In the Shadow of Horse

In the Shadow of Horse
In the Shadow of Horse

Monday, March 23, 2009

Understanding Horses

Equine Behavior Statement
Revised and Expanded
March 23, 2009
Sid Gustafson DVM

In consideration of the horse’s nature and behavior horsewomen and horsemen are obligated to provide horses an appropriate environment, proper nutrition, sufficient sociobehavioral circumstances, as well as ethical training and horsemanship modalities. By nature the horse is a grazer of the plains, a social and herd animal, and flighty. Horsemanship and training are best accomplished through behavioral understanding of the horse and facilitation of the horse’s nature, rather than by force or coercion.
Horses are ideally trained in a relaxed, calm state. Training that puts the horse into the flight or sympathetic state generated by fear and contained by ropes or pens is discouraged, and not in accordance with acceptable standards of well being.
Horses graze and walk together 60-70% of the time under natural circumstances, eating and moving from spot to spot independently but within a few meters of the next horse. Stabling should make every effort to accommodate or recreate these long-evolved grazing in motion preferences for proper physiological function and mental health.
Horses require other horses for proper health and prosperity. Horses require the constant companionship of other horses. A horse should seldom be kept alone. Horses being mixed with other horses and expected to share resources should be properly acclimated socially, and be given the required space to adjust to new herds without injury or undue stress. Every effort should be made to provide horses with the social benefit of appropriate companion horses through times of stress and illness.
Horsewomen and men need to appreciate the sensual nature of the horse, and understand the physiological needs of the horse. Horses prefer the open view, and if they cannot be with other horses, they need to see and smell other horses for proper behavioral functioning and responsiveness.
Water is the most important nutrient, and must be provided in consideration of equine behavioral preferences.
Grazing is the preferred and predominant equine activity. Horses did not evolve to metabolize grains and non-structured carbohydrates, or to remain stationary for even short periods of time.
Play and sleep are naturally occurring preferences that require accommodation however horses are housed or stabled, as deprivation results in behavioral deterioration.
Horses are physiologically dependent on shared social grooming and sensual contact companionship. If stabling precludes these preferences from fulfillment, then every effort need be applied to replace or recreate these needs on a daily basis.
These behavioral considerations apply to horses in transport, and for those horses too, however unwanted, man is obligated to provide the proper environment, social functioning, nutrition, medical care, and exercise to sufficiently assure health and comfort.
As to performance, every care and precaution need be taken to avoid exceeding the adaptability of the horse. All of the horse's normal natural sensation should remain fully intact and functional without undue pharmaceutical influence. The horse's metabolic, physical, medical, and behavioral limitations must be monitored by equine veterinary professionals on an intense comprehensive basis.

Dr Gustafson provides consultations regarding the design and management of equine facilities to best accommodate the inherent nature and behavior of horses. He provides information and management assistance creating natural approaches to maintain equine health, prevent diseases, and resolve lameness.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Contemporary Horsemanship

Contemporary Horsemanship Pursuits

The centaur portrays something significant about our horsemanship desires. That primal mythological being displays our metaphoric ideal; head, arms, and torso of horseman or horsewoman blending gracefully into the body and legs of horse; Equus sapien. Those who ride horses understand this conceit clearly; to be the horse, to become the horse. Sophisticated Thessalonian Greek tribesman imagined and mythologized this manhorse creature, a cultural reflection of their emotional and physical blending with the species. The centaur expresses pastoral man’s exalted and cherished association with the horse. The symbol defines the willing partnership many contemporary horsemen seek. This book is intended to encourage people to refine their relationship with horses.
Centaur passion is expressed today as natural horsemanship, a renewed manifestation of our desire to connect with horse in a willing and conciliatory partnership. More than ever, or ever in recent memory, people seek unity with their horses, partnerships based on understanding and trust rather than relationships that are a result of dominance or coercion. Horsemen hope their horse engages in their wishes happily and readily⎯dependably, consistently, and reliably⎯wherever and whenever they ride together. A willing partnership based on time, trust ,and understanding is a high hope indeed, but a hope that has reached its true promise in many horse/man pairings through time.
The ideal connection facilitates empowerment from the horse, a controlled extension of our selves, a naturally manifested power that can make one delirious. After a century of widening disconnection, America’s horse culture is attempting to renew and refine the relationship that has bonded mankind to horses for millennia. Horsemen continue to seek a connectivity of their minds to the horse’s body as horsemen always have.
The horsemanship ideal reigns in America as it has reigned through time: that the rider’s thought becomes the horse’s action, the centaur effect, control of the horse’s feet, becoming one with the horse. Modern horsemen report that horse/man relationships approach this ideal with regularity. The nature of the horse, however, is such that the regularity remains uncertain. The horse retains the power to have the last word in this language of horsemanship we explore. The horseman’s goal remains to have a say in all the horse’s actions. A resurgence of conciliatory training methods has emerged offering horsemen/women a trusting and reliable relationship with their horse that is not forced or coerced, a relationship based on mutual respect and understanding.

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