We would strongly suggest the very FIRST place to start is learning more about the specifics of the animal they are dealing with from the empirical studies of equine ethologists and research scientists.
Why learn about the Horse in his natural environment? Why take the time to learn about equine instincts, culture and herd dynamics?
The answer is in the form of a few questions.
How ELSE could we learn how the Horse perceives our actions and interactions with him?
How ELSE could we learn what horses perceive as fair and unfair, right and wrong, good and bad, trustworthiness and betrayal?
How ELSE could we learn how domesticated management and training affects them mentally, emotionally and physically?
Equine ethologists and research scientists must perceive the Horse objectively as an observable specimen of the Animal Kingdom (Equus Caballus). The very legitimacy and credibility of their observations forces them to refrain from any possible hint of personified anthropomorphism. Their literary and academic reputation is completely dependent upon the truth and purity of their observations and documentation.
Given the supposition that someone cared enough to invest a little time in gaining a true understanding of the Horse in his natural environment and herd dynamics, (and how our current management and ‘training practices’ make his life as chaotic as possible) WHERE would they start?
The very FIRST place to start would be those who made the most objective, unbiased studies of the Horse in his natural living environment. This would necessitate eliminating anecdotal commentaries of ‘trainers’ who use singular ethological aspects of equine behavior and herd dynamics to legitimize their training formats. While certainly not inclusive, a few that we believe to be as ‘pure’ as is humanly possible are the following.
*Beck, Andy, “Horse Behavior” E-book. Equine Behavior.com
Dr. Sue McDonnell and Daniel Mills, “The Domestic Horse: The Origins, Development and Management of Its Behaviour”
A very comprehensive ethological study that is easily accessible on the Internet is Andy Beck’s E-book, “ The Secret Life of the Horse.” The free articles alone on this site are both educational and enlightening for anyone interested in learning exactly WHAT they are dealing with (which enables them to make a legitimate comparative analysis as to the devastatingly counterproductive and chaotic effects present day management and training practices have on their horse).
Another absolute prerequisite for gaining a thorough knowledge and understanding of the horse is the audio/visual life story of a wild mustang named Cloud chronicled by Emmy Award winning filmmaker, Ginger Katherns. The DVD can be purchased at: Adventures with Cloud If you do not reside in the US, email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out the shipping cost.
*Note: We receive no compensation for recommending any of the above. We only do so to further a true, in-depth understanding of what can only be the Creator’s greatest masterpiece in the animal world; the Horse.
*Note. We also encourage you to read the studies of other equine ethologists to make your own critical comparative analysis.
In any case, we implore you to gain an in-depth understanding of the ‘original model.’ For once we have gained a thorough understanding of equine culture and normal herd dynamics in their natural environment, we can then make an evaluative comparison between their natural world, the human-controlled domesticated world in which they now serve us and how various types of management and ‘training’ affects them.
*In that process, we would learn the singular primary motivation for the instinctive survival need of an individual establishing their herd rank in a hierarchical, harem band family unit of wild or feral horses (and even more so in a mixed domesticated herd of unrelated associates). Every comprehensive ethological study will have some reference to the fact that herd rank becomes increasingly important when there is a scarcity of food. The first point that we have completely overlooked for 6,000 years in our ‘rush to ride’ is that pressure, intimidation, discomfort and physical punishment are used in varying degrees to establish herd rank as a matter of survival when there is not enough nourishment to sustain the entire herd. (Mother Nature’s Law of ‘survival of the fittest’).
Thus the reality is that the use of intimidation, pressure, discomfort and physical punishment to establish a high position (herd rank) in a hierarchical equine family unit is NOT the ‘end all.’ But rather, those actions and interactions of establishing herd rank are the MEANS to an END.
*Affiliated pairing, nonsexual bonding, peer attachment, mutually beneficial coalitions and preferred associates are the terms used by (and sincere attempts of) equine ethologists and research scientists to refrain from the taint of anthropomorphism when describing two horses who have bonded (who do so in many cases with no regard to differences in gender, breed, age or color). A more colloquial expression describing two horses that are totally bonded is’horse buddies’ or ‘horse pals.’ Most importantly is that the levels of companionship, trust, communication, understanding, intimacy and shared nourishment of this ‘herd of two with the herd’ relationship is NOT shared with other horses in the herd. Equally important is the fact that they completely accept each others herd rank (which is a non-confrontational, non adversarial harmonious relationship). This is the second significant point we have overlooked for 6,000 years in our ‘rush to ride.’