In the Shadow of Horse

In the Shadow of Horse
In the Shadow of Horse

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Equine Behavior Statement, updated

Equine Behavior Statement—
In Consideration of Horses

Sid Gustafson DVM
July 9, 2010

In consideration of the horse’s nature and behavior horsefolk are obligated to provide horses an appropriate environment, proper nutrition, abundant sociobehavioral opportunities, as well as practicing ethical training, husbandry, and horsemanship principles.
Reproduction should be limited to horses who have demonstrated a career of health and usefulness. Horses experiencing unsoundnesses that have not healed should not be bred. Unwanted horses are too often a result of inappropriate reproduction practices.
By nature the horse is a grazer of the plains, a social herd animal, and flighty. Horses require friendship, forage, and locomotion, and these preferences need to be recreated in the stable. Care must be taken not to exceed the behavioral adaptability of the horse.
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 best 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.
Electricity of any type should not be used on horses to modify behavior, train, or restrict movement or stereotypies.
Imprint training neonates has been scientifically demonstrated to be inhumanely invasive, unnecessary, and potentially permanently harmful and is not a good behavioral deal for foals. The mare is the best teacher of newborn foals, and the foal-mare bond should be allowed to develop fully in a pasture setting.
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 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. Resources should not be unfairly limited. 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. 
Appropriate forage, water, and salt are the most important nutrients, and are best provided 24/7 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 social deprivation results in deterioration of behavioral health.
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 are best monitored by equine veterinary professionals on an intense, constant, and comprehensive basis.
Tail amputation and tail docking of horses is immoral and unethical, and illegal in Great Britain. 

Stabled horses and horses competing in competitive pursuits are best served with frequent monitoring by equine veterinary professionals who represent the health and welfare of the horse.



Dr Gustafson is an equine veterinarian, veterinary behaviorist, and novelist. He observes and refines horse training and husbandry methods to accommodate the inherent nature and behavior of horses resulting in optimum performance, soundness, contentment, and longevity. Behavioral approaches to development, training, nutrition, and conditioning sustain equine health and enhance performance. Behavioral and nutritional enrichment strategies enhance the lives of stabled horses. Training and husbandry from the horse's perspective result in happy, winning horses. DrSid offers equine behavior consultations to manage unwanted and unwelcome behaviors.
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