The Importance of Equine Ethology, Equine Etiology & Horsemanship

Countless times we read on the Internet and equine magazines about someone’s ‘bad horse problem.’ To the casual uninitiated observer, this must seem rather illogical if not ridiculous as we have had 6,000 years of ‘practice’ with horses. Yet those ‘behavioral issues and bad horse problems’ continue to grow in ever-greater numbers despite those 6,000 years of ‘practice.’


Why is it that the human species has worked with the same animal for six thousand years and STILL has so many ‘problems?’ Why is it that the Horse is still be viewed as a potentially problematic animal when he has not changed one iota mentally, emotionally or spiritually in all that time?

The answers are fairly simple but require a’ step back’ for just a moment to compare the significant difference between Ethology and Etiology. Ethology is the scientific study of animal behavior, especially as it occurs in a natural environment. Equine Ethology would be the study of horses in their natural environment. To a limited extent, our ‘natural horsemanship formats’ are indeed ‘natural’ as they duplicate establishing a higher herd rank in the normal intra-herd relationship by using various levels of intimidation, pressure, discomfort and physical punishment. While this methodology may give a horse owner some momentary feeling of accomplishment and control, it initiates a confrontational, adversarial relationship.

Etiology is the study of causes and origins. An essential of Equine Etiology would be the complete study and understanding of horses in their natural environment. Therefore Equine Ethology would be an absolute essential before ever attempting to make any critical evaluation of the true cause of a domesticated horse’s behavior. The scope and goal of Equine Etiology would be determining ‘WHY’ those generational ‘horse problems’ continue to grow in numbers disproportionately after 6,000 years of working with an animal who has not changed one iota mentally, emotionally or instinctually in all that time.

*Anecdote. One indication of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over but expecting different and/or better results. Of course that does not mean everyone in the horse world is insane. But it certainly is a strong indication that in our obsessive/compulsive ‘rush to ride’ steeped in our relational and cultural traditions we have literally ‘put the cart ahead of the horse’ for 6,000 years.

Once we open our eyes and minds a bit, once we step away from ‘what has always been done’ and give our ‘equine Rubiks cube’ a turn to gain a different perspective, we can better understand that there is no such thing as a ‘bad horse’ because every horse ever born, was born a ‘perfect horse.’

If this is true, (and it is) that leaves the human element responsible for first creating those problems, and then using the same methodologies to cure them and ‘make the bad horse a good horse.’

Albert Einstein once said. “We can not solve the problems that we have created, with the same thinking that created them.” It would appear he was only too right insofar as equine ‘training’ is concerned. Otherwise, we would no longer experience this generational plethora of ‘horse problems’ and the perception of ‘bad horses’ would cease to exist.

The Alternative Paradigm offered here prefers to prevent those supposed behavioral horse problems from ever happening in the first place (instead of first interacting in a way that causes them and then ad hoc devising methods to ‘cure them’).

Thus it practices ‘prevention rather than cure’ by eliminating the root cause of all those ‘horse problems’ by interacting in a completely different manner from any ‘training format’ known.