would they seek out their own breeds including the cross or all mix in together?

25-04-01, 03:11 PM
Interesting question, not that we have observed such a mixture. Hubby and I (sound like the queen LOL), believe they would all mix in together, but in groups relative to dominance/leadership (pecking order), age, height (as in grooming they seem to like someone who can reach similar spots for scratching). Our observations of mixture of breeds, seem to group based on friendships they form, and they seek out a certain companion and are mostly seen in the company of that companion. There is usually one dominant and one or two passive who seem to group.
Cheers Blondie & Hubby

25-04-01, 10:18 PM
Oh OK HP. Well I'd have to agree with Blondie, although I have never had the situation you speak of. None of my horses have ever seemed to be racists. In fact they often seem to pair with an opposite type. What has been your experience? Obviously you have dealt with so many more horses than most of us here. I'm sure Phil could answer your question though.
Do you think we should start a new thread? As this one is taking a while to down load?

Judith NZ (Guest)
25-04-01, 11:41 PM
Well I DO know that some horses are colour prejudiced.:-)
Sir Tristram would not serve Grey mares and had to be tricked into doing so. They used to bring him into the serving barn where there would be a bay mare in season. Standing beside her was the grey. Just when he was ready for action on the bay they would whip away the bay.
The stallion master described to me how theydid it but it must have taken some quick maneovoures.

JayGee (Guest)
26-04-01, 12:11 AM
I don't think it is because people don't belive it B1 - on the contrary I would imagine. Most horse people have had a close bond with a horse/s during their lives. Cory1 you have met hundreds of people in your life and yet sometimes you meet someone you just click with. Same with the 'bond' between horse and rider. You can have an instananeous kind of compatablity that just gets better but I think one can also form a bond with a not so easy horse that starts out quite ordinary but you stick with it and form something special.

Bonnie (Guest)
26-04-01, 04:35 AM
I posted re my thoughts on 'racism' (post 47)

May have been missed due to the number of posts.

Will start a new thread, hey? :-)

26-04-01, 01:54 PM
OK, See you on the other thread

27-04-01, 03:07 AM
Have actually heard that other stallions dislike grey mares. Also have heard the grey mares increase the libido of some stallions. Perhaps because they are easy to spot stallions either like or dislike more obviously than others.

In my experience our stallions prefer grey mares, or should I say are keener to serve.

Are they racist? We have 2 teasers and often the shetland scares mares and they will not show to him. I think this is because they have not seen such a hairy little black thing (who sounds like a sex maniac LOL)